Leo’s loss to LeRoy in last season’s state basketball tournament title game was disappointing, but falling to U-High in the championship game of the Class 2-A U-High Regional on Friday, Feb. 24 hurt just as much.

The experience of getting downstate and playing at Carver Arena in Peoria is something last year’s team will never forget.This year’s Lions won’t have that experience, and they deserved it. They are great kids who managed to win a lot of games (19-9) and, more important, represented Leo in a manner that did us proud, in the classroom and on and off the court.

But Leo missed 11 free throws and probably just as many layups and lost 45-41 to a U-High team that is talented, tough and well-coached. Freshman Jadon Williams scored 13 points, senior Mario Pittman had seven of his 10 in the fourth quarter and Leo held U-High star Jameel Alausa to nine points. The Lions competed hard, but didn’t play well enough. Season over.

They won’t hang their heads over a 19-9 record and a second-place finish in the Chicago Catholic South in what figured to be a rebuilding year. A sophomore and a freshman were Leo’s two leading scorers and there’s some talent on our lower-level teams, so the Lions have a chance to be good for a while. But we say goodbye to seniors Aamir Holmes, Khalid Manney, Mario Pittman, Joe Yuknis, Andre Gilmer, Okeitho Marshall and Mike Simmons, and we’ll miss their talent, character and commitment.

Before the game, I was telling a friend that I get more nervous watching Leo games than I did when my kids were playing. “Of course you do,” he said. “These are also your kids.”

They are. And I’m proud to say that.

Dan McGrath ’68, President
Leo High School