PEORIA - The state boys basketball championship has found its way back to southern Illinois. Harrisburg rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit to defeat Seton Academy, 50-44, in the IHSA Class 2A finals in Peoria on Saturday night. Harrisburg( 33-1), ranked No. 1 in the final poll, won its’ first-ever state crown in the Bulldogs’ sixth finals appearance all-time. Seton Academy was trying to win its’ second crown in the last five years.
The fourth-ranked Sting (22-11) had things well in hand, with a 23-13 lead midway through the second half. That is when Seton Academy’s world came tumbling down.
After a foul was called on Harrisburg’s Tyler Smithpeters. But as Seton all-stater Mark Weems, Jr. headed to the foul line, he decided to share his displeasure with Smithpeters on the foul instead. That in-your-face display resulted in a technical foul on Weems, then a second and ejection from the game when he appeared to bump an official who had stepped in.
Weems was gone, after scoring only eight points. And the Bulldogs took advantage. But, the tenor of the rest of the game was enough for the IHSA to step in.
The IHSA, in a statement issued from its Bloomington office late Saturday, said it The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is disappointed with and embarrassed by the actions of both Harrisburg and Seton Academy during the game.
“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 said it is reviewing the events associated with the contest, and will contact both schools on Monday.
Smithpeters, a Mr. Basketball candidate and son of Bulldogs coach Randy Smithpeters, led Harrisburg with 23 points. Capel Henshaw, who along with Smithpeters was named to the Class 2A all-state team last week, finished with 13.
Seton Academy was paced by Kamal Shasi with nine points. The Sting were a woeful 4-of-21 at the foul line on the night.
Harrisburg had also rallied in the semi final game on Friday night to defeat St. Joseph-Ogden, 53-43.
Winnebago took third place, by defeating St. Joe-Ogden 67-54.
In Class 1A, Illinois Central, out of Mason City in central Illinois, won the state title with a 55-44 win over Madison. Nokomis, which defeated Gallatin County at the Carbondale Super Sectional, claimed third place with a 44-42 win over Eastland.