CHICAGO — Playing on the floor of the United Center is nothing but a dream for most high school basketball players, but for those that play at Seneca, it's become part of their routine.
For the third time since the 2010-11 season, the Fighting Irish played on the biggest of Illinois stages, this time bringing neighboring Morris with them. In their past appearances, they played Newark, the eventual Class 1A state champion in 2011 and Dwight in 2014, a team that won 25 games. This time, Class 2A Seneca invited Morris, which plays in Class 3A.
"It rotates," Seneca coach Russell Witte said about the schedule of high school teams playing at the United Center. "We have come every three years. [Morris coach] Joe [Blumberg] and I talked about doing it and it seemed like a good idea for both teams. We have been playing each other in a non-conference game in early January the last few years, and we thought this would be great for the kids on both teams."
For Witte, the result of the game is secondary. It's the experience that's the important thing.
"This is great for the kids," he said. "They grow up watching the Bulls on TV, and then they get to come out and play on the same floor as they do. Then we go out and have dinner together and come back and have tickets to the Bulls game.
"As it happened this year, both teams [Morris and Seneca] made reservations at the same restaurant, so we are going to go eat with them right now. It's pretty cool."
Before both teams boarded their respective buses to head to the nearest Giordano's to scarf down some pizza, the youthful Irish had a bit of trouble handling the pressure of the more experienced Morris team and dropped a 46-32 decision.
"We have five sophomores up on the varsity this year," Witte said. "Two of them are our starting post players. The experience they are getting this year is invaluable, and playing a game up here, on this floor, just adds to that experience. There aren't many high school sophomores around that can say they've had an experience like that. Hopefully we will see that throughout the next couple of years."