By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
The Rockford East boys’ basketball program has picked up a lot of wins in the program’s history. So many, in fact, that they were ready for a milestone.
In the scheme of things, a 64-52 win over a struggling Freeport team doesn’t seem like much. But for East, it was the 1,000th win in the program’s history.
IHSA records are not up to date, so it is unclear if the E-Rabs are the first area team to reach the plateau. Rockford Boylan is very close, and may have indeed already passed that themselves, some time in the last year.
But East is the first of the four public schools to do so, giving them a great piece of history to hang their hats on.
“To be a part of 1,000, to be the first area school to reach that, is great,” East Head Coach Roy Sackmaster said. “Great for the program, great for the kids, and great for our school.”
It is especially impressive, given the state of the program five years ago. During Coach Sackmaster’s first five years, the program only put up 27 wins (5.4 wins per year), and it seemed like it would be another 10 to 20 years at that pace before East would see such a milestone.
But in the last three-and-a-half years, East has put up more than 60 wins in getting to this milestone. Not only have they racked up the wins, but kids have stayed and thrived in the program, something that did not happen for quite some time.
“For a long time, it was always negative headlines for our school,” Sackmaster said. “The trend the last few years have been positive ones, and it’s been great to be a part of it.”
For Sackmaster, he knew these kind of milestones and great teams that he has had the last few years were possible at East. Up through the 1990s, the E-Rabs were always one of the better programs in the area.
It was that hope in the past that got him and the program through some rough years and has them celebrating a milestone like this now.
“You look at the tradition that is in the hallways when you walk in the building here,” he said. “The rich tradition of this school. I don’t know if there is a school in the area that has as much tradition as East High School.”
For the current season, it was just another win, albeit an important one for East. Coming off a loss the previous night to Rockford Auburn, the E-Rabs had to win this game to get back to 4-4 in conference play.
But Coach Sackmaster thinks his team’s best ball is in front of them. He said his teams usually improve as the season goes on, and this team has that same look right now.
“We had kids at the beginning of the year that were a little immature. But we’ve grown up a lot,” he said. “They are starting to figure things out, buy in a little bit, trust each other a little bit more. We finished the first half 4-4, and we’re looking for better things down the stretch.”
From the Jan. 22-28, 2014, issue