Purple Raiders make most of return to state after four decades
It might have seemed like the Illinois high school basketball tournament had forgotten about Bloomington, but it'll remember now.
The Purple Raiders finished third in the state finals after being away from the tournament for 42 years.
"It means a lot because of the excitement within our school and our community," head coach Michael Mosley told the East Central Reporter. "For our team, it shows the growth and maturity we’ve taken to put ourselves in a class with the powers within the state."
Bloomington, which finished the year with a sparkling 27-5 record, qualified for its first state finals since 1975 after crushing Marengo 69-46 in the 3A Super-Sectional at Northern Illinois University.
The Purple Raiders met Oak Park-Fenwick the following week at Carver Arena in Peoria, coming up short in a 67-52 loss.
"Fenwick played extremely well," Mosley said. "We didn’t have our best game, particularly at the guard spots, and Fenwick had a lot to do with that. We didn’t hit shots which we normally make. We turned the ball over a lot. Playing in a large arena will have that impact on you. I still liked our fight, and hopefully we can get back into that spot next season and give it another try."
All was not over for Bloomington, however. Despite the loss, the Purple Raiders moved on to the consolation game against Springfield Lanphier and took home the third-place trophy in a hard-fought 62-56 win.
"We were excited to end the season with a win," Mosley said. "Springfield was a very good opponent whom we are very familiar with. We were able to have the stamina to really defend late and make a few more plays down the stretch to get the win. It wasn’t difficult getting up for that game because we knew we were capable of playing so much better than we did against Fenwick, and we wanted to show the state such. Plus, the opportunity to be one of two 3A teams to finish the season with a win was huge. Also, we wanted to send our seniors out with a win."
One of those seniors is Dazon Farris, who finished the season with awards that included AP First-Team All-State, unanimous First-Team All Big-12, Big-12 Player of the Year, First-Team All-Area (Pantagraph), and Pantagraph Player of the Year.
Standing out was no small feat for Farris, as Mosley relishes a system and team concept that prioritizes ball movement and sharing. In fact, Bloomington has four players who averaged double digits in scoring.
All success was a welcome change for a program that's turned from where it was just a few seasons ago.
"Our kids understand the level of commitment required to achieve individual and team success," Mosley said. "We no longer have to encourage guys to get into the gym, it’s an expectation... .We all know it’s not easy to get to the state Final Four. Our kids were committed from the final game last season to achieve the goal of reaching state. Their commitment carried on throughout the summer, open gym, weight training, as well with our tough conditioning approach... .I’m humbled to be a part of our program’s transition."
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