Forty-nine. That’s how many Shasta-Enterprise boys basketball games I’ve seen.
From a newly minted Sports Editor to a graying scribe, I’ve had ring-side seats for arguably the greatest sporting event in the North State. Blasphemy, you say. But wh … wh … what about River Bowl?
Oh, River Bowl is something special. But it’s like your grandma’s fine China – you only get it out once a year – and then put it away to admire it sitting in the hutch.
No, the Shasta-Enterprise boys basketball rivalry stands above even River Bowl because unlike the year-long build-up to a single night, the slow burn of the basketball season offers us multiple opportunities to see the cross-town foes in action. This season we might be lucky enough to get five games between the clubs if the Wolves and Hornets meet in the postseason.
And while River Bowl is the biggest spectacle in the North State, crowding into either Manatowa or Harlan Carter with a few thousand of your friends – or frenemies – is an unparalleled atmosphere.
The Pit. The Maniacs. The cheerleaders. The deafening din so loud you must yell just to tell your seat-mate something.
Thursday was no different. Neither were the first two meetings this year – at the Harlan Carter tournament and the Jamie Angley Hornet Classic.
And you can bet Feb. 7’s meeting at Shasta will much of the same – a slugfest that brings out the best in each team and brings the fans into the gym.
But the funny thing while watching Thursday’s 52-45 Enterprise win was that like many of the previous Shasta-Enterprise games, I’m positive it will fade into the memory bank to become just another square in the quilt of the rivalry.
You see, after nearly 50 games between the Wolves and Hornets I can confidently say I remember the score of exactly one – 48-45. That’s the final score of the 2016 Northern Section Division III final won by Shasta on Ben Bell’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Everything else? It’s a blur of purple, black and gold.
Why that one? It’s the picture – the one of Jordan Freilich, then an assistant for Bill Callaway, holding back my son Tanner after Bell’s heroics. The game was over and Hayden Aukland and Colton Elkins and the rest of the team was rushing to mob Bell, but Freilich, not wanting the bench to leave too soon, grabbed the closest thing he could find. That just happened to be Tanner.
I look at it from time to time and it transports me back to that moment. Tanner was a sixth-man guy coming off the bench to spell Bell and Elkins. He worked hard to earn that spot and would become a starter the next year, his senior season.
He recently attended a game – one of the first since he graduated – and remarked that it was amazing the intensity at the varsity level. I reminded him I’ve watched that for nearly two decades and got to not only have that front-row seat as a sports writer, but more importantly as a parent. I told him the pride I had seeing him join a long list of star athletes I covered and how those memories live on for me.
And while may I remember that one specific game, it doesn’t mean the other Shasta-Enterprise games are processed and forgotten. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Bits and pieces live in the memory of the rivalry to comprise that amazing patchwork quilt.
The amalgam of the rivalry includes players and coaches.
It’s guys like Ty Green – perhaps the biggest assassin I’ve seen on a North State court. It’s the James and Anthony Williams who really did have those twin powers working in the dismantling of the Wolves.
It’s Ben Bell and his big shot. It’s Mason Phillips and his transformation from an average junior into a senior who was most often the best player on the floor.
It’s the freak athleticism of Jovon Cunningham. It’s big man Shane Zink transforming each year until he was a dominant force in the paint his senior season.
It’s Nolan Brickwood’s dynamic up-and-under move. It’s Jacob Gray launching – and hitting – bombs closer to the jump circle than the 3-point line.
The names keep coming. This year it’s JT Beasley, Simon Turner, Dilraj Sahota, Jermaine Mondaine, Kobe Fuller and Demarreya Lewis-Cooper, who could very well be the best since a dude named Brody Angley.
It’s Mike Haworth yelling “Gnekow” at Enterprise center Daniel Gnekow. It’s the stoic Callaway messing with the five-on, five-off hockey shift change.
It’s Jim Deaver jokingly asking me to tell Tanner to take it easy on them prior to tip. It’s Freilich letting me announce for the Wolves and having the honor of being able to introduce my son in the Shasta-Enterprise rivalry.
It’s an obscure picture of me with my face painted half-purple, half-gold and Wolves JV coach Brian Crane – who had his three sons, Reed, Davis and Braden play for Shasta – remind me about it from time to time.
For Enterprise, it’s about three in a row. For Shasta, it’s about the opportunity to win one at home or maybe win one in the postseason and make the regular-season losses irrelevant.
For me, it’s my favorite place to be on a cold, winter night – wrapped up in the quilt of basketball memories.
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