ROANOKE, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Abe Zeller is back in his element.
In the gym with his Roanoke-Benson basketball team. He’s glad to see his players diving for loose balls, having fun and playing high-level basketball again.
“It’s good to be back in the gym to have your brain working towards that challenges each week presents,” Zeller said. “A chance for you to be on a journey with your guys, which is really what every season is all about.”
The Rockets really needed this season to get started. They were in Peoria last March, getting ready to play in the state semifinals when the Illinois High School Association had to cancel the state tournament due to the pandemic.
It was going to be R-B’s first appearance in the state semifinals since 1977.
Playing a shortened season basketball season without a state tournament this year doesn’t completely fill the void of missing out on state games last year. But it’s pretty good medicine.
“Going to state, having all that cancelled because of the pandemic, it was heartbreaking,” said senior James Early. “Coming back now, having a season is awesome.”
The season was scheduled to start in November but was delayed over two months while the Illinois Department of Public Health and Governor JB Pritzker deemed youth sports unsafe to play. Senior Luke Braman was so convinced there wouldn’t be a high school basketball season in Illinois, he transferred to a school in Haines City, Florida in December just to play some games.
He figured his senior season would be in Florida. But when the IHSA was given the green light to re-start the season in late January, Braman quickly returned to his home town to rejoin his team.
“I saw on Twitter we were going to play,” said Braman, who played about 15 games in Florida. “Me and my dad talked about it, I decided to come back and play here. It’s kind of back to normal, I guess.”
It’s normal in an unusual way. Roanoke-Benson has the band back together and has ripped of six wins in its first seven games.
The Rockets are enjoying their winning ways again.
I’m glad we have journey,” said Zeller. “A little shorter journey, not the big prize at the end of the journey but a journey nonetheless.”