It’s Wednesday and I am about to start gushing. I get this way a couple of times a year, because even in these, my later years, I understand how fleeting time is. It usually bears down on me at the Dream Game in the summer, after the state championship meet in Shippensburg, and once I shut down the computer following the boys senior all-star basketball game.
These are the final experiences, and interactions for the most part, for senior or graduated athletes. Many of these student-athletes I have come to know, and more often than not, if you were playing in these games, I got to know you pretty well. In this age of Twitter and Facebook, it isn’t quite as strong a good-bye. Truthfully, though, it is the end of one chapter and the start of new ones. I couldn’t help but observe the clashing of emotions late in the game, thankfully sponsored each March by the Valley View Booster Club and head coach Mike Kurpis, as Mid Valley’s “Big 3” of Noah Tanner, Brad Kalinowski and R.J. Gouldsbury played the final few minutes for their coach Mike Abda. I watched the gracious embrace shared by Scranton Prep’s Paddy Casey and coach Andrew Kettel and his staff. It took me back to 1987 when my position coach, Bob James, a respected and authoritative man, stoic and strong, took me and my two backfield mates aside and, for the first time showed redness in his eyes, said, “No matter what, things will never be the same here.”
It absolutely pained me to see Blue Ride’s Jeff Morris go down with what appears to be a serious knee injury. He played his heart out in a game, which essentially is an exhibition. He had to use crutches to reach mid-court and receive his most valuable player award. His smile through the pain is something I will never forget. Why? Because this may have been the last time Morris plays competitive basketball. Let’s hope not.
Coaches, and their assistants, need to have or develop strong skills to conquer separation anxiety. Each season starts anew. They must forge relationships with athletes and every year they must, like parents, release those ties as their players move on to pursue their futures. And it’s hard when the memories are so recent and not so far beyond the rear-view mirror.
Just as it is difficult for those coaches, and the proud parents and guardians in the bleachers, I too, selfishly, deal with knowing, even though spring sports seasons will soon engulf me like a tidal wave, this night closes another chapter for me. The next time I will likely be in a gym for a basketball game will be November, and some faces will be familiar, but most will be new. I’ll start collecting more cell phone numbers and interviewing and profiling new players. It’s nice to see these senior players have fun. Being a former athlete, I know all too well the sacrifices they have made to reach this point. They, of course, used to envision their opportunity to play in this all-star game when they were underclassmen. Then the reality of it being the end bum rushes them.
Too often in my business, I get caught up in the frantic nature of the postseason. I don’t get that opportunity to re-visit schools or see every team at one final time. This year, Scranton Prep, Mid Valley and Holy Cross, three teams which left an undeniable mark on my season, all ended on the same night. I couldn’t be in three places at once, obviously. And with Abington Heights winning and moving on in the state playoffs, it’s almost that next man up mentality coaches are always preaching to players. But it really isn’t that way for me. It does hurt that I couldn’t be a part to share in what essentially is this senior class’ graduation in our relationship. Sure, a lot of the guys will stay in touch. But, how can you expect them to for too long? So, this all-star game offers me, at least, one last time to see them all play.
Interestingly, Delaware Valley’s Shane Acoveno, who played high above the rim all night and gave fans a final glimpse at his growing talent which could land him at a Division I school in the fall, said it best. …
“We wanted to get a win, but that’s not what this game is all about.”
No, this all-star game is about friendship. It’s about sharing in one final curtain call. It’s about the culmination for most of an athletic career they worked so hard at for years, coming to a close.
And for me, it’s one final time to say THANK YOU and GOOD LUCK!
- Total shots taken combined by both teams
- Number of 3-pointers attempted by West Scranton seniors Cole Stetzar (5), Shaun Fanning (5) and Matt Williams (1) which had to unnerve coach Jack Lyons
- Shots taken from beyond the 3-point line
- Players who made 10 or more 3-pointers in 1-minute in the pregame contest. Stetzar (14), Brad Kalinowski (14), Conor Walsh (12), Tom Rothenberger (11), Michael Dougherty (11), Paddy Casey (10), Seth Maxwell (10), John Mandarano (10), R.J. Gouldsbury (10).
- Total points scored by Dunmore’s Conor Walsh (14), John Mandarano (11) and Michael Dougherty (10)
- Total dunks in the game. Shane Acoveno led with 3.
That’s all for today.
See you next winter.