Despite my high school days now being behind me, the story does not end here. I was now a proud member of the alumni and as such, I got to enjoy an annual taste of glory thanks to our Sons alumni games! Since I attended Indiana Wesleyan University from 2001-2004, I was able to drive down and play in the 2001, 2003, and 2004 Sons alumni games which were an absolute blast! Getting to play alongside Sons legends such as Ben Griffith, Noah Porch, and of course my old Senior year comrades Carey Jones and Jesse Garner was simply surreal.
Now granted, the 2001 game was a bit rough as I took a horrific shot to my right eye during a loose ball scramble that resulted in a black eye the next day but hey...no pain no gain, right? I was able to stay in the game and I even had a chance to win the game at the end (I took a desperation three-point shot that was unfortunately blocked by Stephen...the nerve of that guy!) ;) which is all you can ask for really.
And the 2004 game, which was the last game I ever played in a Sons uniform, had its share of fun moments like when I slashed to the rim weaving between defenders and making some difficult shots. It wasn't my best game offensively but dang...it sure was a lot of fun! The cool thing is that we won that game so technically, I suppose you could say that I was able to win my last game after all! ;)
Although those games were so enjoyable, the 2003 alumni game was simply legendary. It was an incredible game for both us alumni and the current Sons squad as both sides played extremely well and the intensity was off the charts especially for an alumni game! It was just like old times too. The fans were there, the starting lineups were announced, and away we went. It was simply hilarious to see Noah reveal his mohawk during the starting lineup announcement too! He always made us laugh and it was just a really cool moment.
The game itself was something else too. I remember waking up that day with the same excitement and "electric" feeling that I used to get on game days. It was like a dream and I was more than ready to soak it in once more. I was completely in the zone from the opening tip too as I absolutely drilled my threes! Ben made a nice dunk, Carey was once again fantastic, and Jesse was his old feisty self! We played very well and my old teammate Wade anchored the second team nicely (we would play for a while and then alternate with the second team). Despite the current Sons team giving us all we could handle, we managed to put together a seemingly comfortable ten point lead with just two minutes to go. Unfortunately, the second team couldn't quite hold on although admittedly, the Sons really put together a string of amazing shots (Brad Hartman in particular was on fire that game! I couldn't believe how impressive he was out there!) and this was coupled with some...Sons "magic" going on (the clockkeeper was really sleeping on the job as the clock didn't run like it should have...the last two minutes were more like five minutes in actuality...I'm dead serious here!) The first team was rushed back into the game up only three when Brad got open in the corner. I rushed over to defend the shot and unfortunately, I was a bit too aggressive on the shot as a foul was called with zeros on the scoreboard. Amazingly, Brad managed to make all three free throws to send the game to overtime!
Although I was hoping for a miss, in retrospect, I am glad that Brad sent the game to overtime. I even remember Ben Griffith encouraging Brad to make the shots because deep down...I think that we all wanted to keep playing as long as humanly possible. I know that Ben wanted that. ;) It was an intriguing situation too because, over my entire career with the Sons, I had never been personally involved in an overtime game. Ben and Noah had carried the team to an epic double overtime win against Indiana Academy but that was back when I watched the games from the bench. Unexpectedly, it was only as an Alumni that I got to enjoy overtime basketball.
Both teams played smart, steady basketball and us alumni really hung in there despite fatigue setting in a bit. We weren't exactly in tip-top shape like when we played together with the Sons but we certainly had the heart to finish strong. Incredibly, the game remained tied after the first overtime and the score remained knotted after the second one! I actually had a chance to win the game in double overtime but for some reason, I released the ball very oddly and missed everything! Of all the shots I took that night, I wish I could have had that one back because it was a very makeable shot.
As Noah had put it during the second overtime, this game was "crazy!" Perhaps we simply didn't want it to end because it was just like old times and we all were having the time of our lives. Anyway, the referees discussed things over and they decided that we should end the game by having a free-throw contest of sorts. Each team would select five players and the team that made the most free throws would win the game.
I'll say right off the bat that I wanted to play triple overtime! Why not you know? But what can you do? We had just played one of the most amazing games in Sons history and it was going to come down to...free throws?! Sigh...now I was really regretting the fact that I missed my potential game-winning shot! I figured that a free throw contest would be a crapshoot sort of like penalty shots in hockey or soccer.
The good news is that we shot very well. Ben nailed the first free throw and I swished the next. Now that was a sweet feeling. It's hard to beat something like that in terms of pressure-packed shots! It was wild too because there would be a real hush over the crowd whenever someone shot their free throw. It was creepy yet cool at the same time. Unfortunately, the next guy for our team (I honestly can't remember his name as he played a year or two after I graduated.) had his shot literally go in and out. And of course, the Sons players somehow made all of their free throws and we ended up 4 for 5. Go figure. Even though the record may show that the Sons won the game 111-110 in triple overtime, it was such an epic game that featured all winners and no real losers. It was "an all Sons final" in any case (had to borrow that "Greatest Game Ever Played" quote). And it was one of the finest games that I have ever been a part of before or since. What a glorious night! :)
And that, my friend, is probably a fitting end to my story. I truly want to thank you for reading my story! :) It means a lot to me and I genuinely hope that my basketball exploits have inspired you to believe that anything is possible! While my nostalgic, sentimental nature made this "Glory Years" project quite appealing, there are other reasons why I decided to share my story. I felt that my old Sons teammates/friends would love to revisit such a special time in our lives and I wanted those of you who perhaps didn't know me during this time (like my beautiful wife Sandy and brother Nathan who was probably too young to remember this time frame) to have the opportunity to learn more about me.
Several friends from work have even expressed interest in reading my story which I find quite flattering actually! It may not be as gripping as an epic Frank Peretti novel but I feel that my story has some real substance and that the balance between adversity and glory makes it quite intriguing. After all, what's a good story without some failure and disappointment to keep things real, right?
It is my sincere hope that my story has provided you with some real encouragement and inspiration. Perhaps it will help you to believe that you can overcome adversity and injustice if you want something bad enough. To be fair, my faith in Jesus was absolutely huge in my personal journey as well. Sometimes, we can't do everything alone and, at least for me personally, I need a Savior to give me strength and hope! ;)
Even though I find myself longing for the past from time to time, I am just so grateful that I was able to experience so many amazing things...if only for a short while. There are a lot of gifted individuals who would give anything just for a fleeting moment of glory so I consider myself blessed for sure.
Being that dreaded last guy on the bench as well as the "All-Star" is a real positive too because it allows me to relate with almost anyone. It definitely keeps me humble too because the difference between greatness and opportunity lost is actually quite miniscule. Sometimes, you need that big break and I do believe that my experiences in life are why I continue to gravitate towards the underdog. I love encouraging and building up people that have been put down by the world. While I genuinely love helping others succeed, I will admit that "sticking it to the man" gives me great satisfaction as well. Why do we love movies like Rudy and The Greatest Game Ever Played? Because deep down, most of us can relate with the underdog and seeing someone like that succeed gives us hope that we can overcome as well! Whatever the reason, I do love a good inspirational story. If I ever find myself coaching basketball in the future, I am going to assemble a group of ragtag players and we are going to take the world by storm, baby! ;)
To be honest, I never intended to write this much! But, if you have read even one of my video game reviews, then you know how I love to ramble at times. If you are reading this, I salute you! The gold star is yours to keep! :) I hope that my story has resonated with you in some capacity. I never get tired of telling it and simply revisiting my past has brought back a whole host of wonderful memories!
In any case, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for indulging me despite the extraordinary length of my story. I loved the Glory Years and I will always look back at that time of my life with a smile on my face. God Bless and do check out the rest of my website when you have the opportunity!