Dundee-Crown honors 2009 state team
Some accomplishments are worth reliving.
Dundee-Crown will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2008-09 Final Four boys basketball team during a halftime ceremony in Carpentersville Friday.
"Then we'll go somewhere afterward and tell a lot of stories, I'm sure," said D-C coach Lance Huber, whose wife, Kristin, organized the reunion. "I know we have a lot of the guys back, most of the seniors."
Players confirmed to return include Jeff Beck, Marcus Henry, Rob Stupar, Greg McNally and Colin McCarthy, among many, though Aaron Reams can't make it. He is serving in the Air Force in Germany.
Their team holds a special place not only in D-C lore but in area history. The 2008-09 Chargers were the first and remain the only Fox Valley Conference boys basketball team to reach the state finals.
And an improbable state finals appearance it was.
Few outside D-C Nation thought the team had a legitimate chance to beat Neuqua Valley in the NIU supersectional.
Heck, many thought D-C was a decided underdog four nights earlier in the Elgin sectional final against a tough St. Charles North team, led by Jonathan DeMoss. That game came right down to the wire. The North Stars tied it 49-49 on a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left.
Huber didn't call timeout. Instead, he trusted Beck to dribble up the floor and do his thing. The captain dribbled to the free-throw line, created room and swished a jumpshot with three seconds left that stood up as the game-winner.
Had that been as far as D-C advanced in the state tournament, Beck and his teammates would have been satisfied.
"That was my big goal for the season, to win the sectional title," said Beck, a financial adviser for an independent financial planning firm in Libertyville. "We hadn't done it in school history. I thought, OK, a supersectional playing on a big college court would be kind of cool. My big goal, really, was to get to there.
"Once we got there, to me personally, it didn't really feel like we had pressure to really win. We could just go out and play because nobody was really expecting us to hang in there with Neuqua Valley. I think those guys were 31-1 at the time."
Neuqua was ranked No. 2 in Class 4A and had won 23 straight, whereas the Chargers nearly lost their playoff opener on their home floor against Elgin before surviving 58-52 in overtime.
This reporter didn't even bother making a hotel reservation in Peoria. Didn't seem necessary. D-C was going to beat Neuqua? Yeah, right.
Tipoff finally arrives. D-C jumps to a 12-4 lead.
Nice start, you think, but Neuqua will come back.
Then McCarthy, who averages less than a point a game, sinks a shot before halftime to stake the Chargers to a 28-17 lead. They hold the Wildcats to 25-percent shooting in the first half. You wonder how long that can last.
Then the second half begins to unfold much like the first.
Beck is relentless in scoring 29 points.
Senior center Charles Kimbrough protects the lane like he's guarding private property.
Henry slices through traffic on his way to a 15-point, 10-rebound night.
"I think our momentum carried us through," said Henry, who works in the Naperville area as multiunit operations manager for a national sandwich chain. "We were able to keep our intensity through that entire game and that's what kept us in there."
The Chargers still lead by 12 points at the end of the third quarter. They have basically controlled the entire game.
"It was really a surreal feeling because it never -- and I don't say this in an arrogant way by any means -- but it never really felt like a tough, grind-it-out kind of game," Beck said. "We just came out and played. Every time you looked up it was, OK, we're up 7, we're up 8, up 10. It just kind of flowed real nicely throughout."
Neuqua Valley makes the expected run. A dunk and a 3-pointer and just like that the Wildcats slice the deficit to 5 points.
D-C responds. Kimbrough blocks another shot and Beck finishes the fast break at the other end with an assist from Henry.
It's getting late. Neuqua Valley has to foul. D-C Nation grows louder as their heroes make just enough free throws down the stretch.
This is actually going to happen. I call an East Peoria hotel during a timeout. They have two vacancies for Friday. I take one.
The D-C student section erupts as the Chargers finalize the upset to crack the Final Four. Those wearing D-C colors hug like it's midnight on New Year's.
The lesson learned from the 2009 Chargers transcends basketball and can be applied to any facet of life.
"We weren't the most talented group of guys, we weren't the most athletic in the area and we weren't the best team in the area," Henry said, "but we made sure we were the hardest-working guys in the area. That put us in position to win those types of games."
The victory over Neuqua Valley would be the last for the 2008-09 Chargers. They return home from Peoria with the fourth-place trophy, but getting to the Final Four was an accomplishment none of them expected in the first place.
And definitely one worth reliving.
Follow Jerry on Twitter: @jerfitzpatrick