Photo by Jeff Vorva
Chicago Christian’s Isayas Aris (No. 1) is about to get mobbed by teammates after his steal and slam closed his team’s 62-59 overtime win over rival Illiana Christian in Lansing on Friday night.
There was yelling from the packed visitor’s side.
There was louder screaming from the almost-packed home bleachers.
There were chants. There was music. There was dancing.
In the closing minutes, there was a technical foul. There were dramatic missed free throws. There were dramatic made free throws.
And that was just the sophomore game…
Chicago Christian’s 36-32 sophomore victory over Illiana Christian on Friday night set the stage for a varsity game that couldn’t possibly match that wild sophomore game could it?
Chicago Christian’s 62-59 overtime victory over the Vikings drew an estimated 2,000 fans for a Metro Suburban Conference crossover game that didn’t count in the league standings and featured two teams that entered the game with a combined 15-15 record.
The rest of the state may have been yawning at this matchup, but for those close to the situation, this game was as big as it could get for a regular-season battle.
Chicago Christian and Illiana Christian have been fierce rivals for decades and after this school year, the Vikings are leaving Illi and moving to ana. They plan to move from their school in Lansing into a $25 million building in Hanover Township in Indiana.
This was the last time these schools would meet in the Lansing gym, which was built in 1977. Knights senior Isayas Aris put an exclamation point on the game with a steal and slam to preserve the victory while the younger Knights fans poured onto the court and chanted, “This is OUR house.’’
CC coach Kevin Pittman was a young fan when the gym opened in 1977, later played for the Knights in the gym and for the past dozen seasons has been coaching the Knights in that gym.
“It was a huge, big deal when they opened this gym and Chicago Christian came in and swept them at the freshman, sophomore and varsity level,” Pittman said. “I told the players I would like to end this thing on a high note.
“This is also where my high school career ended with a regional loss to Hales Franciscan. So this was big that our players played their last game here and went out on top.’’
Sophomore Micah Schnyders, who popped in 15 points, has been coming to the gym for years as a fan. He played grade school ball in the gym but it was not quite the pressure cooker it was on Friday night.
“I’ve been coming to Chicago Christian-Illiana games since I was in fifth grade,” he said. “I look forward to it every year. It’s a blessing to play in an atmosphere like this. I just found out this was our last game in this gym and I’m thankful to be a part of history like that. I hope we have them on our schedule next year because this atmosphere is just amazing.’’
About next season…
Illiana is searching for a conference in Indiana to play in. No plans are concrete yet to keep the rivalry going but Vikings coach Grant Sikkema said he is in favor of it and you don’t have to ask Pittman twice.
“With a rivalry like this, I don’t see how we don’t,” Pittman said. “There are talks from both sides and we want to keep this going for at least a couple of more years. The problem is that our conference is so spread out. We go everywhere. For us to go out there – I know it’s not a huge trip – but boy, I sure like playing Shepard and Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn and some of those close schools for our non-conference games. But these two communities are interconnected. You are playing against relatives…it’s something special.
“It’s probably one of the coolest rivalries in high school sports.’’