Shawn Hair can’t recall exactly what had led to the decision in the early 1990s to end the annual Rockhurst-SM East series that stretched back to 1975, but when the new head basketball coach took over at SM East in 1996, he knew he wanted the Hawklets back on his schedule.
“It’s evolved into this must-see kind of game…And I think the fact that I’m a Rockhurst grad myself added some fuel to the fire.”
“I think there had been a controversial call in one of those last games and there were some hard feelings,” he recalls. “But I remember thinking we ought to get that game back.”
A 1982 Rockhurst graduate himself, he saw plenty of potential in restoring an annual game between the two high schools that draw largely from the same area. So Hair went to work reengaging Rockhurst’s athletics department, and by his third season, the Lancers and the Hawklets had a date on the court.
Over the course of more than a decade and a half, that game had grown into something even Hair might not have been able to foresee: a rivalry so intense it packs the gym every year with exuberant fans. Fueled by a stretch of close games that featured Rockhurst star Conner Teahan (who went on to play for the University of Kansas) and the Lancers’ J.D. Christie, but the mid-2000s, both school’s fan bases were circling the game on their calendars.
“It’s evolved into this must-see kind of game,” Hair said. “That stretch from 2002 to 2006 is when the rivalry really took off. And I think the fact that I’m a Rockhurst grad myself added some fuel to the fire.”
The renewed series has been notable for its streaks. Rockhurst won three games in a row from 2000-01 to 2002-03. The Lancers won the next five meetings. Then the Hawklets took the following four, only to have their streak broken last year when the Lancers knocked them off at home 62-50.
The 9-3 Lancers face the Hawklets in this year’s game at 7 p.m. Friday in the SM East gym. GET THERE EARLY.
(Big thanks to Kevin Booker for the game history stats. You can follow him on Twitter at @BookerT3)