Video: Hinsdale South highlights
Watch the Hornets win their first regional title in school history.
The coronavirus pandemic is cutting high school sports seasons and
careers short. In the coming days and weeks, MaxPreps is putting the
spotlight on some of those stories via our 'Extending the Season'
Senior Billy Durkin
had no plans for celebrity. It was his last thought that fateful Thursday night. Mostly, his torn heart controlled the moment. He was stunned, frustrated and mostly, just sad.
Yet, the image of the Hinsdale South (Darien, Ill.)
guard sitting alone at half court in an empty gym epitomized what scores of high school basketball teams and players
experienced as championship
games were suddenly canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Durkin's squad had its magical 30-3 boys basketball season end 30 minutes before the Hornets were to host Benet Academy in a March 12 sectional semifinal.
With it ended a chance for the school's first sectional victory, sub-sectional title or far-reaching dreams for five more wins and a Hoosiers-like state 3A championship.
Then again, nothing seemed impossible for these Hornets, having shattered all expectations and school marks, including nine more victories than any in the program's 55-year history.
With basically the same personnel, the 2019-20 squad had 16 more wins than the previous season's 14-16 team, drawing wide attention in Darien, a southwestern Chicago suburb of 22,000 residents, and borderline craze from the school's 1,500 students that regularly filled local gyms.
"The amount of people from our community and student body we made happy every game was pretty special," Durkin said. "I don't know how many people thanked us for giving them something to do every Friday night."
They had sold a school record 3,000 tickets for the sectional against Benet Academy — "they were calling it our biggest game in school history," Durkin said — when coronavirus concerns first began.
An hour before Wednesday's scheduled tip-off, it was postponed to Thursday with one huge stipulation: Only 60 fans would be able to attend.
"That was a big hit," Durkin said. "Our gym normally holds 2,500. They were going to jam in 3,000. We have very special fans and they are a huge boost. It would have been crazy. At the same time it was like ‘All right. This sucks, but at least we get to play.' "
But the next night, 45 minutes before the game while his team shot around in a largely empty gym, Hinsdale South coach Brett Moore gathered his team and delivered the bad news.
"There was a lot of crying and frustration," Durkin said. "Disbelief. We were obviously overcome with a lot of emotion."
Most of the team had long left for home, when Durkin, a 6-foot-3 point guard and the team's leading scorer, asked Moore if he could take a last stroll through the gym by himself. Durkin slowly dropped at midcourt and reminisced over his prep career.
"So many memories," he said. "The fans. The friendships. And just how far we had come. It was a little overwhelming. It wasn't supposed to end like that. It just wasn't a great ending."
But it was the start of Durkin's celebrity and Hinsdale South's notice.
A NFHS video stream scheduled to broadcast the contest caught Durkin's stroll to center court. Moore snapped a screen grab from the video and shared it to social media. It went viral.
Scott Van Pelt on ESPN's SportCenter spent a segment re-living the tale of Durkin and Hinsdale South, highlighting their season and humanizing their plight globally.
The Hornets were the poster boys for the frustration and incompleteness of it all, and Durkin, an upbeat and personable sort who finished 22 points shy of reaching his season goal of 1,000 points, was the perfect spokesperson to shed an honest, and even positive, light.
"The (virus) can take away the end of our season, but not all the amazing memories," he said. "Frankly, I just feel so fortunate we were able to play these 33 games. Teams in the spring like baseball might not get to play any games. I mean, had the virus had hit in November none of this would have happened.
"Though we were left a little empty not knowing how our season would have ended, we have to try to be as positive as possible and shift toward the future."
Though grateful for the media platform the past 10 days, Durkin said he had only one regret.
"I wish that picture was of the entire team and not just of me," he said. "It's really not right that I got all this spotlight. I mean, sports is a team game. I'm nothing without my 14 teammates. We went 30-3, not me. Those guys deserve just as much credit as I do."
With that, Durkin was asked to give a thumbnail sketch of each of the team's starters. Like a true point guard, his delivery was crisp and on-target.
• James Ruzicka —
The 6-2 senior wing is a three-sport standout, whose cornerback prowess on the football field carried over to the hardwood. "He's an animal out there — tough, hard working and a natural athlete. He fractured his shooting hand but convinced doctors to let him play. Incredible competitor."
• Aaron Tims —
The vastly improved 6-8 senior post scored 28 points in the 70-60 regional championship win over Kenwood (Chicago). "An incredible big man who did whatever it took for us to win. Like the rest of the team, he didn't care if he scored four or 28 as long as we won. His play inside was vital."
• Daeshawn Amy —
The 5-10 senior guard was "as quick as they come. I would hate to play against him. He's ferocious on defense and insanely athletic and competitive. He never takes a play off. He can shoot, score, pass. He does whatever is needed."
• Garrett Bolte —
When Amy broke his foot just before the playoffs, the 6-5 sophomore spark off the bench turned into a vital starter. "We didn't miss a beat. He was a machine in the playoffs. Daeshawn was the heart of the team so when he went out, it was devastating. But Garrett was the next man up and delivered."
• Bobby Durkin —
Billy's 6-4, 190-pound sophomore brother is a budding star, who made 75 3-pointers and was a big force with his physicality. He broke a 54-all tie against Kenwood with back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Hornets in control. "He's projected to grow to 6-7 so he's going to be really special," his brother said.
Billy Durkin, also a tennis player, averaged almost 15 points a game and will play basketball next season at Lewis University, a Division II school in Romeoville (Ill.). A tenacious competitor, Durkin was considered the team's best all-around player and glue guy, emotionally and physically.
"He's the most genuine, nicest and caring kid you'd ever want to meet," Ruzicka said "He's always doing for other people. I love the guy to death."