PEORIA | This weekend is special for Bloom Township assistant coach Job Gunderson.
Gunderson is not only a Bloom High School grad, a Bradley alumnus. He played baseball at the Peoria university and was a manager for the Braves' basketball team under coach Stan Albeck.
"It is kind of neat going back there and to have your old high school playing for a state championship," Gunderson said. "I really enjoyed my years at Bradley."
More Bloom history: It's been 12 since Bloom Township has made it to the state tourney as Gary Meyer's team made it to the Class AA Elite Eight in 2000.
The last time a Bloom team made it to the final four was in 1974 and 1975 when Wes Mason's Trojans finished second both years.
Prior to Friday, Bloom is a combined 3-10 in its 10 other tournament trips.
It was 80 years ago that Cicero Morton was the first Cook County team to win a state title. It beat Canton 30-16.
Select company: Along with being the leader of Thornridge's legendary 1972 club, Quinn Buckner is part of a select group of Illinois players who followed up a high school championship with one in the collegiate ranks.
Buckner, of course, went on to capture an NCAA title in 1976 as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers, the last undefeated Division I national champion. He was an Olympic gold medalist in the summer of that same year and an NBA champ with the Boston Celtics in 1984.
Until U.S. professionals began playing basketball in the Olympics, Buckner and NBA Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas were the only men to have accomplished the title-winning four-pack.
Six other Illinois prep players also achieved the high school-college combo: John Scheyer (Glenbrook North and Duke), Brian Sloan (McLeansboro, Indiana), Jay Shidler (Lawrenceville, Kentucky), George Wilson (Marshall, Cincinnati), Candace Parker (Naperville Central, Tennessee) and Tamika Catchings (Stevenson, Tennessee).
The one and only: Buckner and the 1972 Falcons remain the only Illinois high school team to top the 100-point mark in the state title game. Thornridge's 104-69 win over Quincy was its 54th straight.
Coach rides first class: Before meeting Bloom Township in Friday's Class 4A semifinal game, Simeon had already established itself as one of Illinois' elite basketball programs.
The Wolverines have five state championships to their credit, the first coming in 1984 when the late Ben Wilson and current T.F. North coach Tim Bankston led the way.
That team was guided by the late Bob Hambric, who Bankston has honored the past couple years by running a holiday tournament bearing his former coach's name.
Under Robert Smith, Simeon has won championships in 2006 (Class AA), 2007 (AA), 2010 (3A) and 2011 (4A), and was the 3A runner-up in 2008. Smith's .900 winning percentage (9-1) in tournament play is the best in Illinois history, as are his five title-game appearances.