Tournaments in the good ol’ days
We all have our favorite days and weeks on our calendars. Some say the more things change, the more they remain the same. When I look back over the years at the Februarys of my life, things have changed a lot. The high school basketball tournaments in Vermont have expanded and now run into March. More teams. More excitement? The teams part is true, but I think the old way was really neat.
From an area perspective, things have changed even more. In Vermont, the same five basic schools exist. However, looking back at the earliest February hoop years from my memory bank, there were three area New Hampshire schools with hoop teams, instead of one. Most readers know that Charlestown, Vilas (Alstead), and Walpole, formed Fall Mountain. Each of those schools have a Granite State Tournament history, mostly competing in Class S with the exception of Charlestown, who grew big enough near the end of their existence to move into Class M.
Things were simpler back then. Only the top teams were allowed to play on. The Southern Vermont Tournament was held in Springfield and almost every game was sold out. One thing has remained the same, Springfield still has the biggest gymnasium with the most seats around – unless you count the folding chairs Bellows Falls once utilized behind the baskets to accommodate overflow crowds.
Cutting to the chase, back when tourneys were only for the best of the best, the top four teams from both the large and small schools were invited to the Northern and Southern Vermont Tourneys. The small schools played at Springfield on Friday at 2 and 3:30 p.m. in the semi-finals and the larger schools would have their semi-finals games on Friday at 7 and 8:30 p.m.
The winners would then meet on Saturday. The small schools’ Southern Title game would be Saturday at 2 p.m. with the large schools’ title game that night at 7 p.m. All the games would sell out. Sometimes, if the headmasters – the VPA of the past – who ran the tournament, felt there were more good teams from the north than the south, one northern team would be sent as the fourth seed down south. The winners of the Northern and Southern Tourneys would meet the following Saturday to play for the state title at a neutral spot. Middlebury was often a common choice. Although, I remember one year when Woodstock was chosen.
Back in that day, newspapers were read more extensively than today. The first sign that the tournament was approaching were ads in all the papers to buy tickets for each of the tourneys. There would be a picture of a basketball players shooting a lay-up and would have all the information on how to mail in for your tickets and a deadline date for your purchase. Almost every game would be sold out.
Looking at today’s standings, assuming the schedule was already compete, this Friday would find Fair Haven meeting Mill River at 2 p.m. and Windsor facing Mount Saint Joseph at 3:30 p.m., while Rutland might play Burr & Burton at 7 p.m. and Mount Anthony would likely face St. Johnsbury at 8:30 p.m.
Those elite teams only games may be gone forever, but, as you can tell, they have not been forgotten.
Drew Schoenberger’s 1,000 points
A funny thing happened on Drew Schoenberger’s way to scoring 1,000 points in his Black River basketball career. Everyone lost track of how many points he needed. Honest.
Black River played at Arlington on Monday, Feb. 12. The President senior retired for the evening with 992 points after a 21-point game in a losing cause. Black River lost that game 53-52 on a score with less than a second left. Little did Schoenberger know that while he slept, he hit a three-pointer. I know of players who have dreamed of lots of things, but hitting a shot in your sleep, that is a new one.
The truth is, another local paper was printed while Schoenberger was asleep. The paper has scores and game information provided by Arlington High School, which is where the game was played. The Arlington scorebook is the official book for the Monday night game. The book had Schoenberger with 24 points, not 21. Thus his official total now stood at 995 for his career. That is how Schoenberger scored in his sleep.
Not everyone received the updated news. Thus, there was total confusion for one and all during the Presidents best first quarter of the season when they raced ahead on Tuesday, Feb. 12, on their way to a easy 65-42 victory over Leland & Gray before a large crowd at Green Mountain’s Nason Gym.
Many people in attendance were on different pages in the Schoenberger countdown. Some were counting to eight, while others were counting to five. The game was stopped after Schoenberger had tallied his sixth and seventh point, confusing things even further. The senior was then presented the game ball and cheers rang out for four minutes before the game resumed.
President Coach, Don Richard, appreciates Schoenberger of whom he said, “He has a nice flow to his game. He worked hard last summer to get over some bad habits he had formed. He put in a lot of hours to get better and earned where he is today.”
Schoenberger stood up tall in his personal press conference at the game’s end. He wasn’t ready to talk about his accomplishment until he spoke about something that was bothering him. While explaining how the confusion of how many points took place, he told us something that we didn’t know but was big to him. He said, “The only thing I feared tonight was losing. It didn’t matter about the points. I missed a free throw at the end last night and we lost by one.”
Once that was said, the young man everyone came out to see hit a cherished territory of accomplishment, was ready to speak. Yes, he was nervous he told us, but “My teammates took the pressure off by scoring the points, which gave us the lead early.”
He told the press, “You know that was one of the most packed gyms Black River has had in a long time. At the start, that created a lot of pressure for me.”
Schenberger missed his first four shots and didn’t look particularly good doing it. Then he scored at will and the rest is history.
Schoenberger scored the magical bucket on a runner down the lane with 56.5 seconds left in the opening period. By then, 90 percent of the people in attendance had the word and the cheering was deafening.
“I knew they were going to stop the game. I just didn’t know when,” Schoenberger told us, but he also didn’t know there was confusion galore.
“Once we had the lead, I didn’t worry,” the guest of honor for the evening said. “I knew I only needed five points, so I didn’t have to worry. The way the guys played at the start relaxed me.”
Coach Richard wasn’t surprised at what his player had told us about the missed free throw the night before. “He doesn’t think about what he does well. He is always about what he can improve on. He loves the game of basketball and just wants his team to win as many games as they can.”