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“Hey, Evanston is playing in the Super sectionals. Wanna go see?”
“Sure. Where’s the game?”
“Someplace called the Sears Center.”
“Never heard of it.”
“Me neither. But should be fun.”
I Googled directions, and Tuesday a week ago three of us (the Stack boys, John, his son Ted and myself) headed west to the land beyond O’Hare to see the Wildkits play Mt. Carmel.
John and Ted have Evanston basketball in their blood. Evanston Township High School is in mine because of my kids. None of us got to Beardsley during the season, but we followed the team in the papers and knew they had something special going for them this year. We found out what it was in Hoffman Estates.
More than 5,000 fans were there to support their teams, but by the start of the Evanston/Mt. Carmel game we had to believe most of them were Evanstonians. The west end of the lower stands overflowed orange and blue, a color scheme in the crowd itself.
The game became predictable in the second half, after the Wildkits decided to play their kind of basketball, not the Caravans’. I cannot speak for the Stacks, but I found myself watching the ETHS students and cheerleaders as much, if not even more than the game. I called home at halftime to give the score; also my son Matt, with whom I connected in Memphis, Tenn.
I doubt if I was alone with such a feeling of pride for the team and the school.
By game’s end, quite a few of the Mt. Carmel fans had left, so the place was mostly Evanston’s. As for that “something special” mentioned earlier, what happened after the trophy presentation says it all. The team, after every hand held the trophy high, instead of circling the stands, ran it to the student’s section, saying, in effect, “This is as much yours as it is ours.”
As I write this, the remainder of the Wildkit’s season has yet to be played. But whatever happens downstate can never diminish what the three of us witnessed way out west.
In the slow-moving traffic on the way to I-90, someone ahead of us in a van sporting a Wildkit sticker stuck his head out, shouting, “Is this the way to Evanston?” As if he didn’t know!
P.S. Last Friday’s dramatic, improbable loss to Zion-Benton ended a quest, but it created a memory for the ages.