The Rockridge High School and Hales Franciscan High School basketball teams are forever linked together by the events that decided their contest on Friday, March 11, 2016, at the Peoria Civic Center’s Carver Arena.
The finish below epitomized the reason the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals are known as America’s Original March Madness, as Rockridge’s Carson Frakes made a miracle buzzerbeater (click to see it from multiple angles
) to give the Rockets a 45-43 victory that pushed the school into the IHSA Class 2A state title game.
The two schools, separated by nearly 200 miles between Taylor Ridge and Chicago, would seem to have little else in common than the result of the contest, but the opposite was actually true.
Members of the two schools first met at the IHSA kickoff banquet the evening before the game where players from participating schools sit together to encourage the players and coaches to intermingle with their peers before they meet on the hardwood. As fate would have it, players from Rockridge and Hales Franciscan had adjacent rooms at the official tourney hotel, the Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette, and conversations at the banquet turned into members of the two teams hanging out at the hotel on Thursday night playing video games together less than 24 hours before they met on the court.
Despite the devastating nature of the loss, members of the Hales Franciscan team were captured congratulating Rockridge in the arena tunnel minutes after the game and posted on the Rockridge twitter account:
The next night, after Hales Franciscan placed fourth, members of the team expanded on the friendship that had developed between the two schools during the press conference:
“The crazy part about it is they are actually next door to us at the hotel and we talked about it (the shot) all night,” said Hales Franciscan senior forward Austin Trice “It was a good shot. He made the shot. We can only respect it and they respected us back because it was a tough game. I have much love for that team. I like Rockridge, they are great people. I made new friends coming down here.”
Hales Franciscan coach Gary London expanded on the growing bond between the programs by informing the assembled media of a pre-game gesture by Rockridge coach Toby Whiteman toward a Hales starter who had been injured during shootaround Friday afternoon and was unable to play.
“Like my guys just did, I wanted to tip my hat off to Rockridge and their coaching staff,” said London. “Coach Whiteman is a real classy guy. When he found out our center was not going to play last night, he asked me if I minded if he went and said something to him. He had experienced it last year when a kid on his team was diagnosed with cancer (read more on Jake Foy here
). Normally as a coach, you would be like, what is this guy up to, but I could see when he said it that he was really sincere. I know he (Coach Whiteman) isn’t going to talk about it, so I wanted to let you know, because it was a really classy move.”
As the tweets below show, the good vibes between the players and coaches carried over to the fan bases:
Other interesting side-stories that developed from the March Madness Miracle:
High school career of Rockridge coach Toby Whiteman ended on similar shot (Peoria Journal Star)
Frakes Mom missed shot (Quad Cities Dispatch/Argus)
Frakes recaps shot (Chicago Tribune)