They may not be number one in the Final Four, but they are number one in the eyes of their coach, school, friends and family.
The Channahon Junior High School 7th Grade Boys Basketball Team completed its season with a third place win in last Thursday’s Final Four games against Southwood Junior High, Country Club Hills.
It was a nail biter. With seconds left in the game, the opposing team received a technical foul. Jon Butler made the two shots giving Channahon the lead. However, with four seconds left, CJHS lost the ball. Southwood inbounded the ball but did not score, assuring the 35-34 win to CJHS.
“What a game and what a win,” said Coach Kirk Lange. “These young men never quit and kept believing. We trailed the entire game until seven seconds left. They played with poise and made great decisions down the stretch. They deserved to win.”
CJHS player Johnny Carnagio agreed with his coach.
“We knew it was gonna be a tough game going in,” said Carnagio. “But we never gave up and that’s why we wound up winning.”
And even parents enjoyed in on the excitement.
“My favorite part of the game was when Jon Butler made his second tech free throw,” said Kellie Mason, mother of CJHS player Matt Mason. “Our players were jumping up and down and yelling. It was like they finally believed it could happen.”
Playing in the state competition is nothing new for Lange and his previous seventh grade teams. Last year, the team’s regular season was 25-1 and they took home a trophy for third place at the state level, he said. The final team stats for this season were 26-1.
Lange has been a basketball coach at CJHS for the past six years. The first year he coached the seventh grade girl’s team. The remaining five has been with the boys, he said. Before coaching at CJHS, Lange coached his daughter’s team for two years.
“My coaching style doesn’t change. I taught the girls at the same level of the boys,” Lange said. “I think I have matured as a coach over the years. I have been fortunate enough to have good athletes.”
Lange, a science teacher at CJHS, said he had about 40 boys try-out for the 12 available spots on the team. Most of the team played on the undefeated sixth grade team last year, Lange said.
“They are really a good group this year,” said Coach Kirk Lange. “As a coach, I only was given three days of tryouts to see what they could do. Is it possible I missed one? Yes, but by their record, I think I did a good job of selecting the team.”
Lange said he was amazed how the team was very unselfish.
“They were always looking to pass the ball and wanted to give assists and shots,” Lange said. “Everyone was happy. There wasn’t one person who wanted to do it all.”
The skill level of the team also was above average, Lange said, adding that he has two players that he considers top 10 in the State.
“Johnny Butler is not flashy; not a jumper. He just plays the game,” Lange said. “Johnny Carnagio knows how to finish. I have never had a player score like he scores.”
For those who did not make the team, Lange said he tells them to never be discouraged and to not lose passion for the game.
“I encourage them to play club and park district basketball,” Lange said. “ I also remind them that Michael Jordan didn’t make the basketball team until he was a junior in high school.”