SHERRARD, Ill. - A Sherrard High School coach received the praise and support of her players Wednesday night, but still got her walking papers from the school board.

Becky Ince was fired as the school's girls varsity basketball and softball coach as well as freshman volleyball coach after a closed session that lasted more than 4 hours.

New Sherrard school board president Lori Baker, a former coach and teacher in the district, and superintendent Becky Rodocker declined to specify reasons for the move, saying it was a personnel matter.

Many of Ince's team members and players parents spoke on her behalf to the board.

"I've had a special time here at Sherrard," a tearful Ince said following the meeting. "Mostly it's the kids here at Sherrard. I've had opportunities to leave, but there are a lot of special girl athletes here. It's going to be fun to continue to hear about them. They are truly a bunch of phenomenal young ladies and I'm lucky that I got the opportunity to coach them."

Ince's future as softball coach came in question last month when the board rehired all other spring coaches except her. The Kewanee Wethersfield and Augustana College grad was rehired last April to return for the 2010-2011 basketball season, but then was dismissed from that job Wednesday. Ince said the district still will be obligated to pay her coaching stipend for basketball.

This would have been Ince's sixth season as the basketball coach and she just finished her seventh year as softball coach, where the Tigers finished 30-7 and advanced to the final eight of the state tournament. Her basketball team won a regional title in 2008.

Ince, an English teacher at Sherrard Junior High, said she wants to coach again and has retained legal counsel. She said she may pursue legal action.

Following the school board meeting, she had an emotional gathering with former players who went to bat for her.

"I don't think even as an adult I would have the courage to do what some of these girls did tonight," Ince said. "If they continue that same fight like they did tonight they are going to be a tough team to contend with."

The first day of girls basketball practice is Nov. 1. The board must post the job for 10 days before it fills the position.

The board also dismissed Brian Hutton as golf coach Wednesday, but he also will remain a teacher in the district. Baker and Rodocker also declined comment on that situation, again saying the issue was a personnel matter.

Hutton was fired as the Sherrard boys basketball coach in 2008, but led Mercer County to a Lincoln Trail Conference title last season.

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