Was Winnebago effort enough?

Did Winnebago’s effort in the Class A state high school basketball tourney over the weekend help the chances of a Tuesday tax referendum that held the key to the school’s sports and extracurriculars next year?

The answer should be known today (Wednesday).

On the court, the Indians brought home a second-place trophy, losing to Chicago Leo 65-57 in the title game in Peoria’s Carver Arena. Frank Clair, 6-foot-6 senior who is headed to Northern Illinois, had 25 points and three thunderous dunks to lead Leo (28-5) to its first state title and the second in a row for a Chicago Catholic League team.

Last year, Mt. Carroll (32-2), coached by Chris Payne, lost the A crown to Chicago Hales Franciscan (27-6), 58-53. Hales’ title ended a 17-year dry spell for Chicago teams in the boys’ Class A tournament. But Hales was not allowed to defend its title because of Illinois High School Association violations.

The Indians were welcomed home with a celebration at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Senior-laden Winnebago (31-2) was playing for the title for the first time. The Indians entered the title game with a 12-game winning streak, and had lost just six games in the last two years. Coach Joe Murphy ran his career record at the school to 312-142 in 17 seasons.

Winnebago was one of only two teams from Winnebago County to reach the state finals in the past 48 years. The other was Rockford Guilford, which lost to Chicago King 79-42 in 1993.

To get to the title game, Winnebago toppled Peoria Christian 68-55 in the semifinals earlier Saturday; beat St. Anne 62-60 on two free throws by 6-5 sophomore Devan Bawinkel with 5.5 seconds remaining in the quarterfinals; and nosed Rock Falls 57-56 on a Bawinkel free throw with three seconds left in the DeKalb supersectional at Northern Illinois University.

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