Rockford’s greatest games No. 2: Boylan stuns Chicago King
Boylan vs. Chicago King, ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today in 1992, was one of the biggest games in Rockford history even before the game tipped off.
“The fire marshal got there too late and the place was already way overcrowded,” Boylan coach Steve Goers said. “There were 5,000 people shoved into a 3,200-seat gym. After that, we got a fire marshal at all our games to make sure they weren’t overcrowded.”
There would have been 5,001 fans but Rockford Lutheran guard Tom Guse, who had played in the first game of the triple header that night, left after hearing that Boylan star center Michael Slaughter had been suspended for the game.
“I thought, ‘This game is going to be boring. Boylan is going to be killed.’ So we drove out to watch the Winnebago game,” said Guse, now Lutheran’s coach. “I got home and my dad said, ‘You just missed the best game in the history of Rockford.’ I kind of regret that one.”
Maybe not the best, but awfully close. Boylan’s legendary 83-77 victory ranks only behind one of the most storied games in the history of the state as our No. 2 choice for the greatest boys basketball games in Rockford-area history.
King was the only team in the nation with two 7-footers that year, with Rashard Griffith and Thomas Hamilton. Without Slaughter, Boylan’s tallest player was 6-4, but at least the Titans had five of them in Tim Hobson, Durrell Banks, Brian McNett, Bill Binz and Greg Pienkosz.
But even depth of height didn’t match up with a King team that had nine players 6-5 or taller.
Boylan wasn’t going to beat King inside. So, ironically, Boylan’s toughest opponent was the one game when perhaps they could do without Slaughter.
“Our offense went to our big men a lot,” small forward Durrell Banks said. “What’s crazy is Slaughter not playing might have helped us out.”
“We knew the size was going to be a problem,” point guard Johnny Hernandez said. Our plan was just to run like crazy and make shots.”
Slaughter could have done that, too. Michael Slaughter — the son of Don Slaughter, who played on West’s 1955 and 1956 state champs, and the nephew of Bob Slaughter, who started for Princeton’s 1976 and 1977 NCAA tournament teams — ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. Michael Slaughter, a converted soccer player, grew up in California but moved in with his grandmother in Rockford when he struggled with grades. It worked. The son of two Stanford employees ended up going to law school. He also led Boylan at the state tournament that year with 63 points in three games.
But he wasn’t around for the King game.
Durrell Banks and Lee Lampley were.
Everyone seems to remember Lampley, the all-time leading scorer in NIC-10 boys basketball, making six 3-pointers that game. But most seem to forget Banks made five.
Of course, people seem to forget Banks, period.
Goers calls Banks the most underrated player in Rockford history.
“Durrell played on teams where other people did things that were more shiny, but Durrell did everything,” Goers said of a player who, when Goers retired in 2011, ranked fourth in Boylan history in scoring (1,435 points), third in 3-pointers, third in assists, fourth in steals and 12th in rebounds.
“Durrell was a total player. And he had this quiet leadership. He didn’t get flustered. A lot of kids have talent, but they get flustered when they get down. Durrell, he was smooth.”
“Durrell,” agreed Hernandez, who also quarterbacked Boylan’s state-ranked football team, “was the most underrated of all of us. He still is.”
Banks (20 points) made all five of his 3s in the first half. King, which came in 12-0 and had gone 99-3 since 1989, hadn’t allowed more than 55 points all season. Boylan averaged 83 points a game — the highest scoring Titan team in history — that season, but King coach Landon “Sonny” Cox said “he didn’t see it” before the game, calling Boylan’s offense overrated.
Banks’ 3s showed Cox and staked Boylan to a 38-37 halftime lead.
“Durrell got us started off,” Goers said. “He got us in a rhythm.”
Then Lampley, only a sophomore, heated up in the second half, with five of his six 3s on his way to 32 points.
“We fed off each other,” Banks said. “When I wasn’t scoring, Lee was scoring. When Lee wasn’t scoring, I was scoring. We went back and forth.
“And when we were both hot, teams were in trouble.”
King was in trouble.
Even though that seemed like a ludicrous thought for anyone who watched the opening jump ball.
“I did the jump ball against Rashard Griffith,” Hernandez said. “There’s a picture where my feet were a foot and a half higher than his feet and my arm was still about a foot shorter than his arm. That’s what I remember most about that game.”
King gave the fans a lot to remember, with nine thunderous dunks.
“They felt like NBA people,” Banks said after the game.
Even Gerald Eaker, an Ohio State recruit from West Chester St. Joseph who played in the second game of the triple header, was a little awed. “They are like a college team. A good college team,” he said at the time.
But the Jaguars couldn’t run with Boylan. Goers said before the game that he wanted the Titans to shoot within two or three seconds of touching the ball. That sounded crazy, but that’s what Loyola Marymount had done two years earlier when it averaged a college-record 122 points a game and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
“People didn’t know Coach Goers made our offense a little like Loyola Marymount’s,” Banks said.
Even King’s nine dunks didn’t bother the runnin’ Titans.
“I told our players, ‘When they dunked, that’s almost a plus for us. They will be coming down from the rim and we will be at half court.’ That’s how fast we wanted to go,” Goers said. “They had nine dunks, but we had 13 3s. That’s 39 points to 18.”
The game featured 14 lead changes, but most of them were early. Lampley’s 3s helped Boylan lead by as much as 60-51 with 2:25 left in the third quarter.
And King wasn’t quick enough to force Boylan into mistakes. The Jaguars were forced into fouling, and Boylan made its free throws. Binz (eight points), Hobson (eight rebounds) and Pienkosz played strong defense inside. Hamilton scored 35 points and had six dunks and both King 3-pointers, but Griffith, the No. 1-ranked junior in the nation, was held to 17 points, only four in the second half.
Afterward, Cox claimed King was “jobbed” by the refs and vowed never to return to Boylan. He made the same vow even before the game when he said the only way they could lose is if they got “jobbed.”
“That’s just how they were,” Banks said. “Their whole team was cocky.”
The facts indicate a fair game. King was called for 25 fouls and Boylan 23.
“Before the last three minutes, we had more fouls than them,” Goers said. “We were ahead and they had to foul us.”
The two teams could have had a rematch in the state finals. But King, the undefeated state champs the next year, was upset 76-68 in the supersectionals by Chicago Westinghouse. And Boylan lost 47-46 to Peoria Richwoods in the state semifinals.
That team was Boylan’s best chance at a state title. And maybe Rockford’s best chance since West’s 1956 title. But Lampley was suspended for the playoffs. Slaughter was back after missing eight games during the season. And that was nearly enough.
The Titans were no longer premier 3-point threats without Lampley — they made only 2 of 9 in the state semifinal loss. But they had three of the top 12 rebounders in school history in Slaughter, Hobson and Banks. Slaughter had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Banks 15 points and five rebounds and Hernandez six rebounds and four assists in the semifinals. The Titans just needed one more shooter. Slaughter and Banks shot 14-for-26 but the rest of the team, without Lampley, was 5-for-25.
Yet, because of those rebounders, they still had a chance. Hobson missed a put-back at the buzzer that would have won it.
“Offensive rebounding was real big on that team,” Goers said. “That’s how you average 83 points — you dominate the boards. The crazy thing is we got the offensive rebound in that semifinal game without Lee. Hobson got it and put it up. It just didn’t go in.”
“We missed Lee’s firepower,” Hobson said of Lampley, who is also Boylan’s career leader in steals. “And he was a good defender, too. He had good arm length to create turnovers. I never said it to him, but I definitely think we would have been state champs if we had Lee with us. It was like playing chess without your queen.”
ABOUT THIS SERIES
The Rockford Register Star is running a daily retrospective on the greatest athletes of the past 75 years in every IHSA sport fielded by local high schools.
We recently ran separate stories on the 10 greatest high school football games and 10 greatest girls basketball games and are now writing about the 10 greatest boys basketball games.
After 30 stories on the greatest games, we will begin running stories on the greatest athletes.
All of the greatest games and greatest athletes will be chosen by Matt Trowbridge, who has covered area high school sports for 30 years, and NIC-10 History Book founder Alex Gary, with input from other area experts and fans.
To submit your suggestions, email email@example.com.