Most outgoing seniors wait their entire lives for one more game.
Senior basketball players from Warren and Forest counties had to wait all of three weeks.
The soon-to-be graduating players from Warren, Youngsville, Eisenhower, Sheffield and Tidioute Charter - as well as East Forest and West Forest - converged on Warren Area High School Thursday for the 7th Annual CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Senior Basketball Classic.
Times Observer photo by Allen Seybert
Something isn’t right here
Sheffield senior George Fitch of the Judges is guarded —yes guarded — by Wolverines and Judges teammate Kalil Slaughter during the final seconds of the boys game at the 7th Annual CASA Senior Basketball Classic Thursday at Warren Area High School. Slaughter guarded Fitch to ensure the boys game ended in a 100-100 tie.
The girls contest opened things up with the Volunteers - made up of Sheffield's Juli Ely and Sara Hoden, Youngsville's Amber Fox and Lyndsey Lyon and Warren's Emily Sherman, Kristin Hultquist and Kristie Reynolds - squaring off with The Attorneys team made up of Tidioute's Loralee Lindemuth and Lacy Wolford, East Forest's Nicole Kahle, Lauren Oliver and Morgan Simpson and West Forest's Brandi Bemis and Larissa Schwab.
The Volunteers were especially dominant early on, building a 20-0 lead after the opening quarter and scoring the opening bucket of the second stanza as well.
However, in a game where enjoyment is the main goal, the numbers on the scoreboard weren't really key on this night. An official book wasn't kept for either the girls game or the boys game that followed.
However, for the record, the Attorneys closed the gap to as few as four points in the second half before settling for a 46-30 setback.
More important than the score were the memories created on the court as well as the opportunity for these seniors to lace up the sneakers one last time.
Most agreed after the game that the final game of many careers was unlike any played during the previous four seasons.
"It was fun to play with some different teammates," said Warren's Hultquist. "We played Sheffield and Youngsville in the tip-off tournament each year and it was cool to see what they are like when they are on your team instead of your opponent."
Hultquist was also thankful for the chance to play one last high school basketball game.
"I'm definitely glad I got to play in one more game." she said.
Youngsville's Fox had a particularly memorable night.
As has become custom in these exhibition games, the final moments of the fourth quarter were spent with the players taking trick shots and playing out everything their coaches had ever taught them not to do.
Fox was the lone player to attempt a half-court shot in the final minute of the game. That shot found the bottom of the net.
"That's pretty cool," she said. "The last shot I ever took in my high school career was from half court - and I made it."
That special memory wasn't the only reason Fox was happy that Thursday's game was just an exhibition.
"We had a 22-point lead at one point and it got within four," said Fox. "I don't think coach (Allison) Kitchel would've been as calm as she was had this been a regular season game."
The boys game wrapped up the night's festivities and the contest would prove to be a memorable one.
From the opening tip - performed by the Honorable Judge Gregory Hammond - it was clear that defense was optional.
The teams - the Judges featuring Eisenhower's Josh Deppas and Joe Rutsky and Sheffield's Nick Bonavita, George Fitch, Mark Sprandle, Kalil Slaughter and Ike Nearing and the Advocates featuring Warren's Preston McMeans, Kory Thomas and Hank Morrison, West Forest's Drew Sneeringer and Shaylor Bemis and Tidioute's Pat Haney and Kendrick Morrison - combined for 47 points in the first quarter and 91 points in the first half.
They were just getting warmed up, however, as the clubs would ultimately combine for 200 total points, playing to a 100-100 tie.
"I just want the record to show that I had nothing to do with the coaching of the defensive play," said Judges coach Todd Fitch. "Defense like that puts coaches on blood pressure medication."
The teams were intent on playing to a tie - and went to unconventional methods to see that through. With the game tied at 100-100 and with time winding down, George Fitch found himself with the ball. Teammate Slaughter opted to defend - yes, defend - Fitch rather than work his way open and a potential game-winning shot was never tried.
Despite the game being an exhibition, several members of Warren's student cheering section - The Flannel Panel - were on hand and up to their usual antics.
Well, sort of.
The Advocates' Morrison tried a 3-pointer late in the second quarter and the shot fell well short. Within seconds, the Flannel Panel flooded Morrison with chants of "Airball... Airball..."
"I wasn't expecting that," said Morrison. "It would be pretty hard to play against those guys. I'm glad this was just a one-time thing."
The boys' game had a particularly memorable exchange in the closing seconds of the first half. Slaughter was given a free path to the hoop, sending down a dunk to put his team up 45-43 with just seconds remaining. The Advocates' Thomas took the inbound pass and fired up a three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer. The shot hit the bottom of the net, putting his team up 46-45 at halftime and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The second half featured more of the same laid-back style of play right up until teammates guarded one another with the game tied at 100-100.
A tie was appropriate as smiles and high-fives were what really mattered on this night.
"It was awesome - just so much fun," said Bonavita. "Making it a tie game and each team scoring 100 points was incredible. It couldn't have been a better time."