Trading in their yellow school bus for more plush accommodations in a charter bus got the 1989 Carlyle Indians excited about their trip to the Class A Super-Sectional in Carbondale.
That was before the driver told coach Brad Weathers during the trip that brake problems could lead to a delay. Worse yet, a replacement bus being called in.
Weathers wasn't about to take any chances.
"I knew we had a fan bus coming, so I was prepared to pirate or hijack the fan bus and have us send another bus for the fans," Weathers said. "I don't think the driver really had an appreciation for the urgency that we felt."
Weathers said the driver checked the brakes and pronounced them good enough to finish the trip. But a few miles out from Carbondale, the brakes began acting up again and the driver used the emergency brake all the way so Southern Illinois University.
The Indians' players found a song to play on their ever-present boombox that fit the situation -- "Slow Ride" by Foghat.
"They thought that was really funny," said Weathers, who was not in a joking mood until after his team had knocked off another victim on the way to winning the state championship.
On Friday, Weathers will be coaching the Nashville Hornets at the Class 2A state finals in Peoria, hoping to bring home another title.
When being interviewed 25 years later, Carlyle players had fun recalling special moments from that championship season.
"All of us had roles to play, from the starters to the bench guys," said Craig Robertson, then a senior reserve and football standout and now the director of campus activities at McKendree University. "Our guys could really shoot the 3-pointers, so we made up celebrations for when we made one. We also had other antics for traveling, charges and other things that went on during games."
Keeping a secret
During the state tournament run that year, Carlyle's star player Tom Michael kept some information tucked away from nearly everyone on the team.
Michael and his then-girlfriend and now his wife of 25 years, Shana, were going to have a baby. It wasn't the easiest of situation for any high school senior, let alone a 6-foot-8 all-state player expected to help lead his team to the state title.
Through it all, the young couple relied heavily on the support of family and friends. The only person Michael told was teammate and close friend Eddie Huels.
"It meant a lot to me that he could confide in me and tell me something like that," Huels said. "He showed us he was a man on the floor as far as playing basketball, but even more so for the circumstance that he had to go through off the court."
Michael said he never wanted his situation to become a distraction to his teammates, so he tried to use basketball as an outlet to deal with facing fatherhood.
"Eddie was the only one on the team that knew," said Michael, whose girlfriend was a freshman at Kaskaskia College at the time. "I didn't even tell Coach Weathers until after the season was over. There's no question that was difficult to go through for both Shana and me.
"But at the time, the biggest part of it was that we didn't want for it to be a distraction for anybody else. We needed to deal with that in our own way."
Their son, Nick, was born the following July. Now 25, he is the oldest of three children and son Nate Michael is a senior all-state basketball player at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.
Both Nick and Nate Michael were standout basketball players at St. Joe-Ogden, where daughter Kylie is a freshman.
"I tell the people up here that we have to go down there to figure out how real basketball is played," Tom Michael said.
The family lives in St. Joseph, a town near Champaign where Michael --a former University of Illinois basketball standout -- is a senior associate athletics director for the Illini.
He is involved in overseeing capital projects and facilities, including the ongoing $165 million renovation of the State Farm Center (formerly Assembly Hall).
"That occupies most of my time right now."