February 21, 2003 at 4:19 AM CST - Updated June 17 at 9:37 AM
Undefeated Cairo Team Takes Home State Title By: Kate Scott
(Cairo, IL)--Despite the Cairo School District’s current financial troubles, the junior high boys basketball team made the most of its meager resources this year.Now, the team is bringing some positive news back to the community.
The team has made history in Cairo, becoming the first ever to go undefeated for an entire season of 27 games.And that 27th victory, won Wednesday night against O’Fallon, Illinois, also earned the team the title of SIJHSAA Class-L State Champions.“I feel it gives the community something to talk about other than the money,” says proud 8th grade guard Daniel Bell.
And that it does.Thanks to the 27 players and their coach, folks in Cairo can now talk about medals, trophies, and team-signed jerseys.And they can proudly use the word, “champs.”
“That 27 and 0 record means a lot,” says Coach Tommy Ellis.“Especially since we were on the road 24 of those ball games.We played stiff competition. We played schools sometimes that were up to four times our size, but it didn't matter. We took the task on, and win or lose, we gave God the glory.”
Ellis admits that it wasn't always easy. Before the team’s final win on Wednesday night, it took a lot of practicing in the school gym, and a lot of dedication by the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.“We had to hit our books, stay fit, keep our mind focused on the game,” lists Bell.“It took a lot of laps at practice, and a lot of sprints,” adds 8th grade guard Rod Purdiman.And of course, it took a lot of skill too.But with players like six-foot-five center Russell Mackins, there was no shortage of that!“I’m feeling good to know that we're number one in the state, thanks to my coach and my teammates and good ball movement and hard work and dedication,” Mackins tells Heartland News.
Now all of the boys can walk through their school and their town with their heads held high, knowing that they've not only put a positive spin on a difficult year, but that they'll also go down in school history.“Winning this state championship is going to be my fondest memory of school,” says 8th grade forward Sedan Bell.“I’ll remember that we were the ones that put the state championship picture up on the wall,” adds Daniel Bell.“And that we walked through the school undefeated.”