Purgolder pride builds as the Madison East High School team prepares to play Germantown on Friday.
Until late Saturday night, it appeared as if the Madison area would not boast a representative in the 100th edition of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Boys' State Basketball Championship, which tips off Thursday at the Kohl Center.
Other area schools had been eliminated from the playoffs by the time the Madison East Purgolders -- driven by talent, adrenaline and sheer emotion following a tumultuous week -- crushed Kenosha's Indian Trail High School, 65-39, to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1990.
Madison East plowed through three Big Eight Conference rivals en route to its meeting with Indian Trail, while the community mourned Tony Robinson, the 19-year-old unarmed biracial man shot and killed by a Madison police officer March 6. In fact, the shooting caused the rescheduling of East's regional final against Middleton from March 7 to March 10.
Many East students knew Robinson, including senior guard Jordan Chester, who told those gathered at a March 8 vigil that the Purgolders would dedicate the rest of the season to Robinson's memory and predicted East would advance to the state tourney. Senior forward D'Angelo Millon, interviewed by a Milwaukee reporter later in the week, indicated that this streak is about a lot more than basketball.
East players and fans wore "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts during the team's emotional run, and more than 1,000 people packed East's field house and secondary gymnasium for Robinson's funeral Saturday, just hours before the Purgolders earned a trip to the Kohl Center with that convincing win over Indian Trail.
Madison Memorial has been the dominant boys' basketball team in the area, winning three state ps since 2005 and making the finals seven of the past eight years. But when the Spartans fell to Indian Trail in this year's sectionals, they left the door open for East -- a number 4 seed heading into the playoffs. The Purgolders won their two sectional games by 30 and 26 points -- something I'm not sure anybody saw coming.
East's challenges aren't over yet, though. On the court, the Purgolders, led by junior guard Tre'Vone Irby and senior guard De'Shawn Burks, will face three-time defending state champion Germantown (and its 26-0 record) on Friday at 8:15 p.m.