It’s officially in the books.
Defending Suburban Lakes League champion Genoa dropped a 68-61 heartbreaker to the much-heralded, Lake Lady Flyers.
Both teams were state ranked, and both came in undefeated. Someone had to lose.
An hour the junior varsity, a sold out gym was already in high spirits. The overflow crowd was placed in the Genoa High School auditorium to watch the game “closed-circuit” like on a big screen.
In the gym, Genoa coach Tom Kontak, the “Dean” of SLL girls’ hoops, well into his fifth season was pacing the sidelines as the Lady Comets’ “bench boss” and flexing an impressive lifetime record of 72-33.
Kontak knows there will be yet another knock-down, drag-out fight with these very same gritty, rough-and-tumble Lady Flyers on Tuesday, Feb. 17 right at Lake. Genoa has an additional heavyweight slugfest with Northern Lakes League frontrunners, and undefeated state-ranked powerhouse Perrysburg (15-0, 10-0 NLL) looming even closer.
Former championship AAU coach, one-time Oak Harbor Rockets’ assistant, and first-year phenom and “man with the plan,” Coach Denny Meyer of the defensively-minded, “draw first blood,” “never-to-be-outworked-or-denied” Lake Lady Flyers, most certainly deserves a few pats on the back and a fist-pound or two here and there as he catches his breath from that marathon throw down that went down in his old hometown of G-Town last Wednesday, too.
Meyer’s team not only boarded the frosty bus out of “Comet Country” in sole possession of first place in the SLL at 10-0, and 15-0 overall. . .but he has taken the groundwork laid out so effectively and efficiently by former Lake head coach Dick Fox last year. Fox coached the Lady Flyers to a surprising 14-7 record, and third-place finish in the SLL a year ago, after the team finished at a dismal 2-19 in 2006-’07.
For Lake, the sky is the limit, indeed.
For as the sold-out, capacity, standing-room-only crowd that attended last week’s big brouhaha at GHS already well know. . .this night of all nights just wasn’t defined by hard, slicing drives through the lane, or easy lay-ins, or three-bombs from way downtown, or numbers flashing by like super-sonic lightning on the in-house scoreboard.
Lake vs. Genoa, Round I was also about heartstring-tugging, and a noise level so monstrous, and massive inside the GHS gymnasium, that high-energy legions of fans at times had to think that at times the barn roof was going to blow right off.
Lake/Genoa was about mutual respect. . .as in the masses of Lady Flyer faithful standing, and clapping and clapping, and giving injured Comet Rachel Johnson a much-deserved, extended standing ovation.
It was about “Comet Crazies,” whom made their heartbroken ways to the hardwood following the 7-point disappointment, to applaud the victors, and shake hands and dole out congratulatory hugs to Lake’s champions of the night.
It was about Lake senior post players Lauren Lind and Heather Cox, and outstanding sophomore sensation at guard Kaysie Brittenham, as both collections of fans from both sides of this newest “Hatfields vs. McCoys” rivalry in SLL girls’ basketball conducted themselves with enough sportsmanship, their parents should be proud.
Although, Round I was also about a little good-natured trash-talking, and heckling. Chants echoing with the strains of “Air ball, air ball,” and “Scoreboard, scoreboard,” could be heard raining down upon the combatants in both teams’ colors from first tip-off, to the final buzzer going off, which gave the already-charged atmosphere an urgent buzz, and a feeling of high-drama.
Sure, this heavyweight showdown was about resident Genoa rock-star, and First-Team All-SLL guard, Simone “Smooth as Silk” Eli as it always is, as the soon-to-be Bowling Green State University Falcon poured in a quiet 25 to lead all scorers, and flashed all of her usual magic in her expansive repertoire, including that patented killer cross-over dribble, and that pretty behind the back move, and the ability to drop dimes like one else in local high school hoops, in her team’s losing effort.
But as Simone will sadly be moving on after this, her swan-song season, last Wednesday’s contest was also a bit about the changing of the guard in dominant conference players, which could very well come in the incarnation of outstanding sophomore guard for Lake, the aforementioned Brittenham, who may have notched only 10 points to roll back home victorious, but who was First-Team All-SLL as just a freshman making the varsity cut last year, and is already so fun to watch, as she currently sits at a respectable sixth in the SLL scoring race with 11.6 points per game on the waning year, and like Eli, is a young student-athlete, and representative of our conference, and communities, that we can all root for and be proud of.
And though so many stories, with so many plot-lines, and moods and themes, could’ve been written by local scribes regarding the “Showdown in G-Town,” the one story that everyone, and anyone who was in attendance for the 68-61 Lake victory should always remember, is that everyone walked out of that gym as a winner.
Because everyone, and anyone, packed that friendly, old barn from spots on the floor, to the overflowing bleachers, to the rafters, and hallways, and auditorium, and parking lots on a bitterly-cold winter’s night, in these dire times, when it would’ve just been easier to stay home, and save the money on ticket prices, and popcorns, and hotdogs, and sodas from the Booster’s stand, and to feel bad about themselves, and this plummeting economy.
And those outstanding fans, and indeed those lady players from both sides of the court, stood up, and delivered, and took each others’ best punches, and brought their best from start to finish, which not only makes this rookie broadcaster, veteran sportswriter, and longtime fan proud to cover these two teams and communities in this season, and in the seasons of life to come.
But also makes me truly believe, that the mighty maroon and gray, and the high-flying blue and white, will be okay, and always be champions no matter what their records, when the dust, and the snowflakes finally settle.
Because these very same athletes, and coaches, and fans, are microcosms of who we are as Americans. And whether they know it or not. . .they’re constantly writing, and re-writing, our very values, and ways of American life.