The stories that stick with us: Back-to-back state championships in the hands of the same player
An unforgettable ending made this my most unforgettable story in 26 years of covering high school sports for the Daily Herald.
Tied with Montini in the closing seconds of the 2018 Class 4A girls basketball state championship game at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University, Geneva got the ball to senior guard Stephanie Hart.
It made plenty of sense because Hart was the same player who won the 2017 state title for Geneva with a game-winning shot with 4 seconds to go.
A year later, Hart did it again -- draining a jumper just before the final buzzer to give the Vikings the win and a second straight state title. Teammates and coaches mobbed Hart on the court while thousands of blue-clad fans went crazy in the stands, along with many more watching on TV back at home.
Hart just experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment -- twice.
Witnessing a team win its second straight state championship with the same player making the game-winning shot both times. How does every moment of that not burn into my memory?
You can't make something like that up. You couldn't ask for a more storybook ending.
That night also captured everything that has always made sports and the job I have so special.
I'm grateful to make a living writing about these tremendous moments and chronicling the accomplishments of high school students. And the moments and accomplishments don't get better than those two for Hart.
That night also captured what's so great about sports and the way at their best they unite a community, the thousands of Geneva fans who made the trip down to ISU for that game and the joy the outcome brought them.
• Assistant High School Sports Editor John Lemon has worked for the Daily Herald since 1998.