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Boys Basketball: Morgan Park celebrates state championship

Morgan Park's Billy Garrett Jr. (left) is introduced during an assembly honoring class 3A state championship team Chicago Wednesday March

Morgan Park's Billy Garrett Jr. (left) is introduced during an assembly honoring the class 3A state championship team in Chicago Wednesday, March 20, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 22, 2013 12:14PM



Morgan Park’s Class 3A state basketball championship is like a fever dream, a party that refuses to end.

The school staged an ambitious 90-minute rally Wednesday inside the school’s recently refurnished gymnasium, an event that became a bacchanalia mixing music, dance, video and all manner of impromptu celebrations.

Signs of the championship were everywhere, including the electronic sign in front of the main entrance and a blown-up photograph mounted on the wall that was taken just after the team’s 63-48 victory Saturday over Cahokia at Carver Arena in Peoria. The state championship trophy and the trophy for winning the Proviso West Holiday Tournament were on a table near the team’s bench.

Rodney Washington, a local radio talent and 2006 Morgan Park grad, was the master of ceremonies. The show featured pageantry and local color with a performance by the school band, the dance troupe and separate numbers by the cheerleaders and pom squad. Players and coaches wearing specially made black pullovers emblazoned with the state title insignia were introduced.

A special video composed of photographic stills and video highlights from each of the seven state tournament victories, punctuated by the championship over Cahokia, was played.

“We just wanted to do something the whole school would enjoy and be able to see and participate in,” coach Nick Irvin said.

The state title was the school’s first in boys basketball since the 1976 team captured the Class AA title on Laird Smith’s famous jump shot at the buzzer.

“That’s a long time, 37 years in between titles, and we wanted people to have something they could be proud of,” Irvin said. “It means so much to everybody — and especially myself because of everything we went through, the suspension (after a postgame confrontation with players from Simeon) and losing my dad last year.”

The players made sure their classmates joined in. During a moment with the players at halfcourt, they initiated a dance number and soon afterward hundreds of students left their seats and joined in the fun.

“I think the full effects of winning still haven’t quite hit me,” star senior guard and team captain Billy Garrett Jr. said.

As part of the presentation, Garrett, a DePaul recruit, was given a special Athlete of the Week plaque from Allstate for leading the team in scoring with 14 points in the state title game. The team’s all-time leader in scoring and assists, Garrett had his No. 5 jersey retired at the end of the regular season.

“No matter what happens in my career and whatever accomplishments I have playing basketball the rest of my life, this is something I’ll always remember,” said senior guard Kyle Davis, the team’s other captain. “It will be even better once we get our rings.”

Irvin said the next matter of business is securing college destinations for guard Markee Williams and 6-foot-9 post player Xzavier Taylor. Both were spectacular in the title game, scoring 13 and 11 points, respectively. Taylor added 11 rebounds.

“There are some schools showing interest in them right now, and we just have to get that taken care of,” Irvin said.

The future is bright. Starting forwards Josh Cunningham and Lamont Walker return along with talented guards Charlie Taylor and Torry Johnson. The sophomore team finished runner-up to Simeon in the city tournament.

“Things are great, and we’re set up to be strong again next year,” Irvin said. “I can’t wait to get it started.”



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