WOSTER: My perfect high school sports memory
As the final buzzer sounded during one regular season basketball game my senior year at Chamberlain High, a teammate lobbed the ball high into the air to celebrate the victory.
I'm pretty sure forward Roger Miller was the teammate. We'd just beaten Burke in their gym and he was happy. That celebratory lob of the basketball was remarkable for a couple of reasons.
First, nobody did things like that in those days. Win or lose, you walked off the court quietly, no yelling or high-fiving. I don't think we even had the custom of lining up to shake hands with the other team's players. We played the game and hit the showers.
Second, that basketball in Burke hit a rafter or something and came down like a cannon shot, smacking the top of my buzz-cut head. I didn't fall to the hardwood, but the surprise blow staggered me. I looked around quickly to see if anyone saw the incident. You know how you do that when something embarrassing happens? It's totally not your fault but you feel like it is and look around for witnesses? That was me leaving the gym in Burke. A good game, a nice win and the whole night came down to a knock on the noggin.
A couple of teammates saw the incident. They thought it was the funniest thing that had happened since a couple of weeks before when, during a game in Miller, I corralled a rebound after a missed shot by the Rustlers and found myself alone at that end of the court. Normally when I got a defensive rebound, I passed the ball to one of the guards, Bill Miller or Ray Strand. But, along with every other player on both teams, they'd run up the court, abandoning me with the basketball and what looked like an acre of floor to cross.
Actually, I only had to cross half an acre to get as far as the half-court stripe. I only had 10 seconds, though, and the ref was counting them off as I stood like a block of stone. I couldn't dribble a basketball to save my life. Bill Miller, one of my best friends that year, waited across the half-court line, grinning and motioning for me to dribble the ball up the court. Everyone on the team was grinning, everyone in the gym was grinning, as I slapped the ball on the floor, moving like Boris Karloff in a monster movie. I made it, but just barely.
I had many embarrassing moments on the court. In Platte, a game we lost by a lot, I boxed out my guy for a rebound on their end of the court. He shoved, and I went face-first into the thick mat that hung on the wall under the basket. As long as I was right there on the end line, the referee gave me the ball to in-bound after Platte's made shot.
At Redfield, I went six-of-seven from the field and four-of-five from the line, with 10 or 12 rebounds, my best statistics of the season. My big sister, in nursing school, was there for some reason. Of my performance, she remembered how I got out on a fast break and "jumped 20 feet in the air'' to pull down a long, high pass from Bill, then missed the layup. "But you should have seen him jump,'' she told my mom.
Maybe the most embarrassing moment came in the second game of the season, at home against Lead. I wasn't starting yet, but I was in there as the clock wound down in a tie game. A Golddigger player shot and missed. I soared for the rebound but only touched the ball with my fingertips. It bounced against the backboard and dropped through the net as the horn sounded. Two points for Lead. Game over.
A while back, my cousin and I had a conversation about those good old days at Chamberlain. I recalled the Lead game, saying, "Just before the clock ran out, I tipped in the winning basket...''
"Stop right there,' he said. "That's a perfect high-school sports memory. No need to ruin it with details.''