Full disclosure: I wasn’t at the Br. Rice-Marist basketball game on Jan. 17.
I watched it on TV until midway through the fourth quarter, then followed the rest on Twitter after I had to head out to my own rec-league basketball game. I will also disclose that I am a Br. Rice graduate.
But the TV broadcasters, media members posting on Twitter and our own Beverly Review sports editor, Tim O’Brien, made it clear: this was an instant classic.
Host Brother Rice triumphed 73-65 in overtime in front of a packed house of about 1,600 fans.
Let’s take a minute to applaud every player, coach and fan involved in what can be deemed as a proud moment for our neighborhood.
Yes, sports are low on the totem pole of what’s important in life, but at the high school level, they’re priceless.
Mt. Greenwood has been put in an unfavorable light in recent months after a police-involved shooting resulted in a black man’s death. I heard comments at heated protests afterward between “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” supporters that were crude and inappropriate. The community shouldn’t run away from the fact that maybe race relations need to be improved.
An unfortunate incident at Marist involving racism also occurred that left some students no longer enrolled. That shouldn’t be downplayed either; nor should reports of racist, derogatory graffiti being discovered in Beverly on Jan. 25.
But as a journalist, I’ve always believed that everything matters for a story—and the passion and pride displayed at Br. Rice is part of Mt. Greenwood’s story, if not the entire community’s.
And while I’ve been told that some crass comments were made by students—as tends to happen when hundreds of teenagers gather at a rivalry game—by all accounts, it was a fine display of sportsmanship in a well-played game.
I felt exhausted just watching. I was also told that when the game was over, my 1-year-old daughter dropped her bottle and applauded.
Media members from around the city also showered the game with praise. TV commentators noted how much they enjoyed visiting Br. Rice. A reporter wrote before the game about how the Marist-Br. Rice rivalry might be the best in the state—and during the game, he noted the game was living up to its hype.
It seems that everyone knows everyone on the South Side—and everyone is related to everyone. Br. Rice senior guard Josh Niego—who is the cousin of my brother-in-law—dropped in 26 points, then had arguably the best post-game quote.
“Br. Rice is back, baby,” Niego declared, a comment that surely had alumni from the mid-90s to the early 2000s beaming and remembering the years when Br. Rice claimed nine straight regional titles, four sectional titles and one berth in the state finals.
While Br. Rice basketball has struggled a bit in recent years, Marist has become a model of consistency, regularly winning at least 18 games per season. The RedHawks entered the game against Br. Rice undefeated, and many fans surely recalled their Cinderella run to a sectional final five years ago—has it really been that long already?
In 2012, the RedHawks were the darlings of March, stunning highly regarded Curie and Bogan before falling to Simeon, which featured now-NBA star Jabari Parker and a host of other stars who are now playing in college at the Division I level.
In the win over Bogan, Marist scored five points in 20 seconds to force overtime, then pulled away. Commentator Brian Snow, broadcasting the game online, burst out and became an internet sensation, “It ain’t midnight yet, y’all!”
And how that did that postseason run start? It began with a win over Br. Rice in a regional semifinal in Marist’s gym, in a game where Marist surged ahead late in front of another raucous crowd.
Sure enough, the teams are in the same sectional grouping this year. And even before their match-up on Jan. 17, it was easy to imagine the excitement of a rematch. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but they could easily see each other in a regional final in late February or early March.
Simeon, ever a perennial power, is likely to be the top seed in the sectional, and then a group of six or seven quality teams, including Marist and Br. Rice, could be in the No.-2 to No.-7 seed range. We could easily get a No.-3 or No.-4 seed Br. Rice versus a No.-5 or No.-6 seed Marist in the regional final.
It might be hard to top the recent instant classic, but the teams will certainly try.
A repeat of that Crusaders and RedHawks meeting would once again show fans from outside the neighborhood that, in Mt. Greenwood, passion and pride are stronger than ever.