ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) It's the biggest basketball tournament in the country and it's just for homeschool kids. More than 400 teams competed for a national championship in Springield, MO earlier this month.
Going to nationals is not a new experience for the Rockford FIRE boys basketball program. What is memorable about this year's 18U and 14U team, each won their first ever Gold Ball.
"It's really special because we've never gotten that close before," said senior Alex Alita. "We've had winning seasons before, but we've never gotten the chance to be in a Gold Ball game."
"Just because we're homeschooled, doesn't mean we're not good players," said senior Tucker Sommerville. "The few of us guys going there this year, and being able to pull together finally and play super well and earn a Gold Ball, it was just amazing. We finally got it."
A Gold Ball equates to a Super-Sectional title at the 18U level and a chance to play in the semifinals at the National Christian Homeschool Championships. Not only did the 18U team get to the final four, they made it to the Division III national title game.
"They've been a Jekyll and Hyde team this year," said Randy Young, Rockford FIRE 18U head coach and athletic director. "For them to pull it together here at the end of the season and make a great run in the tournament, it's kind of like a NCAA feel to it."
Unfortunately the FIRE's run came up short and finished as the national runner-up.
"It was a really good time, it was really fun," said Alita. "I'm just blessed that we were able to make it that far."
The future looks bright for the FIRE as well. Carter Young averaged a 14.2 PPG and 11.8 RPG during the season for the 14U team. Young knows a lot of hard work goes into winning.
"This is our first year winning one, but it's taken a lot of years and a lot of effort and a lot of sweat to get here."