MIKE NIETO: It was a true Chicago Heights classic

2013-03-08T23:15:00Z MIKE NIETO: It was a true Chicago Heights classicMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
March 08, 2013 11:15 pm  • 

HARVEY | You knew the ride would eventually end for Bloom Township boys basketball coach Jasper Williams and assistant coach Pete McGuire.

In a battle of Chicago Heights — which was played in Harvey — for the Class 4A Thornton Sectional title, two of the game's greatest became officially retired from coaching as Marian Catholic beat the Blazing Trojans 50-46 before a packed gym.

It was the second time the Spartans beat their crosstown rivals this season and the first time Marian beat Bloom twice in one season, according to anyone who remembers.

Williams and McGuire would have liked to have gone out with another trip to Peoria, but it wasn't the case. Both sat in the Bloom locker room consoling players and when Williams came out to give his final postgame interview, McGuire continued consoling the Blazing Trojans on a tough loss.

"It's not about me — it's about the 15 kids in there who are taking this pretty hard," Williams said. "You give the credit to Marian. They played a great game."

Williams put his own stamp on a programs that is more than loaded with tradition and fame. Both he and McGuire will be missed, but the program's search for a replacement is the next thing on the agenda.

It was a big win for Marian as it won its first sectional in the program's history. Coach Mike Taylor is finally getting the recognition he deserves and so is the program. It was emotional for Taylor because he and Williams are good friends.

"Class guy," Taylor said among the celebrants. "I came to Marian the same year Jasper came to Bloom and we worked together to put the Chicago Heights Classic together.

"I taught his kids (Jasper and Jasmine) and I consider him a good friend. It is kind of cool that two good friends are going against each other for a sectional, isn't it?"

Marian senior Josh Cohn has known Williams and most of the Bloom players for years. Both teams exchanged hugs as well as handshakes after the game.

"I've known Coach Williams since I was in Small-Fry (basketball) and he is just a great man," Cohn said. "What he does on the floor and gym, and what he does for kids outside of basketball, what he teaches them, he is just a great guy."

It's tough to say goodbye to Williams and McGuire, but it is also nice to see Marian's program make a big stride. The Spartans will play Edwardsville Tuesday in the Class 4A Illinois State University Supersectional on the same floor where Marian's girls team won the Class 4A state title last week.

For Bloom, the future holds a new coach. Will assistant Job Gunderson get the call? He knows the program and is a Bloom grad. I am sure a lot of big names will pop up. After all, it is a top-notch program.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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