PEORIA — Tyler Smithpeters scored 23 points and Capel Henshaw added 13, pacing Harrisburg to a 50-44 victory Saturday over South Holland Seton Academy in the IHSA Class 2A boys basketball state title game that ended with a confrontation between at least one fan and the losing coach.
Police escorts were given to the teams as players headed to their buses after a verbal exchange between a fan and Seton Academy coach Brandon Thomas, who did not take part in the post-game medal ceremony.
According to the Peoria Journal Star, IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman told Civic Center officials to remove the second place trophy from the ceremony on the court.
"I told them if they weren't out here, we weren't going to give it to them," Hickman told the Journal Star. "So if they're not out here, we're not giving it to them."
Hickman told the newspaper he was unsure what will be done in the aftermath of the drama.
"This is the first time this has ever happened, so we don't have a playbook for it," said Hickman, who called Seton Academy's actions "embarrassing." "But we'll figure it out. The flare-up trouble followed the first-half ejection of Seton Academy's Mark Weems Jr., who was tossed out of the game with just more than two minutes left in the second quarter after being called for a technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. The loss of Weems, who finished with eight points, gave Harrisburg momentum.
Trailing 23-15 at the time, Henshaw made all four technical free throws and Snjolfur Bjornsson made a layup after the inbounds play, pulling the Bulldogs to within two at 23-21. Harrisburg went on to build leads as big as seven points, then withstood Seton Academy runs that twice closed the gap to two points in the second half.
Weems' ejection "certainly affected them," said Smithpeters, who was 5-of-10 from the field and hit 12-of-16 free throws for the Bulldogs (33-1). "They didn't have many guys that could handle the ball like him, and they didn't have many guys that could shoot like him."
Kamal Shasi led the Sting (22-11) with nine points, while Alex Foster and Johnny Patterson each added seven.
What a game. I don't even have words to describe how I feel right now," Smithpeters said. "It was a hard fought game. It's incredible."
"It was a tough game, very physical," Henshaw added. "But we have guys that play tough."
What follows is a statement from the Illinois High School Association issued after the 2A state championship game:
"The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is disappointed with and embarrassed by the actions of both Harrisburg High School and South Holland (Seton Academy) during Saturday's IHSA Class 2A Boys Basketball State Championship game.
"While passion and intensity are an integral part of athletic competition, especially at the highest levels, the behaviors of both teams crossed the lines of acceptable sportsmanship.
"The IHSA is in the process of reviewing the events associated with tonight's contest. Both schools will be contacted Monday."
"I am embarrassed by what took place here tonight," said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. "Interscholastic athletics are designed to teach young people important lessons about life. The lessons on display tonight were that respect and sportsmanship are not important, and that is simply not unacceptable."
The IHSA staff will be reaching out to the schools participating in next week's Class 3A and Class 4A Super-Sectionals and State Finals tournament to reinforce the expectations of sportsmanship and appropriate behavior in interscholastic contests.