2006-07 boys basketball ... it was the best of times
It's true that as the years pile up, you have trouble remembering all the things you've experienced.
Sometimes it's nice to have a reason to think back to a good time in your life and give that memory a workout.
So thanks to Garry Kline, who earlier this week invited me to come down to Greencastle to do a Chalk Talk program on WRGG radio. The subject was the 2006-07 Greencastle-Antrim boys basketball team that went all the way to the PIAA Class AAA state championship game.
I had a great time chatting with Garry, John Freeman and the coach of that team, Garon Gembe. What a torrent of memories it produced.
This job has become a much different animal in the 10 years since then, and frankly, it's not nearly as much fun. But then again, the 2006-07 winter season was quite likely the best one I've ever experienced in my time as a sportswriter and editor - and that's even without any area wrestlers qualifying for states.
Boys basketball ruled that winter, and I doubt Franklin County will ever see another year like it.
You know about Greencastle playing for a state title at Bryce Jordan Center. But until the postseason, they were not the best team.
Chambersburg was 20-9 and qualified for the state tournament.
Shippensburg was 14-10 and qualified for the District 3 Tournament.
Waynesboro was 17-8 and made it to the first round of districts.
Scotland School was 19-10. The Cadets reached the final in Class A in District 3 and the PIAA semifinals, only to fall both times to Reading Central Catholic.
And James Buchanan put up an impressive 26-5 season, going out in the PIAA semifinals to Greencastle.
Six county schools, and four qualified for the state tournament. Five of the six (all but Chambersburg) played then in the Mid Penn Capital Division and three of them were state semifinalists.
JB won the division with an 8-2 record, followed by G-A (7-3), Waynesboro (6-4), Ship (5-5) and Scotland (4-6). The Rockets lost to Greencastle and Scotland. Waynesboro beat G-A twice. Shippensburg had a seriously good team that year, but was just a notch below the others. How was that for bad timing?
What that meant for us in the P.O. sports department, which included Joel Rineer, Christian Worstell, Joe Kroepil and Steve Patterson, was that every time we covered a game, we got a good, competitive contest, and frequently they were spectacular. We worked hard, but it was a ton of fun.
And that was just the regular season.
Everything got ratcheted up in the playoffs, all leading to that epic PIAA Class AAA semifinal between JB and Greencastle at Shippensburg University, where well over 3,000 fans squeezed in to witness about as tense a game as you could imagine.
The Blue Devils won 38-34, and with all the buildup for that game, the score doesn't seem to reflect the electricity and stifling atmosphere at Heiges Field House that night. It was tense times ten. I believe that game was the biggest athletic contest ever in Franklin County, and good luck topping it.
In thinking about that year and browsing through our records and team folders at work, here are a few things that stick out to me:
- Following that game at Ship, the JB players had to be crushed. Not only losing a state semifinal game, but losing it to your rival, had to hurt deeply. Yet the Rockets' three stars - Shane Rife, Dion Lehman and Brandon Bryan - stood tall afterward, answering all the questions they were asked and doing it intelligently and with class. It was impressive, but after watching them for three years, not surprising.
- The Saturday of the PIAA quarterfinals. The games of Greencastle and JB were postponed from Friday to Saturday. G-A played West York (ranked No. 1 in the state) in the early afternoon at Gettysburg, and JB met Springfield-Delco later at East Pennsboro. I caught the first half of the Blue Devils' 60-58 barnburner, then all of JB's 57-56 win, clinched by a pair of free throws by Bryan with 8.6 seconds left. What a day.
- The Rockets' first-round win over Communications Tech was at Chambersburg's old gym, and when Rife made a layup at the buzzer to win 60-58, it sounded like a bomb had gone off. Loud doesn't come close to doing it justice.
- Franklin County stuck together. Players and fans from other teams came to support each other in the postseason, and genuinely hoped their rivals would win games. It was pretty special.
And it still is. The memory bank might not always be open any more, but it got flooded with good vibes this week.
Ed Gotwals is sports editor of Public Opinion and Lebanon Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.