Looking back: Elgin's 1996 girls basketball state quarterfinal win

As we all continue to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic that has suspended, among myriad other things, the high school sports spring season, the Daily Herald's high school sports staff is dedicated to bringing you, our loyal readers, stories of how our local student-athletes, coaches parents - our entire high school sports community - are coping with the pandemic.

But today, as part of our mission, we begin a series of stories that will look back on the favorite game each of our longtime staff members has covered for the Daily Herald.

We'll kick that off with my favorite game - Elgin High's 1996 Class AA girls basketball state quarterfinal win over Chicago Marshall at Redbird Arena in Normal.

The Maroons, led by hall of fame coach Lee Turek, all-staters Melissa Parker and Leslie Schock and Turek's senior daughter Karisa, had knocked on the state door the previous two seasons only to fall short in the supersectional round.

But in 1995-96, senior-dominated Elgin was not to be denied.

The Maroons rolled through their regional, got tested in the sectional, then beat Naperville North in a supersectional held before a frenetic crowd at Palatine High School.

For the first time since the end of St. Edward's state runs in 1991, the city of Elgin was sending a girls basketball team downstate. In fact, the Maroons' Elite Eight qualification marked the first time an Elgin public school had reached an IHSA state final tournament in girls basketball.

Arriving at Redbird, the Maroons faced a daunting task. They were matched up in the quarterfinals against Chicago Marshall and legendary coach Dorothy Gaters, who was bringing the Commandos to a state tournament for the 17th time.

But, again, Elgin was on a mission and the Maroons played possibly their most complete game of the season, winning 61-52. They went on to beat previously unbeaten Morris in the semifinals before falling to Stevenson in the state championship contest.

Why is the Elgin-Marshall game the favorite game I've covered for the Daily Herald? Well, first of all, I'm an Elginite and from a personal standpoint it gave me a great sense of hometown pride. That was also my first year with the Daily Herald and covering that state tournament with former colleague Jim Wojciechowski will always be one of the treasured memories of my career.

It was also good to see a team that had come so close to state the previous two seasons finally get there, and by beating Marshall the Maroons ensured themselves of a state trophy.

A job well done, and an entire season filled with memories that will live on forever.

For a recap of that season, check out YouTube -

Elgin's practice pays off with victory

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