(Note: In 37 years we lost two members of this wonderful group, Doug Pannels, a feisty guard (#20, second from left) who died in a tragic auto accident at 19, and Shawn Perrin (#41) who we called the “garbage man,” and who played an unheralded, but important role. He passed away unexpectedly two years ago. Our final achievement would not have been possible without them.)
Oh, the splendid glory.
It was about this time of year, 37 long years ago. Gosh, that seems a long time. But we will never forget it, not a single player.
For years, we wore the grass away around every basketball goal in our parents’ back yards. We chose teams, replayed the championship games we’d seen on TV, emulated our favorite college and professional heroes. And each day we got better and better. More cohesive. More familiar with one another’s talents. And more determined. Everyone knew that ninth-grade year was destined for something special.
Everyone had their job. Everyone did their job.
We went 14-0 before losing the first game, an over-achieving 30-6 by year’s end. Every team on the schedule fell to the mighty Buffs at least once that year.
The championship game was a thing of beauty. I remember almost every trip up and down that floor. Down by 10 at the half, we slowly, patiently worked our way back into the game and when the clock ticked zero the score revealed Buffs 43, Bearcats 42. We won it all. Went as far as a junior high team could go.
Champions. I wouldn’t give a plug nickel for a guy who’s never dreamed of winning it all in the big game.
I’m forever proud of what we did that year and think of it often. I love you guys so much. Thanks for everything everyone did in creating such a glorious memory.
Your teammate for life,
Steve – #34 junior high/#24 senior high