The basketball season that carried so much promise and hope came to an end Wednesday night, when the Mooseheart Red Ramblers lost 70-67 to Chicagoland Jewish in a Class A sectional semifinal
The Red Ramblers, led by three towering Sudanese boys, fell victim to the Tigers' swarming press and hot 3-point shooting in the second half of the game at Mooseheart.
Chicagoland Jewish's Jake Newlander led the Tigers with 25 points. His brother, Josh, finished with 21, including four 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Mooseheart led much of the game but seemed to run out of gas as the fourth quarter closed. Chicagoland Jewish took a 66-64 lead when Jake Newlander sunk a 3-pointer with about 25 seconds remaining.
Mooseheart's team had drawn widespread attention in large part because of the Sudanese players' compelling personal stories.
Brought in May 2011 to Mooseheart, the community for children from unstable backgrounds, Mangisto Deng, Akim Nyang and Makur Puou barely spoke English, but made a strong impression through their hard work, gratitude and upbeat demeanor.
Attention also came their way in late November and December, when the Illinois High School Association declared the boys ineligible, then reversed the decision after Mooseheart protested.
The Ramblers ended the season with a 24-6 record, and are considered the best team in the 100-year history of the Batavia institution.
"Nothing to be ashamed of," coach Ron Ahrens said to the team in the locker room after the game. "Nothing to be embarrassed about. I'm very, very proud of all of you, and you know what? We're going to get better."
The Sudanese boys, all standing 6-feet 7 and taller, are juniors and are expected to return next year.
Chicagoland Jewish, whose tallest player is 6-3, will play Newark on Saturday for the sectional title.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times