While there may be no more divisive sides of the proverbial fence than the two that mark the territory between Lee Christian and Grace Christian, it was wonderful to be reminded once again that there’s a lot to like about this younger generation that is coming along.
And to think, it happened on a basketball court.
Here is Sunday’s Designated Hitter column from the Sanford Herald:
They just played ball.
That was all. That was it. Roll the ball onto the court, and play.
The gym was packed, so much so that the cool draft from the breeze blowing outside was welcomed. There were chants, cheers and even a few jeers here and there.
But this wasn’t about drama. It wasn’t about who’s right or who’s wrong. It wasn’t about principles or coulda-woulda-shouldas.
None of that.
Not between the lines at least.
On the hardwood, it was about competition. Pure and simple. Nothing more. Nothing less. And nothing to worry about.
Sure, it was intense. But why should one expect otherwise? There was a game to be played, after all, one in front of a lot of people. When the ball goes up into the air, nobody wants to lose, and nobody’s willing to accept losing without giving maximum effort.
Grace Christian and Lee Christian went through two years without playing each other during the regular season, despite being in the same conference. No matter the sport, no matter how the two forfeits would count against Lee Christian or help Grace Christian in terms of, well, anything, the schools didn’t play each other.
The two sides had their reasons. The decision was made. Maybe it was right. Maybe it was wrong. Maybe it was a little of both.
Those years are gone now, and whether there’s justification or vindication wasn’t evident in any of the players on the basketball court at Lee Christian’s gym on Friday night.
That’s not to say the game didn’t have the feel of a natural rivalry. And maybe there was an extra edge given that the teams hadn’t met in the regular season in three years. But if there was, it was left in the respective locker rooms, where it needed to be.
What we got instead was a hard-fought, well-played game of basketball. No harsh glares. No evident trash-talking. No hard fouls or cheap shots.
And good basketball. Lee Christian showcased why it will likely contend for a state championship this season. The Falcons’ depth in the frontcourt may be the best in the NCCSA. Tal Paschal was brilliant inside for Lee Christian, banking tough leaners off the glass on his way to a team-high 21 points. Patrick Dodson had two two-handed dunks before halftime and Kyle Lucas seemed to get every important rebound.
Grace Christian gave one of its best performances of the season in a hostile environment, getting strong play from senior stalwart Sam Luellen, who led all players with 23 points, and inspired play from Xavier McDougald. With little chance to compete in an up-tempo game against the Falcons, the Crusaders decided to slow things down and work a methodical offense.
The strategy was a good one — Grace Christian trailed by just five points at the break and closed within seven in the fourth quarter. But the Falcons never wavered, never panicked and put together four solid periods of play to win by 10 points.
And when it was done, there were equal parts celebration and disappointment. Just like any game.
The two teams left the floor quietly, and before too long, the gym was emptying in an orderly fashion, as if it were just another game.
And thanks to the kids who played in it, that’s exactly what it was.