Refusing to give in the face of adversity, the East St. Louis Flyers have been what coach Mark Chambers calls “chasing greatness” all season.
On Saturday, the Flyers not only achieved greatness, but by winning their first boys state championship, put themselves in the metro east basketball record book forever.
Senior Richard Robinson sent the game into overtime with a dunk off a missed free throw by teammate Jashawn Anderson with 4.6 seconds left in regulation and senior all-stater Terrence Hargrove scored with under 30 seconds remaining in overtime to give his team the lead for good.
East St. Louis defeated Chicago Bogan 68-63 in the title game of the Class 3A State Basketball Tournament at Peoria Civic Center.
“Coach (Mark) Chambers just kept telling us to not give up and to stay strong. We picked it up on the defensive end and got a couple of turnovers to get back in the game,’’ Robinson said during a wild on-court celebration. “Down by two, I have every bit of confidence in my teammates and I knew Jeshawn (Anderson) would make the free throws.
“But I always crash the boards.”
The Flyers (30-6), who trailed by as many as 10 points and by seven (51-44) with 3 minutes 10 seconds remaining, rallied behind the brilliance of the 6-foot-7 Hargrove who finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds.
But when Bogan (30-4) left the door open with missed free throws and two of its 10 turnovers, Anderson, Hargrove and Robinson, took advantage.
The state championship comes on the Flyers’ 11th trip to the tournament and first appearance in the title game. The Flyers had three third place finishes before Saturday, the last coming 19 years ago. Chambers, in his second year as the Flyers coach, was a member of the East St. Louis Lincoln teams which won three straight state championships from 1987-89.
But on this day with the Flyers, he put his mark on East St. Louis basketball.
“That’s a great team over there and we know that they were going to be physical with us and attack and they did that,’’ Chambers said in the post game press conference.
“But, wow. They they have all year these guys found a way to get the job done. Down seven points with three minutes to go, we picked it up like we have all season. These guys just refused to quit, refused to give in the the adversity and today we continued to fight until the end.. It was a great effort.’’
Anderson added 13 points and Robinson chipped in with 10 for East St. Louis, which led for only 46 seconds the entire game. It was Anderson, whose steal in the closing seconds of the super-sectional Tuesday set up the winning basket against Springfield Southeast, whose steal on Saturday all but iced the Flyers’ state title.
“He’s been making plays for us all year,’’ Hargrove said of Anderson. “To win a state title... I can’ put it into words. We’ve worked so hard for this.’’