East goes through special season with a heavy heart

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) Through all their accomplishments and triumphs, the East boys basketball team played this season with a heavy heart. That's because the E-Rabs were missing one of their brothers, who was killed three years ago.

East raised the bar for E-Rabs basketball this year. A record-setting 34 wins and a fourth place finish at state. But no matter how many victories the team had, there was always something missing.

"When I put a 100% effort in, I think about him," said senior Chris Burnell. "Because I know he'd be out here grinding. So, I'm going to give it my all because I know he would do the same."

He is Greg Hill. Hill would have been a senior at East. A rising star in the Rockford basketball community. But Hill was shot and killed in the summer of 2016. His teammates and friends keep his memory alive on and off the court.

"At a young age, coming up, in middle school and high school, like I'm always the childish type and he was always the laid back chill," said senior Sha'den Clanton. "So I kind of looked up to him for that."

Hill's mother Nekita went to every game and cheered on E-Rabs as if her son was playing with them.

"As I'm watching them grow daily, it leaves that feeling in the back of my head, like wow what would my son be doing," said Hill. "How would he be on the court and everything like that. Watching them play, it's like I see my son in them so it really do make me feel like, most of the E-Rabs have been saying, that they have an angel on the court."

Players on the team started using the hashtag #H4H, or Hoop for Hill. It became the calling card for an East team that not many in the Stateline will soon forget.

"We did it for him. We wanted to do it with him," said Burnell. "To do it with these group of guys, and his friends too, and for all of us to be seniors and to get some type of hardware, and a lot of hardware during the season, it means a lot to me."

"They were the brothers that he didn't have," said Hill. "Even though they don't share a genetic bond, they formed a brotherhood that even death can't even break."