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Why can't we do this more often?

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published February 22, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - Ridgewood coach Gary Anders had programs made up, a gameplan ready and a team believing it might just be able to pull off the biggest boys basketball upset in Pasco County history.

The only thing he forgot was the red carpet.

As far as Pasco goes, it was a star-studded night at Ridgewood's house, where the place was packed to see if the Rams could knock off the semi-pro Lake Howell Silver Hawks, who boasted a roster with no one smaller than 6-foot-10.

Or that's how it looked, anyway.

Among the local stars: Pasco football alum Troy Hambrick, Mitchell girls basketball ace Kristi Hopper, Gulf scoring machine Anthony Jackson, Mitchell football coach Scott Schmitz, county athletic director Phil Bell and his little girl.

I meant to ask each who they were wearing but never got the chance, even though Jackson's baggy jeans, adorned with the logo of every NBA team, was a snazzy look.

It was as good a crowd as the county could put together. It was loud, it was boisterous, and it stayed thick right to the final buzzer.

This is what makes high school sports so great, begging the question: why can't we do this more often?

Why can't we fill the gym more frequently, for one or two big games every season? Why can't games generate more buzz? Why can't we have Joan Rivers out front doing interviews?

Okay, so scrap that last one.

Point is, while every game can't be a region final with two future Florida Gators on the other team, there are decisive moments - winning district or conference championships - that come around during the season with little to no fanfare.

There are decent rivalries to soak in. Great players to watch see Thomas, Sthefany, who you shouldn't have missed but you did. Fantastic finishes to be thrilled by.

This isn't meant to be one of those columns harping on the death of high school sports or the fact that too many of you stay home playing Super Mario Kart.

It's merely meant to say this:

Wasn't that fun Tuesday night? Even better than American Idol?

Think about it: You showed up for a game that you thought would be a blowout (but most times you won't for a game that you know will be closer and more competitive).

Maybe the Lake Howell kids were the draw. Maybe you just wanted to see if David would fire a shot at Goliath (he did, by the way, and Goliath took it to the other end for an easy layup).

But your presence was appreciated. The Ram players thought you were the difference between a 76-25 loss that would provide more fodder for jokes about Pasco County basketball, and a 17-point loss that, quite frankly, felt a lot closer.

Even in the game's aftermath, you milled around and talked about the Rams as if they had almost won the game.

We really should get together more often, you know.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6261.