December 23 was a long day, but it was a fun day.
When the trip to Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, was first announced, I jumped at the chance to purchase tickets to watch the Beaver Local Beavers and the Wellsville Tigers play on the Cleveland Cavaliers' floor. Bill Devon and Jimmy Joe Savage both agreed to go with me.
Since Wellsville was offering transportation on charter buses at no additional charge, that was definitely the best way to go. Let's face it; a two-hour ride on a charter is a lot easier than having to drive to Cleveland in a car. The bus dropped us off and picked us up right in front of Quicken. We didn't have to worry about directions, turnpike fees and parking. This was a great deal.
Beaver Local athletic director Eric Lowe, Wellsville athletic director Don Elliott and Wellsville's Brenda Thompson are to be congratulated for putting together such a great event.
"Most of our fans drove up on their own, but there were about 30-35 Beaver Local students who went up on a school bus," Lowe said.
While I knew that both Beaver Local and Wellsville had sold all of their tickets, it was still amazing to see the number of local fans who were in Cleveland for the game on the Monday afternoon before Christmas. The lower level of the arena on one side, from baseline to baseline, was packed with fans wearing primarily orange or red. I did spot a few school jackets from other Columbiana County schools in the crowd.
The players had such a look of excitement in their eyes as they were waiting to go out on the floor. It was evident that they were thrilled to be playing on an NBA floor.
"It was great experience for our kids," said Elliott. "They loved playing there. The Cavaliers treated them great. We are glad for the opportunity and glad that Beaver Local agreed to play us up there."
"Yes, it was a lot of work, but the boy truly enjoyed themselves," said Thompson. "Both schools did it for their kids. It gave them some exposure outside of the local area. It was amazing to see such a following."
Wellsville student Mike Reiner, who does a great job of introductions at Wellsville games, was outstanding as the public address announcer.
"Mike did a great job on the P.A," said Elliott. "Starlynn Morris was outstanding singing the national anthem."
Wellsville had hoped to play a game at Quicken last year, but couldn't get all the details worked out in time. This year, they engaged Beaver Local's Lowe in talks early enough to bring it to fruition.
"We are very thankful that Don asked us to go up there and play them," Lowe said. "It was an experience I'm sure our players will remember for a very long time. The Cavaliers were very gracious in allowing the players from both teams to sit in the lower bowl to watch the Cavs play."
After the Beaver Local-Wellsville game, there was another high school game. In the evening, the Cavs hosted the Detroit Pistons. All of this action for $16 was a great deal. Fans driving up privately were able to leave anytime they desired. Since we had come up on the bus, we had to wait until after the NBA game. This was only the second time I had been to an NBA game. I'm not much of an NBA game fan, but I sure did enjoy the high school games. I have only been in downtown Cleveland two other times in the last 20 years, so it was nice to see the city. Without the bus, I wouldn't have considered making the trip. I'm glad I went and I would go again.
"It was a process," Thompson said. "Everyone worked together to pull it off. The two athletic directors worked well together. Plus, the Amato Foundation and the Wellsville Boys Basketball Boosters made financial contributions to cover our expenses. We couldn't have done it without them and also our chaperones were just great."