DECATUR — Fans were turned away at the door by about 6:30 p.m., close to an hour and a half before tip-off of the game they arrived early to see.

MacArthur at Eisenhower: sold out.

It was the only game in town, for sure, and maybe the only action within a 30-minute drive or more Friday night, when schools made precautionary, sweeping cancellations in preparation for an ice storm that didn't come until the wee hours of Saturday morning.

But the first edition of the boys basketball city rivalry game for 2017 already had enough hype ahead of it.

Then, it lived up to all of it.

Eisenhower beat MacArthur, 94-91, in overtime Friday in what some say will go down as one of the best city rivalry games of all time.

MacArthur coach Ron Ingram lost his voice some time during the action and woke up Saturday still without it.

"I couldn't even hear myself coaching last night," Ingram said. "Even timeouts I was just drawing stuff on the board instead of talking to the boys because they couldn't hear me.

"I love it. I love that kind of atmosphere. My boys did, too."

This is Ingram's third year of the city rivalry. He came over in 2014 after nine season as an assistant at Peoria Manual, which had a heated city rivalry of its own against Peoria Central. 

"Same kind of atmosphere," Ingram said. "I can really imagine how the Duke and North Carolina fans feel."

It's also the third year coaching for Eisenhower's Rodney Walker. But the St. Teresa grad has been around the area much longer than Ingram, so he has a better pulse on the rivalry's history.

Twenty-four hours after Friday's game, he said Decatur was still buzzing.

"What's crazy is everyone's acting like it's never happened before," Walker said. "Everyone's saying, 'This is the best game I've ever been to in my life,' though it was a college game. 

"That makes it worth it. Seeing the awe in people's face and thinking, 'Wow, something special did happen last night.'

"There was just something about last night."

It was a game that had everything — athleticism, atmosphere, chaos, dunks, bloopers, disputes — great from the first quarter on.

The admittance bind came first. Not only was it the only game in the county and beyond, it was the city game. And it was induction night for the Decatur Public Schools Hall of Fame. And the storm didn't hit when it was expected to.

Eisenhower athletics director Greg Collingwood made the decision to start denying fans entry at about the time the JV game started its second half.

"Imagine if we did have a 3,000 or 5,000 seat arena," Walker said.

Collingwood roughly estimated 500-600 fans missed out. Lines were reportedly still out the doors by the cutoff time.

"Everyone got their money's worth," Collingwood said.

Walker arrived at 6 p.m. and watched the crowd grow. There was no way to downplay it to the Panthers beforehand.

"I told the guys in the locker room, 'Hey, guys, it's just another game,'" Walker said. "I said, 'You know what? I'm lying. I just lied to you. It's not just another game. You know that.'

"It felt like we were in like a championship game."

The same kind of realization went through Ingram's mind, while he was in the locker room prepping for his pregame speech.

"I hear the crowd going crazy the whole time — just going crazy," Ingram said. "(My team's) not even trying to listen to my little chalk talk. They just want to get back out there."

Last season's rivalry game at Eisenhower was sold out, too, Collingwood said.

Many do, actually.

The difference, by far, was the game itself.

It was the season finale last year on Feb. 26, and Eisenhower won by 18. That's the way it often goes.

And MacArthur was supposed to win Friday, having upset Class 3A No. 1 Springfield Lanphier by 6 three days earlier. And four days before that, Eisenhower lost to Lanphier by 15

That put a chip on the Panthers' shoulder.

The same night MacArthur beat Lanphier, Eisenhower beat Mount Zion.

"After the game, we all got on the bus and were reading on Facebook ... and that kind of made us mad," said Qualyn Young, who scored 22 points Friday. "That gave us motivation."

Friday's game was tight, start to finish. After Yansyn Taylor sank a rousing 3-pointer, Eisenhower's only 3 of the game, on the game's first shot attempt, MacArthur's Armon Brummett answered with a 3 at the other end.

Brummett scored a game-high 34 points for the standout individual performance of the night. It'll likely be one of his best games of the season.

He contributed the game's best highlight in the first quarter when he made a shot over an Eisenhower defender, while sitting on the ground.

Eisenhower's Stephon Bobbitt slammed a candidate for the dunk of the year on what looked to be the last score of the first half.

It drew a ton of attention to Eisenhower's side of the floor, while MacArthur inbounded quickly and sprinted to the other end. Walker argued the referees were scrambling after that, distracted by Eisenhower's celebrating bench and not looking up at the clock. But MacArthur's Adrian Williams tipped in a missed layup before the buzzer and the Generals led at half.

"That was the turning point of the game, we thought," Ingram said of Bobbitt's dunk, "until we went down the court and ended the half like we ended it."

The second half was the start of Amir Brummett's disappearance. Eisenhower made him a non-factor, and he only scored three points total against a triangle-and-2 defense — zone in the post, man-to-man on the Brummett's outside.

"Probably the fewest he's scored in his life," Ingram said. He said it's one of the quirks he'll remember about the game. "The way they pressured Amir."

MacArthur owned the start of the third quarter, taking the game's biggest lead (eight points) halfway into it. Runs like that, Walker said, is what makes the Generals so dangerous. It's how they took hold of the Lanphier game.

But Eisenhower answered in a flash with an 8-0 run to tie it.

MacArthur led by four entering the final quarter of regulation, but Eisenhower scored the first 10 points to surge in front. 

It was in the final minutes of the game when Ingram argued Eisenhower played with six players on the court for one possession. At a stoppage during that time, Eisenhower coaches appeared frantic, gesturing toward Quan Bradford to move onto the sideline.

Walker said Bradford was off in time.

Eisenhower's lead was down to two points with less than 10 seconds to go, when Randy Thaxton made a layup to tie it.

The Generals stole the ensuing inbounds pass, Zach Briggs missed a floater, but they retained possession after the ball when out of bounds. 

The last shot ended up in Briggs' hands for an off-target 3-point attempt, even though MacArthur had a set play queued up. 

"We had an alley-oop play for that time in the game," Ingram said. "Thaxton was supposed to throw the ball up to the rim to Armon but saw nobody at all on Briggs. Usually, he'll hit that shot. I would've made that pass, too. But their defense was the perfect setup for us to run that play."

A few early MacArthur turnovers in overtime lent Eisenhower a helping hand. The Panthers executed perfectly down the stretch to clinch the victory.

But Friday's game was a classic, win or lose.

"It was a wild party, man," Ingram said. "Once I get down to watch the film, I'll probably get caught up watching the game, not taking notes."

Most who know the rivalry's history have to go back at least a decade to remember a bigger game (2007-2008, when Eisenhower was 28-1), and even further to remember a better game — if ever.

"I've been around a long time, so I've seen a lot of these games," Collingwood said. "You're always gonna have a little extra spirit in the crowd, but that might have been the best in terms of excitement, energy, talent on the floor.

"There was a little something extra in the air from the opening tap."

Walker remembers buzz-worthy games in the 1990s, with Tarise Bryson's teams, but nothing quite like Friday.

"Never ever has it been like this," Walker said. "Go to overtime? Hall of Fame inducted? The attention the twins are getting? The attention we're getting?

"I get strangers coming up to me saying, 'Man, this is just an awesome feeling in this city.' I'm hearing that from older people ... from first-time people — 'Best experience I ever had.'

"You couldn't ask for a better game."

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