Elgin prevails before 5,569 in fieldhouse

By Jim Wozniak

Pulsating hearts. Foot-stompin‘ cheers. Mid-court celebrations.

Given those clues, the average sports fan might surmise that a sporting event must have been played. But yesterday at the Chick Evans Field House, it went beyond the common game of roundball. This game was the final pit stop for Elgin and East Aurora before the voyage to Champaign-Urbana, Ill., along with seven other teams for the state Class AA high school championship.

Perhaps NIU students might have figured something special was up when they walked by. What usually is grass became extensions of the parking lots, as cars parked wherever enough space was allotted.

Inside the fieldhouse, both schools poised themselves for the showdown. Just like the Mendota-Elgin St. Edwards game a week before, the cheering section for both teams was on opposite sides. A sharp contrast in the noise level after each basket indicated which side cheered for each team.

The attire had a special flavor for the evening. A few Elgin students painted their faces maroon and white, the school colors, for the occasion.

“About five or 10 minutes,” said 17-year-old senior Miro Sarice of how long it took for the decorations. “(I have been doing it) for about the past five games—when the tournament started.”

Mike Schade, 17, also a senior, said his design took about 15 minutes. “This is the first time I’ve done it. (I did it) because I think it’s an important game to go downstate, so I thought it was important to do it.”

Those two were not the only ones caught up in the bedlam. One Elgin girl had Maroon guard Tim Moritz on her mind. On her left cheek was a heart with “Moritz” written across it. Some East Aurora girls had “EA #1” painted on their faces, but that wishful thinking could not keep the Tomcats from losing 71-66 in overtime.

ed was the abundant color of many of the East Aurora partisan’s shirts. Some of the East Aurora students, who stood throughout the entire game, also waved black and red pompons.

A small NIU contingent showed up for the game, and a few had ties of their own. NIU men’s basketball player Rodney Davis played at East Aurora before coming to NIU, and according to teammate Jerry Williams, Davis was at the fieldhouse by 6:00. The game did not start until 7:30.

“I’m upset,” said Davis after the game, “because I’m an alumnus of that school. It’s a heartbreaker. I’ve been in there—maybe not that close. There’s a lot of emotions. But the seniors will just have to carry on.”

NIU assistant men’s basketball coach Jay Goedert, who played for Elgin and later was an assistant there, acted as anything but impartial for the event. He yelled out three-second calls and walking violations after play continued on.

With about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, public address announcer Bill Baker asked everyone to remain off the court when the game finally finished. Around that time, the East Aurora crowd began chanting “We want state,” and the Elgin students soon followed.

As the final seconds ticked off, both schools’ students inched toward the court to celebrate the victory. Baker made the same announcement again. But when Elgin secured the victory, a flood of Elgin burst forth anyway, and the celebration was on. Confetti flew as the Elgin crowd raised its index fingers.

King High School and its national star, Marcus Liberty, were next, but for the moment, it was something beyond the ordinary.