Moline High School basketball standout Devin Savala-Cortez makes history with his team by winning the state championship

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Moline Basketball Team the 2023 Illinois Class 4A state champions. Photo by Ruben Portillo / Hola America
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It was no surprise that when asked where to interview Moline High School basketball star, Devin Savala-Cortez, the answer was at the Two Rivers YMCA.  Earlier this month, Savala-Cortez and his teammates made history by winning the Illinois Class 4A state championship in Champaign, IL. A first in the school’s history. So naturally, the first free time he’s had all season that wasn’t practice after school would be to go play basketball at the Y and reflect on his whirlwind season.  “It was the craziest experience to just being there,” said Savala-Cortez. “The whole atmosphere was just great.  It feels like a dream.”

As the fanbase grew for Moline as they advanced in the playoffs, Savala-Cortez and his team knew long before this past weekend that they had something special.  That feeling eventually led to being the first team in Moline High School’s history to bring home the gold.  “I’ve known since the beginning,” explained Savala.   “Just because of how our team is with Brock and Owen and our shooter, Grant, and on defense, Jasper, we just fit together like a team, and I knew we definitely had a chance.”

Playing basketball at a young age, things turned serious as Savala-Cortez was brought up to varsity as a freshman to help the team practice at the end of last season.  This season, as a sophomore, he was brought on full-time as well as continuing to play on the sophomore team.  “For us sophomores, it was kind of hard for us, because some days we would have to do double practices with both teams,” said Savala-Cortez. “You just gotta keep working.”

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Devin Savala-Cortez, sophomore and Moline HS Basketball Varsity team member.
Photo by Ruben Portillo / Hola America

As head coach, Sean Taylor has received many accolades all season, and especially now, Savala-Cortez also credits the success of the team to coach Taylor being able to bring all the players together, ultimately ending in a championship season.  And with comparisons to Moline teams in the past, Savala-Cortez gives credit to all those before him but feels his team had something just a bit extra than all the rest.  “I don’t know much about those teams,” said Savala-Cortez. “But I know us and how we all fit in our own roles and everything and how our chemistry is together.  He’s a good coach and a really smart coach, and having the help from the assistant coaches too with film and scouting, I think we were pretty prepared.”

If you tuned in to the games on TV or followed along in the season, the fan support was at peak level.  But, it was the students and children that you saw as well holding signs and getting autographs from Devin and his teammates that stood out.  And, as Latinos are still not dominant in basketball or football professionally, Savala-Cortez feels like he is a role model for future young Latino basketball players, and also, being on the honor roll as well he welcomes that responsibility.  “That’s a crazy feeling too,” said Savala-Cortez. “And amazing to think of something like that too that I can inspire others.”

With lifelong support from his family, Savala-Cortez knows that champion or not, support from them will always be there.  “My parents are always my main supporters, “said Savala-Cortez.  “And, I always hear my grandparents yelling from the crowd out of nowhere.  I’ve always felt their support.”  And he knows he will need their support next season, as six seniors will graduate, four of which were starters on this current team, so he and his teammates have their work cut out for them.  “For us, what our coach would always say is, ‘try to be a little better every game, and another day is another opportunity,’.  So just keep working and keep doing a little better as much as you can,” explained Savala-Cortez.  “For me, I just want to work on my game in general, so by next year, I definitely play a lot and be the best I can be.”

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