PEORIA — Young came up a bit short in overtime to Belleville West in the Class 4A state title game. Maybe that will give the rest of the state a much needed shot in the arm, but the Public League is still the dominant force in high school basketball.
Orr repeated as Class 2A champs last weekend and Morgan Park repeated as Class 3A champions. Young was in the title game for the second consecutive season.
The Public League has been collecting state championships since the Illinois High School Association expanded basketball from two classes to four classes in 2008.
Public League schools have won 17 of the 42 titles awarded since 2008 and that is with very few schools eligible in Class 1A.
“That’s what the IHSA wanted,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “They went to the four class system. We are just doing what they told us to do. At first we didn’t like it, but once we saw we could go down in multiple classes and be effective that changed.”
A great deal of fans, media and coaches around the state believe that the Public League’s dominance is a major contributing factor to the lagging attendance at Carver Arena.
I reached out to coaches all around the state on Saturday, but none were willing to talk on the record. Nearly all of them said that they felt Public League teams had advantages (huge population base, easily approved transfers).
One coach said he “didn’t want to make enemies in the city.”
State championship wins create powerful coaches.
“I can see how some people around the state would not like the situation,” Smith said. “But we just did what the IHSA wanted us to. Coaches are trying to be successful. They want to be legends. You can’t really fault them for that.”
It’s true that the city coaches are simply following the rules. The influx of charter schools has drastically lowered enrollment numbers at neighborhood schools. That’s why Orr is now a 2A school and Morgan Park is 3A.
The IHSA does give schools the option to move up classes. Phillips does it in football.
“We want to push our program,” Phillips coach Troy McAllister said last season. “We have an opportunity to do something great. We want to push our young men. We want them to be at the highest level and compete with the top teams. That’s how we felt.”
St. Rita and DePaul Prep have both moved up a class in basketball, but none of the Public League powers have made the move. Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin hasn’t ruled out moving up, but hasn’t embraced the idea either.
“We beat Simeon every year, we beat whoever else in 4A,” Irvin said on Saturday. “And you know where we are right now? We are in Peoria. Ring season.”
Smith says there is a very simple solution if people around the state think that the Public League dominance is hurting attendance at the state finals.
“Move it to Chicago,” Smith said. “We’ve proven we can fill arenas and that people might be more passionate about basketball in Chicago. Just look at some of the huge crowds we had at games this season at Chicago State.”Tags: Morgan Park, Simeon, Young