Quad-Citians in search of uplifting news in March needed to look no further than high school basketball. Two teams from the area were crowned state champions after long, arduous journeys.
On Saturday, the Moline High School boys basketball team became Illinois 4A champions for the first time in school history by beating Lisle Benet Academy 59-42. Eight days earlier, the Pleasant Valley High School girls team capped an undefeated season with a Class 5A state title win over Johnston at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Throughout the regular season and into the postseason these two teams sparked excitement in their communities, pulling communities together, which is a nice contrast from the ills of the world.
It’s rare for a downstate Illinois school to break through the many competitive Chicago area schools and win the Class 4A championship, but Moline, with a group of seniors and coached by Sean Taylor, seemed destined. In fact, that Maroons team had gone 79-11 over the final three seasons.
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They defeated Downers Grove North and then Lisle Benet Academy on their way to the crown. The Maroons finished with a 35-3 record, the best in school history. Previously, 28 wins was a high mark for Moline varsity basketball.
Pleasant Valley had to fight its way through suburban Des Moines teams to reach the summit. The Spartans defeated West Des Moines Valley and West Des Moines Dowling in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Then they got a little payback in the title game. Johnston had ended Pleasant Valley’s title quest a year ago.
Coached by Jennifer Goetz, the Spartans left no doubt who the best team was this year, closing out the nail-biter with clutch free throws down the stretch. It’s the first state title for the Pleasant Valley girls basketball program and the first undefeated season at 26-0.
The fruits of talent, hard work and determination were on display both in Des Moines and Champaign by these championship teams and their coaches. They were well-prepared and ready to meet the challenges.
The Maroons and Spartans left their mark on the Quad-Cities and are an inspiration to us.