MADISON (WKOW) – Madison East High School's boys basketball team will make its first appearance in the state final four since 1987 this Friday.
Senior guard Jordan Chester said he is dedicating the team's playoff run to Tony Robinson, the 19-year old killed in an officer-involved shooting earlier this month.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said Officer Matt Kenny shot and killed Robinson after the teen allegedly punched the officer in the head.
The State Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting per a state law requiring officer-involved deaths to be investigated by independent, outside agencies.
Chester said he and Robinson met in junior high through a local football league. He said they became close friends in recent years.
Chester said Robinson, who was a graduate of Sun Prairie High School, likely would see a run to the WIAA semifinals as a fitting tribute to his life.
“Tony was always competitive and athletic,” Robinson said. “He would always be competing on the basketball court or on the football field.”
But Chester said taking to the court for playoff games in the wake of Robinson's death was difficult.
“I wasn't OK,” Chester said. “I didn't get any sleep. I didn't eat a lot."
Chester said his teammates and coach helped him through a difficult week. Chester said, while he's still grieving, he's been able to focus on the goal of a Division 1 state title.
“I was very stressed and my teammates picked me up,” Chester said.
“We're a family,” said East High School basketball player Deang Deang. “It's not just a basketball team. This is a family on and off the court. If someone's down, we're going to help them up.”
“I think basketball has been kind of a refuge for our kids,” said Coach Matt Miota, “to take their minds off some of the other things happening in our community.”
“I hope you understand what's in front of us and what a great opportunity we have,” Miota told his team at the conclusion of Monday's practice.
Chester said the team is hoping to win the state title in honor of Robinson, as well as the school's students and the Madison community as a whole.
Chester will play in Friday night's semifinal with the name “Tony Robinson” written on the soles of his shoes in permanent marker. He said it's likely Robinson will be there watching in spirit.
“I know he's up there looking at all this smiling and laughing,” Chester said. “Because if he was down here, that's what he would be doing.”
Madison East faces Germantown at the Kohl Center on Friday night. Tip off is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.