Carver Arena in Peoria was packed. Totally sold out. It was 1998, a magical year for high school basketball in Illinois. The Class AA title game featured Quentin Richardson and Young against Joey Range and Galesburg. Both were totally dominant stars.
Looking back through the Sun-Times archives I was reminded just how much pressure Richardson put on himself and his teammates that season. The year before they had lost to eventual champion Peoria Manual in the state quarterfinals.
The Dolphins were not messing around in 1997-98.
Richardson after an overtime loss to Lexington (Ky.) Catholic in late January: “We aren’t going to lose anymore. I’m not about to let it happen, and no one else on this team is, either.”
Richardson before the massively-hyped matchup against Corey Maggette and Fenwick: “We want to instill into everybody’s mind that nobody in this city can beat us. Every time we play a good team, it’s said that the next one might beat Young. They can keep saying that all they want. We’re going to keep beating every team and let them bring on the next team.”
The state quarterfinals were loaded in 1998. Galesburg and Young were joined by Maggette and Fenwick, Sean Harrington (Elgin), Kevin Frey and Lucas Johnson (Maine West), Quincy and an underdog, starless Joliet Township team that pulled off multiple shocking upsets in the playoffs.
I attended as a fan and watched every game. It was my first and only look at Joey Range and I was mesmerized. What comes after high school often clouds memories and changes opinions of players. Forget all that and don’t sell Range short. He’s one of the best high school players in state history.
Range guarded Richardson during the title game. He did a fantastic job denying Richardson the ball, but couldn’t do anything to keep Richardson off the glass. It’s unlikely anyone in the country could have done that.
Richardson scored 18 points and grabbed 20 rebounds. He scored eight consecutive points from the 5:30 to 2:00 mark in the fourth quarter. It was the decisive stretch for the Dolphins.
Range finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. The game was excellent, played at a very high level. Galesburg, the clear underdog, never went away. Rod Thompson, the Silver Streaks’ other star player, made two free throws with 28 seconds left to cut Young’s lead to just two points. Richardson followed with a dunk with 24 seconds left to basically secure the win.
Looking back 22 years later I believe it is safe to say that this was one of the most important games in modern Public League history. This 1998 Young team, with its fame across the city and its success, helped change the image of Public League basketball across the state and changed what the Public League itself believed it could accomplish. Young was the first Public League team other than King to win the state title since Simeon in 1984. Think of all that has happened since 1998.
Other notes and observations from the rewatch:
-The title game was a record-setter. Richardson’s 20 rebounds broke the Class AA record set in 1988 by St. Francis de Sale’s Eric Anderson, who grabbed 17 against East St. Louis Lincoln. Galesburg tied Peoria Manual’s Class AA record, set in 1994, by hitting nine three-pointers. And the record for three-pointers attempted by two teams in a Class AA title game also fell as Young (16) and Galesburg (20) edged out the 32 attempted by Manual (18) and Carbondale (14) in ‘94.
-Richardson finished the tournament as the leading scorer and rebounder. The Sun-Times Player of the Year averaged 21.5 points and 14 rebounds in four games. Richardson scored 86 points in the four games and Range was second with 81.
-Thompson, like Range an Iowa recruit, was a transfer from Carver. He played AAU ball with Richardson, Dennis Gates and Corey Harris. “They’re a great bunch of guys. I’ve got a lot of respect for them,” said Thompson, who scored 16 points, was 3-for-3 from three-point range and had seven rebounds in the title game. “There’s no other guys I’d want to lose to. If it had been anybody else, I’d be (mad).”
-It’s always fun to point out the transfers, since so many fans seem to think it is some newfangled thing. Richardson was actually a transfer from Brother Rice. Corey Harris was a transfer from Thornton and Quincy star Luis Rivas moved in from Puerto Rico.
-The crowd was tremendous. Fans went totally nuts after a three-pointer from Galesburg’s Taylor Theil pulled the Silver Streaks within 52-50 with 5:11 left. Dave Kaplan and Dave Eanet were the broadcasters. Kaplan: “Look at the Quincy fans on their feet to cheer on their conference counterparts.” Eanet: “The Western Big 6. What a conference that is.”
It started when some 13 year old’s made a decisions to attend @wyhs “We wanted to cut down nets & hold up trophy’s at a place where it never happened.” @michaelsobrien our parents gave us to @IHSA_IL HOF G.Stanton & got out the way. Trusted him to build us in2 the men we are 2day https://t.co/Itw7OhEfoq— Dennis Gates (@coachdgates) December 23, 2020
-Galesburg coach Mike Miller looked like a kid. He was just 31 and taking his second team to a state championship game. He coached Rockford Guilford in its loss to King a few years before. Miller went on to take an assistant coaching job at Vanderbilt. He returned to the high school game a few years later and became head coach at Elgin. He’s currently the coach at Rockton Hononegah. Miller on his college stint: “I found out last year that Galesburg versus Moline was just as exciting as Vanderbilt versus Florida.’’
-During the broadcast Kaplan announced that Young assistant coach Cyrus McGinnis was going to take over for retiring coach George Stanton. “He will be the new head coach at Whitney Young. It will be announced shortly in the next week or so.” That never happened. Lamont Bryant got the job and was followed by Ron Branch. Both coaches were successful, but Young didn’t return to state powerhouse level until Tyrone Slaughter took over in 2005. McGinnis eventually became the head coach at Lincoln Park and then ran Public League basketball for several years.
The starting lineups:
F Joey Range (34), 6-5 Sr.
F Mike Tapper (54), 6-4 Sr.
C Rod Thompson (32), 6-6 Sr.
G Steve Glasgow (12), 6-1 Sr.
G Taylor Thiel (22), 6-0 Sr.
F Kristopher Clemmons (50) 6-7 Jr.
F Quentin Richardson (34), 6-6 Sr.
C Corey Harris (44), 6-8 Sr.
G Dennis Gates (25), 6-4 Sr.
G Cordell Henry (4), 5-10 Sr.
Watch it all and read Roman Modrowski’s game story from back in 1998:
West Side story - Young teams up to top Galesburg for state title
BY ROMAN MODROWSKI
PEORIA—Quentin Richardson proved mortal Saturday night, but Whitney Young proved invincible.
With Richardson struggling from the field, his teammates stepped up against a rugged Galesburg team to capture the Class AA state title with a 61-56 triumph before a sellout crowd of 11,500 at Carver Arena.
“Everyone else stepped up when I wasn’t shooting well,” Richardson said. “It most definitely shows how good of a team we are.
“It’s nice to bring the trophy back to Chicago, because we haven’t had it in a while.”
It was the first title for a Chicago team since King’s championship in 1993, and it proved the balance of Young’s attack.
Richardson was only 7-for-16 from the field, but he still finished with 18 points because he was able to convert offensive rebounds. Ten of his Class AA-record 20 boards were offensive.
With Richardson struggling, Dennis Gates turned in one of his best games when his team needed it the most. The 6-4 shooting guard scored 20 points, which was nine above his average.
“I knew I had to step up when Quentin couldn’t hit his shots,” Gates said. “I had to do what I had to do. I guess I made believers out of people tonight.”
The victory sent Dolphins coach George Stanton into retirement as a champion after 11 seasons at the school.
“I’m just happy for the kids,” Stanton said. “We didn’t play our best game, and Galesburg played well. But that’s a credit to our team that we were able to win under those circumstances.”
After blowing out its first seven tourney opponents by at least 18 points each, Young (30-1) found an opponent in Galesburg (30-3) that would not be dismissed easily.
The Silver Streaks pulled to 58-56 with 28.1 seconds left, but Gates hit Richardson with a baseball pass on the inbounds, and Richardson’s dunk made it 60-56.
“D-Gates is the man,” Richardson said. “I can’t say enough about him.”
Galesburg couldn’t get a good shot with time running out, and Rod Thompson’s fall-away with three seconds left fell short.
“Every other team that played them lost by about 20,” said Thompson, who led the Silver Streaks with 16 points. “I thought we played great and battled.
“But they’re a great team and were able to overcome what we had.”
The Silver Streaks opened the fourth quarter with a flourish, and Taylor Thiel’s three-pointer with 5:18 left narrowed the deficit to 52-50.
After a free throw by Galesburg’s Joey Range made it 54-51 with four minutes left, the Dolphins pulled out their offense and killed nearly two minutes before Richardson scored inside to make it 56-51 with 2:40 left.
Richardson then blocked Mike Tapper’s shot, grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He was fouled again on the ensuing possession and hit both free throws to make it 58-51 with 2:05 left.
“Quentin had a bad game, and he still controlled the game,” Stanton said. “He didn’t get too many balls to drop for him today, and I asked him to be unselfish and pass a little more and bang the boards.
“And he did that.”
Young went wire to wire as the Sun-Times’ No. 1 team, but it had to overcome 35 percent shooting in the first half. And it did it on the boards, outrebounding Galesburg 40-23.
Young’s final statement was made against a team that featured a familiar face in former Carver star Thompson. The 6-6 senior was a former teammate of several Young players on the Illinois Warriors AAU team.
In the end, Whitney Young backed up a guarantee Richardson made on Jan. 20, when he said the Dolphins would not lose another game.