The annual McDonald's McLegend game more than lived up to the pre-game hype as the high school boys pulled out a thrilling 123-122 win in overtime over their professional counterparts Saturday in Thornton.
Thornton's Jeremy Parker hit the game-winning basket with 15 seconds left. He finished with a team-high 21 points.
Jason Avant (Carver Academy/Philadelphia Eagles) missed two free throws with seconds remaining, and Deji Ibitayo rebounded the ball as the time went out snapping the Legends' five-game winning streak.
The high school team looked like it was going to blow open the game early, as it led 35-22 after the first quarter and increased its lead to as much as 19 points early in the second half. But, to the credit of the legends, they made it quite a game.
“I give us a lot of props,” said Rodney Harrison (/New England Patriots). “Were a bunch of older guys, and we brought them down to the last second. The thing is, we are getting older every year, and they keep staying the same age.”
Harrison was stuck being a cheerleader on the sidelines as he hurt his leg late in the second half.
“If we don’t lose him, we would have won that game,” Legends coach LaMarr Thomas (former Thornton coach) said.
The high school team consisted of area stars like Julian Lewis (), Dominique Gaddis () and Darius Draper (). The money raised from the admission to the game was donated to the and Project Share.
This was the 10th year for the event. And, to mark the occasion, there were a few surprises. First, Terrell Owens was a no-show and Rashard Mendenhall (University of Illinois/Pittsburgh Steelers) replaced Tai Streets in the Legends lineup.
“It was exciting," Mendenhall said. "It was good to see the guys."
Mendenhall is still reeling from the Super Bowl. He makes Chicago his home in the offseason and despite the strike just assumes he will be playing football again by September.
For each of the local high school standouts, the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They all made key contributions in the victory, too, including Lewis getting a key basket in overtime and Ibitayo getting the game-winning rebound. Lewis scored 17 points. Ibitayo finished with 15.
“This was really a fun event," Draper said. "I like how the money goes to a charity."
Draper also admired the way the legends conducted themselves.
“Their attitude is great," he said. "They are real confident and act like real athletes and they play hard.”
Gaddis felt the Legends were getting calls from the referees.
“It was fun to play with other guys you play against all year,” he said. “They were hacking and fouling, but I was surprised the football players were that good at basketball.”
Lewis enjoyed getting together and playing with some of his biggest competitors the last couple of seasons.
“We go hard at each other in the regular season," he said. "It was a good chance to bond and get together for this game.”
As for the Legends, they always love coming back to where they first made their mark in sports.
“I had a great time coming back to the old gym,” Antwaan Randle El said after he scored 12 points. “We came up a little short and missed about 40 free throws. Plus, in the first half, we couldn't hit the side of a barn.”
For Harrison, coming back is a chance to say thanks.
“This is home for me," he said. "This is where we grew up, the area that molded us. To come back and see people that taught us and gave us an opportunity is really an honor."