Mooseheart's basketball team faced off against Hinckley-Big Rock on Wednesday in a rivalry game of unrivaled proportions—with IHSA sanctions, international intrigue, Sudanese students' rights, network-media hype and a judge's ruling serving as the backdrop.
So intense was the spotlight and interest in the game that fans flooded the Royals' homecourt to get a glimpse, and some had to be turned away at the door.
The result? Hinckley Big-Rock came from behind to win 58-51—winning the battle but perhaps losing points in the argument that Mooseheart's three Sudanese players are ringers who shouldn't be allowed to compete at the high school level.
The game came two days after a judge's decision to issue a restraining order that temporarily countermanded IHSA-imposed sanctions against four Sudanese players who attend Mooseheart's child city, including three on the basketball team: 6-foot-7 Mangisto Deng, 6-foot-10 Makur Puou and 7-foot-1 Hakim Nyang.
The fourth Sudanese student-athlete, Wal Khat, ran cross country for the Red Ramblers during the fall.
Mooseheart got off to a slow start in the game, but came back to lead by 10 early in the fourth quarter. But the Royals came back with a 21-4 run in the final five minutes to record the 58-51 victory. Overall, Hinckley-Big Rock (5-1) outscored Mooseheart (3-3) 25-10 in the final quarter.
This was the second game featuring the Sudanese students following a judge's decision to issue a restraining order against the IHSA-imposed sanctions that would have prevented the students from playing any games until a Dec. 10 hearing before the IHSA.
With TV trucks parked outside the Kane County courthouse in Geneva on Monday, Judge David Ackemann signed off on the restraining order, allowing the Sudanese players to compete in games on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a news release from Mooseheart. The Sudanese players helped secure a 53-21 Mooseheart victory Tuesday against Westminster Christian.
“The name of the game is to not let anyone score 25 points against us (in the fourth quarter),” Mooseheart coach Ron Ahrens said after Wednesday's game. “That should never happen.”
Puou led all scorers with 25 points. Deng added 13 points but no one else scored more than six points for Mooseheart.
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- UPDATE: Judge Lets Mooseheart Basketball Players Compete—Until IHSA Hearing Monday