Moline becomes third WB6 program to win boys basketball state championship


The Moline boys basketball team and cheerleaders pose for a team photo after the Maroons won the Class 4A state championship Saturday night at State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill. | Submitted photo

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A coach once labeled as “just a Class A coach” showed his true wares on the state’s biggest stage against the state’s biggest competition.

A team that faced one of the toughest schedules of any Class 4A squad this season proved it could handle any challenge with poise and precision.

And a program that waited seven decades for a moment like this gets to enjoy a championship celebration unlike any other.

A 59-42 dismantling of Lisle Benet Academy, the No. 1-ranked team in the final regular season Associated Press Class 4A state poll, finished off the Moline boys basketball team’s run to glory in the Class 4A state title game Saturday night at State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus.

“So happy for these guys and the entire team,” Moline coach Sean Taylor said. “They had high expectations from day one and they embraced it. Another day, another opportunity, that was our theme and they lived it.”

Moline becomes just the second school outside of the greater Chicagoland area to win the Class 4A championship since Illinois shifted to four classes for a 2007-08 season.

“Everybody told me teams not from Chicago, not from the (suburbs), they don’t win,” Moline all-state guard Brock Harding said. “We came here, we shut all them up. What can they say now?”

No one can question the Maroons’ defensive effort.

After holding Downers Grove North to 32-percent shooting from the field in Friday’s semifinal victory, Moline clamped down on Benet in the second half when it limited the Redwings to 22 percent shooting in the third quarter and 30 percent overall in the second half.

It’s when the Maroons pulled away.

Tied at 23 midway through the second quarter, Moline closed the first half on a 9-2 run. The Maroons followed it up with a 12-3 run over the first seven minutes of the third quarter to build a 16-point bulge. The advantage eventually reached 22 points as the Maroons were never threatened down the stretch.

“We had a hard time matching up with them,” Redwings coach Gene Heidkamp said. “They controlled it more than it got away from us — long possessions and very well executed. Hats off to them.”

That’s because Taylor had them prepared.

A 33-year coaching veteran who won a Class A state championship at Shelbyville in 1996 and took Macomb to the Class A state tournament in 2001, Taylor spent 11 seasons at Quincy High School before being fired in 2014. Although he won 194 games with the Blue Devils, his detractors didn’t think he could coach at the big-school level.

In two seasons at Jacksonville — a Class 3A program — and seven seasons at Moline, Taylor has averaged 21 victories with six 20-win seasons and now the third state championship in the 50-plus year history of the Western Big 6 Conference.

Moline joins 1981 Quincy and 2011 Rock Island as the only WB6 teams to win state titles.

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