By Randy Olson
(3-8-22) Scales Mound, Illinois. How many people have ever heard of that community before last night? Not too many. This quiet community of 390 citizens with a high school enrollment of just 70 students has done something that you often only see in the movies. It is truly a David vs Goliath moment.
The Hornets were matched up against perennial basketball powerhouse, Chicago Marshall in the Class 1A Super-Sectional at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb on Monday night. The Commandos came in as a much quicker, faster, taller, and stronger team, who arguably had played better competition in the Chicago inner-city during the season than the tiny town, Hornets.
Prior to Covid, the Scales Mound Hornets had recently seen some terrible years in basketball, going a combined 2-53 over a two-year span in 2017 and 2018.
None of that mattered. Scales Mound used a balanced attack as they have all season and stunned Chicago Marshall and much of Illinois with 55-41 victory to punch their ticket to the Final Four in Champaign-Urbana. It wasn’t that long ago that Chicago Marshall won the State Title in Class 3A, and now here they are competing in Class 1A, so this was a big-time win for Scales Mound.
The Hornets are not that big, they have two players at 6’4” tall. They have three players who average in double figures and a fourth player who averages just over 9 points per game. The win last night improved the Hornets record to 35-2 this season, far from the 1-26 and 1-27 seasons they painfully endured a few years ago before Covid….all under the same coach.
That’s what makes this story all the more fascinating. Coach Erik Kudronowicz is in his sixteenth season as the head coach of the Hornets. Most school boards would probably not stay with a guy who went 2-53 at the Varsity level, but they did, which is remarkable. They saw something in him and believed in him, and now the small community of 390 is rejoicing in the excitement of March Madness.
By checking the school website, it appears that Coach Kudronowicz is also a third grade teacher at the K-12 facility, which is located in Jo Daviess County in the far northwest corner of the state, just a few miles from the Wisconsin border.
This is a Cinderella story like no other. Scales Mound is not known as a basketball town. In fact, this is only the sixth winning season by the Hornets and Coach Kudronowicz in his sixteen-year tenure at the school. In fact, coming into this year, the basketball program had suffered 1,100 losses over a 71-year span, with a winning percentage of just 38% overall in the school history. But, none of that matters now.
In a town this small, with a school enrollment of just 70 high school students, each boy on the basketball team has to multi-task in order for the team to succeed at this level. Coach Kudronowicz explained that fact to reporters during post-game comments:
“Everyone is taught everything at our school. Everyone is a post player. Everyone is a guard. With a school our size, everybody has to play that role, depending on the opponent, and every game is about all five guys, not one or two. One or two can be stopped, but not all five. We expect all five to be the shooter, all five to be the passer, all five to be the defender when your number is called.”
Scales Mound will now face Liberty at 11:45am on Thursday morning at Champaign-Urbana in the Class 1A semi-finals at the State Farm Center (Assembly Hall) where the State Tournament has returned after a long stretch in Peoria. Everyone loves a good story, so I think much of Illinois will be pulling for tiny Scales Mound. The IHSA needed a shot in the arm to boost attendance again. If the Hornets reach the Championship game, you could see a rush at the gate.
The AUDIO play-by-play of their games at the State Tournament in Champaign will be audio streamed at this link: