The nets came down, shortly after the Grant boys basketball team took down a pesky Grayslake North.
Grant won its first conference championship since 2003 in dramatic fashion: by building a double-digit second-half lead, losing it and then finishing strong, getting a 73-63 Northern Lake County Conference victory over the visiting Knights on Tuesday night.
Technically, Grant is the conference co-champion with North Chicago. Both teams finished league play with 13-1 records, and both teams beat each other once, and each game was a 6-point margin.
After Grant rallied to get its win over Grayslake North, school officials set up a ladder under the baskets so that each player could cut down part of the net.
It was a monumental moment for a program that won only 3 varsity games just two years ago.
"It's a huge turnaround for us and a huge swing in emotions," said Grant senior point guard Logan Lewis, who was one of three sophomores who was up on varsity two years ago and endured the rough 3-win season. "Ever since we were sixth graders, this was our goal, to win the conference as varsity basketball players. I'm so happy we were able to do it.
"We've had a lot of games like this where they've been nail-biters and we were able to come back. We just keep our calm and we are confident and it turns out well for us."
Grant, which moves to 19-8 on the season, was up by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, thanks to some tough play in the paint by senior center John Kerr (20 points) and some hot shooting by senior reserve guard Kyle Dupree (game-high 24 points overall). Dupree scored 10 of his 20 second-half points in the third quarter on two 3-pointers.
But Grayslake North opened the fourth quarter on a 13-6 run to take a 56-54 lead with 4:31 left to play.
"It was senior leadership and we rallied up each other and got stops on defense," said Grayslake North senior guard Jamal Thomas, who scored a team-high 22 points. The Knights also got 16 points from Ryan Connolly and 11 points from James Connolly. "But they got the momentum back and carried it out to the end of the game. It was our motivation to come out here and get a win because we knew (Grant was in line to win a conference championship)."
Dupree got hot again in the fourth quarter to help Grant re-gain control. He scored 5 straight points with about two minutes left to give Grant a 64-61 lead that would only get bigger.
"I just want to come on the court to do what I can do to help us win the game," Dupree said. "We needed points so I just tried my best to score. This is so sweet."
Grant coach Wayne Bosworth is particularly happy for the seniors who had to go through the not-so-sweet days two years ago. Three of them were up as sophomores: Lewis, Ben Kusiak and Andy Kaye.
"We weren't even close to being in this position two years ago," Bosworth said. "We all knew it was going to be a tough season that year. It's a testament to those three guys going through that and sticking it out and looking down the road, knowing that this was the goal at the end of the tunnel."