It was a sad ending Tuesday night for one of the greatest high school basketball teams to never officially win a game.
In the wake of a high-profile eligibility fiasco, a stripped-down Curie (Chicago)
team bowed out of the Illinois Class 4A state playoffs with an 88-85 loss to DuSable in the regional semifinals.
The defeat also ends the high school career of 6-foot-9 forward Cliff Alexander, a national player of the year candidate who will continue his career at Kansas in 2014-15.
"It was a raw, emotional end to a legendary high school basketball career and the capper for a traumatic 12-day stretch for the entire Curie community," wrote Michael O'Brien of the Chicago Sun-Times
The Condors – ranked as high as No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps this season – grabbed the country's attention Jan. 20 with a dramatic victory over then-No. 1 Montverde Academy (Fla.) at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.
Curie went on to beat fellow Chicago powerhouse Whitney Young in a classic city tournament title game and finished the regular season with a 24-1 record.
But O'Brien broke the news last Friday
that the program would have to forfeit all 24 victories and the Chicago Public Schools tourney crown due to eligibility reporting issues.
The Illinois High School Association cleared Curie to play in the state tournament and Tuesday was the team's playoff opener.
Absent from the lineup was the brother combination of Joseph and Joshua Stamps, who provided major contributions for Curie in the wins over Montverde Academy and Whitney Young.
Alexander did play against DuSable and produced a stat line consistent with his monster senior campaign – 25 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
It wasn't enough for the Condors, who finish the season with an 0-26 record.