The celebration that occurred on the court after the Knox men’s basketball team won their final game of the season 61-56 Saturday afternoon was not the celebration of a team that had clinched a playoff berth. It was not the celebration of a team who had won a championship. To many, it was more important than that.
The 2007-2008 men’s basketball team was joined on the court by many of the men who have played for Coach Heimann over the course of his 24-year career as Knox head basketball coach. For one final time, Coach Heimann’s players, past and present, put their hands together for a break at center court. With that, Coach Heimann and his last team ran off the court for the last time. Coach Heimann’s 258th and final victory was in the books and an era had ended.
Saturday was a day for celebrating, but a basketball game was also played. With four Knox seniors playing and starting in their final game, visiting Lake Forest got off to an early lead in the game and the Fire found themselves down 13 early on. Knox refused to end their season early, however, and after a 15-0 surge led by senior Grant Kluge and junior Adam Estergard, Knox held a 30-27 lead at halftime.
The narrow lead held for most of the second half. With 1:56 remaining Lake Forest tied the game at 56-56 with a big three pointer. Two made free throws by junior Clint Moore and another by Kluge put Knox up by three with 33 seconds remaining. When junior Zach Kirven rebounded a missed Lake Forest shot and was fouled, one made free throw would have sealed the game. Kirven made both to make the final score 61-56 and give Knox and Coach Heimann one final win.
Kluge scored 12 points and had nine rebounds in his final game in a Knox uniform, while Kirven and Estergard also had 12 points each in the victory. Moore contributed 11 points while senior Josh Moten scored seven points in his final game. During the final seconds of the game, the crowd chanted “Thank you Heimann” in honor of the retiring coach.
After the game, Coach Heimann was honored in a celebration of his career in Fleming Fieldhouse. Athletic Director Chad Eisele, former basketball Coach and Athletic Director Harley Knosher, President Roger Taylor and Heimann himself spoke at the event. A memorable moment occurred when three generations of Knox coaches; Knosher, Heimann and new head coach Rob Purlee posed for a picture. Heimann played for Knosher during his time as a Knox student.
With the end of the Heimann era also comes the end of the careers four Knox seniors. With the festivities surrounding the departure of Coach Heimann, the contributions of seniors John Baillie, Rusty Coon, Grant Kluge and Josh Moten has been somewhat overlooked. Between their leadership off the court and their contributions on the court, the four Knox seniors have been an integral part of the Prairie Fire basketball program, and are sending the program in a positive direction as a new era starts.
An era ending brings sadness, but it also brings a renewed hope that the contributions of those leaving can propel the program to new heights. The 2008-2009 season should be an exciting one.
John Baillie is the Photo Editor for The Knox Student.