If the accusations that at least one Harrisburg (Ill.) High player used racial slurs during an Illinois boys basketball state championship game are true, these won't exactly be the glory days the Bulldogs had hoped for in the aftermath of their title victory.
As first reported in great detail by the Chicago Tribune, and since followed upon by ABC affiliate WSIL and other local outlets, the ugliness first boiled over when, after a 50-44 loss to Harrisburg in Saturday's 2A final, South Holland (Ill.) Seton Academy coach Brandon Thomas and his team boycotted the runner-up trophy presentation. Criticized for poor sportsmanship, Thomas' actions were instead a response to what many in the Chicago suburb have claimed is racism aimed toward his team.
"It started in the beginning of the game with racial words, like 'Get off me, (N-word),'" Seton assistant Art Kimber told the Tribune. "It happened so many times that I wasn't keeping track anymore. … It got so bad that every single time that they tried to complain to the referees, they were told, 'Do not talk to me or I will give you a technical.'"
While his team held an eight-point lead with 2:05 left in the first half, Seton star Mark Weems Jr. earned his second technical foul for making contact with a referee, according to the Tribune. Because he had already received a tech for complaining to an official in the first half, he was ejected from the game, and Seton subsequently lost by six points.
Referees also handed out a first-half technical foul to a Harrisburg player and a warning to Bulldogs coach Randy Smithpeters for arguing a call. Things got so bad that Illinois High School Association officials nearly canceled the game at halftime, according to the Tribune.
"(We) expressed our concerns to the schools about what had occurred in the first half, including three technical fouls, a player ejection and a bench warning," IHSA executive director Marty Hickman told the Tribune. "At that time, Seton Academy also expressed concerns over the use of racial slurs. The onus was put on the coaches to provide the necessary leadership to change the tenor of the game. We also made it very clear that if things did not change, we would take the unprecedented step of canceling the game."