Nothing but fun for former Maroons, Royals
There is an intrinsic beauty in watching a 36-year-old father of three throw a behind-the-back outlet pass to a 32-year-old consultant who then lobs an alley-oop pass to a 39-year old teacher for a layup.
It's especially beautiful when a play like that draws tons of smiles and applause from a healthy crowd on hand to rekindle fond memories, all for the benefit of charity on a Wednesday night in December.
Sure, the players who took part in the second Elgin-Larkin Alumni event held at Larkin have aged a bit. As master of ceremonies DJ Ace Boogie aptly put it during a loose-ball scrum during the women's game: "Y'all are gonna be so sore tomorrow. I hope y'all have some sick days left."
A few strained muscles were fair trade for a night of pure fun.
And fun is the whole point of the event organized by Elgin graduate Brandon Grissette.
"No matter the outcome of each game, this event is based on bringing this town together to have a good time," he said beforehand.
For the second time in 11 months, Grissette's point was made, particularly if you go by the number of hugs, high-fives, smiles and handshakes exchanged between old teammates and friendly rivals, many of whom square off in local men's leagues to this day.
Elgin swept the two men's games. The Old School crew knocked off Larkin 57-56, when Sherick Simpson was unable to connect on a second free throw that would have tied the game with 3.3 seconds left.
It hardly mattered to Simpson, who was honored between games with his hall of fame induction plaque from the IBCA, presented by hall-of-fame coach Bruce Firchau. Simpson was unable to attend his induction ceremony in April due to the funeral for his nephew, Mark McDaniel.
He was also presented with a letter and a jersey from his alma mater, Fort Hayes State, where he won a Division-II national championship.
"The ceremony was beautiful being here at Larkin," Simpson said. "Then for my university to send their love and some memorabilia for me, I was just speechless. That's big for me in front of the town and the community. I'm so grateful. It's all about community."
While the Old School game had a YMCA meets Globetrotters vibe, the New School game was all business. Both sides played like they had money on the game, and they probably did. Elgin, led by professional overseas players Kory Brown and Jeremy Granger, survived 68-63. Larkin had a 3-point attempt to tie with 10 seconds left that didn't fall.
Though the attendance was slightly lower than the inaugural event last January, there was still a nice crowd on Elgin's west side Wednesday. With the addition of a women's game, which the Larkin women won in a runaway, the event is poised to appeal to a wider audience.
Bottom line, it looks like this alumni event has legs.
"That would be amazing for it to be every year," said Brown, a two-time Daily Herald All-Area honorary captain. "It gives everyone who comes in a chance to keep coming back. It gives guys who leave a chance to show others, yes, it's a rivalry but you're playing for the best cause."
Grissette already has plans to continue, but he was relieved in the aftermath of Wednesday's event.
"It was beautiful again, man," he said. "Another great turnout. All in all it was fun."
And fun was the whole point.