SHABBONA – Ehren Mertz has seen and played a lot of basketball over the years, and he said he’s never seen a season quite like this one. The Indian Creek boys basketball team finished the regular season 30-0.
Mertz was part of the first-ever graduating class from Indian Creek High School in 1994 after the Waterman and Shabbona school districts consolidated. He’s now the school’s athletic director.
The Timberwolves started postseason play this week, beating Rockford’s Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 71-15 on Feb. 24 and knocking out Durand 87-52 on Feb. 26 at the Class 1A Rockford Christian Life Regional. Indian Creek was to meet host Rockford Christian Life on Feb. 28 for the regional championship. If the Timberwolves win, they will advance to the Class 1A River Ridge Sectional in Hanover next week. The goals are to reach the Class 1A DeKalb Supersectional on March 10 at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center and the state finals on March 13 and 14 in Peoria.
“They work together as such a great team, and I’m super proud of them as an Indian Creek alum and as the school’s athletic director,” Mertz said. “I think everyone in the community, the faculty and staff, family and students are cheering them on.”
During home games, the Indian Creek High School gymnasium has been packed with the team’s supporters. The Creek Crazies, the name of the school’s fan section, have been cheering for the team throughout the season.
Joann Pardridge, a fourth grade teacher at Indian Creek Elementary School, said the basketball team is all her students have been talking about for weeks. Pardridge taught many of the team’s players when they were in fourth grade.
To support the team, the 18 students in Pardridge’s class each made a spirit bag, decorated with drawings and filled with candy and snacks, for the 18 basketball players. On Monday, Feb. 24, the players visited the classroom to meet with the young students, and they were welcomed with a rendition of the Indian Creek fight song.
Each student also wrote one reason why they were thankful for the team. Reasons included never giving up, being good role models, stealing and dunking the ball, 3-point shots and for “entertaining me with something other than video games.”
“I think everyone is really proud of the team,” Pardridge said. “They’re all nice young men and they work hard. They’re good role models for the students. Everyone is excited for the postseason.”
Coach Joe Piekarz said that in the 14 years he has been with Indian Creek, this was the first time a class reached out to support the team.
“It’s amazing to have so much support from the community,” he said. “The players have been working so hard, I know how much it means to have everyone behind us, cheering us on. We’re a small community, and it’s so special to have so many fans.”
Cameron Russell, a junior shooting guard, was given hand-drawn posters by the fourth-graders and said he recognized a few of the students from home games.
“Meeting the fourth-graders was really meaningful because most of us on the team have been playing together since we were in the fourth grade ourselves,” Russell said. “As a team, we’ve all been really close and have worked together through the years.”
Co-captain Cooper Larsen, a senior forward, described his teammates as “his best friends.”
“It didn’t set in at first that we were having an undefeated season. We just kept playing and doing our best,” he said. “When we actually finished the season 30-0, I think we were all a little shocked that it happened. We’re going to keep working hard and playing as a team, which can go a long way.
“We’re going to give it our all – and we’re going to keep winning.”