Disappointment, shock: high school players react to season's abrupt end
Trevor Montiel had his routine in place on Thursday night.
"I was doing homework and getting ready to get a good night's rest," the Lake Park senior basketball player said Friday afternoon.
And then the news came. The Illinois High School Association had decided to cancel the remainder of its winter state tournament series, including the boys state basketball tournament, due to the growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Montiel and hundreds of players around the state suddenly had their dream of playing in Peoria shattered.
"It stinks, it really does, but it's something that's not in our control," said Montiel, who along with his Lake Park teammates was to have played Naperville Central Friday night in the Class 4A Addison Trail sectional championship game.
"When coach (Billy Pitcher) called me, I was in disbelief and shock."
As was St. Charles North senior Connor Linke, whose team was slated to take on Cary-Grove in the Class 4A McHenry sectional title game.
"Everyone on our team was devastated after hearing the news," said Linke, who will play college basketball at Bradley.
"We didn't believe it at first. It was a rough night (Thursday) night. We were chasing more records and trophies and unfortunately, we can't compete for those now."
St. Viator senior Connor Kochera, a William & Mary recruit, was looking forward to taking the floor Friday night as the Lions were out to upset the state's No. 2 ranked team, Niles Notre Dame, in the Class 3A Grayslake North sectional final.
"I was definitely disappointed when I heard the news," Kochera said. "It definitely was not the way I envisioned the season ending for us, especially the seniors. We've been playing together since sixth grade."
Wauconda's Bulldogs were having the best season in school history and were set to travel to Rockford Boylan to battle Hampshire for a Class 3A sectional title. It would have been the school's first time in a sectional championship game.
"It was difficult to hear, especially considering how far we had gone, all the work we had put in, and all the support we had from the school and the community," said Bulldogs senior Donovan Carter. "At first it was disbelief. I was hoping it wasn't true. I was just surprised and shocked. It hit a lot of my friends, teammates and community members hard."
While hearing Thursday night the season is over was difficult, Friday was equally challenging. Instead of preparing themselves to play in the biggest games of their seasons, players were left with an empty feeling of what to do now.
"I spent the entire day with teammates and that helped a little," Linke said. "We all just have heavy hearts."
Montiel said being in school Friday was tough.
"It's been so difficult," he said. "Seeing the guys in school and knowing we weren't going to play ... it's just been a different vibe."
Kochera's final thoughts leave us refreshed during this unsettling time.
"As disappointing as it is, I understand the circumstances as to why it happened," he said. "I try to look at the bigger picture. As much as I love basketball, the health and safety of everyone is more important."