Kansas recruit Cliff Alexander's nationally-ranked Curie boys' basketball team suffered a massive upset in their first state tournament game amid an academic controversy that played out over the past week.
Chicago rival DuSable stunned the Condors in overtime of the Class 4A regional semifinals, 88-85, handing Curie only its second loss on the court all season. Chicago's Tribune and Sun-Times have the game story.
Of course, Alexander's squad entered the state tournament with an 0-25 record after Chicago Public Schools announced the school had forfeited its 24 regular-season victories when seven players had been found academically ineligible. As a result, one of the nation's top teams concluded a winless season.
"If we learned nothing else, we learned a life-skill lesson," Curie coach Mike Oliver told the Tribune. His CPS suspension was lifted prior to the game once the IHSA cleared the majority of the Condors to play in the postseason based upon its separate set of classroom standards. "The kids got to understand it's academics first. If you're not doing academics it doesn't matter how good you are on the basketball court. If we were doing what we were supposed to do from Day 1, we wouldn't be in the situation we were in."
The 6-foot-9 Alexander, ranked as the No. 4 senior recruit in the national by Rivals.com, finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks before fouling out in the final minute of regulation. He reportedly declined interviews following the game. The Condors were without starting backcourt Joseph and Josh Stamps, who were reportedly ruled ineligible by the IHSA. Had Curie won the regional tournament, the Stamps brothers may have potentially played in the sectionals pending another academic review.
In victory, Isaac Buford and Dontrell Whitaker combined for 46 points for a DuSable team that improved to 11-11, including four 3-pointers in the final minutes to help erase a 15-point lead and force overtime. The upset draws concludes an odd 10-day span for Curie that began with a league championship.
“When you are 16 and 17 years old and don’t know your fate, it lays in other peoples hands, it effects you,” Oliver told the Sun-Times. “Mentally it broke me down and I’m 45 years old. You don’t want to do that to an 18-year-old kid.”