PEORIA (WCIA) — Fans finally got the chance to see House of ‘Paign in-person on Saturday after the team made their ‘The Basketball Tournament’ debut in the bubble last year. Even though the Illinois alumni team had the home advantage, playing at the Peoria Civic Center, the No. 15 Jackson Underdawgs sent the orange and blue fans home unhappy — spoiling the No. 2 seeds sophomore season.
“They kicked our butt for the first 35 minutes of the game,” says general manager Mike LaTulip. “In a single elimination tournament, when you prepare for as long as we did and then have a result like this, it’s devastating.”
House of ‘Paign was facing a deficit from the start — going into halftime down by six. But the tides began to change in the third quarter when House of ‘Paign went on a 15-2 run. They had the game tied in the Elam Ending before the Underdawgs scored six straight to win it 64-58.
“All the orange in the crowd, hyping them up, them standing up. It felt like being back in college,” says House of ‘Paign guard Rayvonte Rice. “We appreciate them. They could’ve been doing a thousand other things but we appreciate them taking time out of their busy life to come support us.”
Rice led the way with 21 points, and six rebounds. House of ‘Paign was without Andres Feliz who couldn’t get a visa to return to the US — which left House of Paign with just eight players.
“Andres Feliz adds a lot to any team,” says LaTulip. “No need to sit up here and say, ‘If we had this guy the result is different.’ You gotta play either way.”
LaTulip says the early exit hurts more after such a successful debut campaign — but he and other players on the team already have names in mind to recruit for year three.