Sports Report with John Supinie

Lanphier reminds us the importance of City title

                SPRINGFIELD-  Xavier Bishop let Lanphier High School basketball -and his T-shirt -do the talking.

                "You know, our town," said Bishop, smiling and looking down at the orange T-shirt passed out to players immediately after the game, just like they do following the World Series and Super Bowl.

                Our Town in bold, black letters on the front of his shirt and the reminder of back-to-back city titles on the back. If anyone hadn't been counting, Lanphier won the City Tournament for the second straight season and third time in the last four seasons after holding off Southeast 68-61 in the final game of the annual city tradition Saturday night.

                The City Tournament is a Springfield tradition, just like the horseshoe except without the heart damage. Lanphier basketball reminded everyone that North Side Pride is still on top. After a debate raged over the seeding, Lanphier managed to win its three games in the three-night tournament that’s a unique basketball showcase unrivaled elsewhere for tradition, level of play and local interest.

                "It's city bragging rights," said Bishop, the 5-foot-7 junior guard who hasn't seen a shot he doesn't like. Bishop scored 20 points despite foul trouble in a physical, frenetic game that left cheering sections from Lanphier and Southeast heckling each other. (Last season, the cheerleaders from both schools almost went UFC after the game.)

                "When you're a kid, this is what you dream about- to win City," Bishop said. "This means a lot, especially for North Side Pride. The North Side really looks forward to Lions basketball. We're bringing it back."

                Playing before 5,000 or 6,000 fans downtown in the Prairie Capital Convention Center is a big deal to a kid. It obviously also meant a lot to Lanphier coach Blake Turner. He climbed onto the team's seats to celebrate with Lanphier fans behind the bench after the final horn. Then came those T-shirts

                "It’s our town," Turner said. "Look at the record books. Right now, it's our town. There was controversy with us being the No. 1 seed. The kids proved it over the three-day stretch."

                It means so much to a town (oops, city) where the opening line in a meet-and-greet is, What high school did you go to?

                The Spirit Award, won this year by Sacred Heart-Griffin, is as hotly contested as the basketball. Lanphier, Springfield, Southeast and SHG each pack a corner of the court, and the crowd of fans climbs into the second level and sometimes the third of the PCCC.

                Gov. Bruce Rauner sat behind one basket, getting a taste of Springfield culture in his first month on the job. What he saw is a unique event unrivaled anywhere else in the state.

                Decatur has the Turkey Tournament in November, but the out-of-towners usually make it more of a show than MacArthur and Eisenhower high schools. There’s no arguing Peoria's tradition of basketball, although the River City doesn't have an event like this. Bloomington-Normal's Intercity Football doubleheader early in the season at Illinois State University is only a one-nighter. Champaign-Urbana hoops can’t fight out of the shadows of the Illini, the biggest show in town.

                Some folks think the City title is more important than the CS8 crown.

                "There’s nothing like it," Turner said. "One venue, three days with this atmosphere."

                This isn’t a banner year for Central State Eight Conference basketball. The league doesn’t have Division I stars like Larry Austin, who went from Lanphier to Xavier, and Chatham Glenwood’s Peyton Allen, a freshman guard at Texas A&M. It wouldn't be much of a surprise if the CS8 fails to reach the Springfield Super-Sectional in March at the PCCC.

                No worries. Bishop and his Lanphier teammates already have a memory that will last a lifetime, even if those T-shirts don’t make it to summer.

Categories: Community Events