Big picture: Morocco Gym hosted varsity basketball for the first since 1967, but a change in venue couldn’t stop Kankakee Valley from continuing to dominate North Newton and walking out of the arena and back into 2018 with an 86-39 victory Saturday night at Morocco Elementary School, home of the Morocco High School Beavers from 1936 to 1967.
Nostalgia and popcorn smells filled the air, and historic championship teams from as far back as 1950 had living members present to be honored throughout the night. Letterman jackets from long since closed schools such as Morocco, Wheatfield and DeMotte dotted the near-capacity crowd at the antique 1,252-seat bandbox gym.
“The atmosphere was great,” K.V. coach Bill Shepherd said. “Credit the fans, the North Newton administration and the town of Morocco for putting this together. We loved winning, but this atmosphere is something I wish we had every night.”
Wade Williams, a Kougars senior, said he visited with some of the older gentlemen in lettermen jackets during the junior varsity game.
“It was pretty cool to play where these guys had so many memories,” Williams said. “They told lots of stories, but they really wanted to see what we had. Some of them haven’t been to a game in a while.”
The game was lopsided as the Kougars played their best team basketball all month and snapped a four-game losing streak.
“After a while it was just about playing basketball for both teams,” Shepherd said. “We did an excellent job sharing the ball, and if we continue to do that, we will improve as a team.”
Turning point: Kankakee Valley led 17-5 after one quarter and did not trail for a single second all night. North Newton did not reach double figures in points until 2:21 remained in the first half.
Kankakee Valley player of the game: Junior forward Grant Marshall — The 6-foot-1 slasher tallied 13 points and eight rebounds. The old-school rims created lob rebounds and sometimes quicker fast breaks, and Marshall capitalized. Senior William Bonilla scored 17 points in the second half after the game was out of reach but sat the first two quarters based on coach’s decision.
North Newton player of the game: Sophomore guard Austin Goddard — The 5-10 standout had 16 points, nine more than the next best teammate.
Quote: “The atmosphere was pretty high from the beginning, and usually is pretty dead. From that perspective, it was big for us to start right,” said KV’s Wade Williams, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Beyond the box score: Kankakee Valley beat North Newton for the fourth consecutive season and 13th time on a row overall. The Spartans have not prevailed in the matchup since 2003.
Up next: Crown Point (3-1) at Kankakee Valley (3-4), 7 p.m. Thursday.