Top of the Morning, Dec. 10, 2017

Top of the Morning, Dec. 10, 2017

Two hours before postgame gunfire sent three to hospitals (story here), something entirely positive played out inside Champaign Central's gym Friday night

With the home team's band off for the night, a taped version of the national anthem was to be played prior to a boys' basketball game between rivals Danville and Central. Trouble was, as our prep sports coordinator Colin Likas noted in Saturday's story, only snippets of Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" came over the public address system. Uh-oh.

With players, cheerleaders and referees standing on the court in attention — and a huge crowd nervously awaiting a solution — Central Principal Joe Williams put an end to the awkward silence. He walked to the scorer's table, grabbed the mic and sang, "O say can you see ..."

What happened next reminded of Whoville after the Grinch tried to steal Christmas: an out-of-the-blue, goose-bump-producing group singalong.

The principal put the mic down and almost everyone in the crowd — young and old, Maroons and Vikings — picked up where Williams left off, enthusiastically finishing "The Star-Spangled Banner" a cappella. That it was a bit off tune didn't matter; what did is that everyone chimed in so much so that it was hard to hear "and the home of the brave" over the applause.

"Everyone was like 'What's going to happen?'" Central cheerleading coach Ali Marten said, "but the principal did a nice job thinking on his feet and everyone took it from there. It was really cool to see everyone come together like that."

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