A team comprised of fifteen graduates of Saline High School took on a team of eleven basketball coaches, teachers and staff in the inaugural game to benefit the Foundation For Saline Area Schools (FSAS). The game was held in the Liberty School gym, the home court for some of the alumni participating in the game.
Prior to start of the game, Annherst Krietz, Executive Director of FSAS and a 1983 graduate of SHS, greeted the crowd of over 200 adults and students. Ms. Krietz indicated the benefit basketball game featuring alumni of SHS would become an annual event.
The alumni team featured graduates from five different decades (1970s, ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s & 2010s). Former SHS varsity basketball coach Ken Sippell reprised his role from years ago as coach of the alumni squad. He was assisted by former varsity assistant coach Dale Wilson (’68).
Current SHS varsity basketball head coach Jake Fosdick served as a player/coach for the coach’s team.
The game provided an opportunity for SHS grads and former classmates to get together after many years. After the game, Bobby Tiernan (’04) said he thought that the alumni game had been played for years. “I thought this had been going on for years. I’m so glad that I was invited back. This was a lot of fun and I’d gladly do this again.”
Erik Jacobsen (’14) seconded that opinion. Jacobsen, the older brother of current SHS varsity basketball player Peter Jacobsen, is a fourth generation of Jacobsens who call themselves SHS grads. Playing in front of his parents and grandparents, as well as several members of the current SHS basketball team, brought back a lot of memories.
“When you play in pick-up games, you don’t get to hear the roar of the crowd. You forget how much fun that is.”
The smile on the faces of Erik’s parents and grandparents gave away how much fun it was for them to watch their boy on the court one more time.
Being a first-time event, the FSAS was unsure of what to expect. Estimates of crowd size varied but people settled on a count of around 100 adults and another 100 or so students and children.
After players from both teams were introduced, SHS freshman Alayna Musson got up in front of the crowd and belted out the national anthem.
Coach Sippell had a game plan that was designed to keep his opponents off balance. The alumni team had three goals for the game:
- Make sure nobody collapses or gets hurt
- Make sure everybody plays
- Make sure everybody scores
Coach Sippell allowed his assistant coach Dale Wilson (’68) to design a play that got Glenn Burkhardt his basket. With time running down, and the alumni team playing tough defense on the opposite end of the court, Coach Wilson sent Burkhardt onto the court, kind of like a sixth attacker when a hockey team pulls their goalie. It worked. As his teammate Taylor Branham rebounded an errant shot, he fired the ball the length of the court. Burkhardt, having secretly sunk onto the court, was standing alone. He caught the pass, got off a short set shot and picked up his only two points of the game and then quietly returned to the bench, to the roar of the crowd.
Coach Fosdick, recognizing what had happened, began to launch a protest with the officials. The officials for the game were the father and son combo, Ryan and Dave Sontag and they allowed the play to continue. It was reported by players courtside that they had smiles on their faces.
Prior to Saturday, the alumni team had not ever practiced together. You couldn’t have known that by their play Saturday afternoon as they resembled a team that had played together for years.
The anticipated match-up between Matt “The Man of Steel” Rosati and his former head coach Jake Fosdick had all of the drama of the Manchester Chicken Broil. The two guarded each other during the course of the game but both were able to take, and make, impressive three-point shots.
From the opening tip off to the game’s end, you could see for every guy pulling on a Saline jersey, they remained true to the motto: “Once A Hornet, Always A Hornet”.
They say that athletics helps young men and women to mature, grow and develop. That to be a part of something that is truly greater than yourself is one of life’s greatest treasures.
And it is also true that the bond that develops between a player and his coach, is a bond that lasts forever.
So, the first annual alumni basketball game is in the books. Those who were on hand enjoyed a fun event. The players who returned to their old home town, saw old friends.
For those alums who attended SHS prior to 1972, they returned to the Saline High School of their youth. They walked into the gym and noticed that some things were different. But it was still their gym.
The bleachers still keep you close to the action. The wooden beams in the ceiling are still there. The big brick wall at the end of the gym still stands. The same brick wall that in the winter of 1971 cracked down the middle, postponing the mid-term exams.
Being in the gym, you were a SHS student all over again. You experienced the thrill of seeing your team take the floor. Watching grown men, classmates and friends, play like they did in the days of their youth.
David Ziegler (’73), the former SHS All-State basketball player, was in the gym watching the action and cheering on the alumni team.
If you missed the game, you missed a fun evening. Make sure to check the website for FSAS to learn the details of next year’s game. If you’re an alum, the FSAS is a wonderful way to reconnect with your school. The Class of 2018 can use the wisdom and advice from the people who have taken the journey from SHS into the world.