Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Basketball is back

Many people look forward to the first day of deer season.

I am not a hunter, so that does not give me any particular thrill. For me, it is the first game of the year for football and basketball.

Each year, I look forward to that first football game over the summer and as the weather turns cold, I turn my attention toward that first basketball game.

My first game of the year was Tuesday as I ventured over to Cameron to watch the Yellow Jackets and Howe play. Both schools already had a game under their belts, so the new had worn off a bit for them.

It was still muggy as I arrived in the greater Cameron metro area and had to park out in the north 40 as the main parking lot was full. Fortunately, the ground was soggy but still solid so I didn’t have to worry about getting my wife’s car stuck.

It is warm inside the gym, but luckily the windows are open and it isn’t a sweatbox. Cameron’s gym is easily the oldest in the county, one of those rock buildings built back in the 1920s or 30s, during our last major depression. It’s small, old and smells of history. If the great state of Oklahoma ever has an old basketball movie filmed here like Hoosiers, it should be in Cameron.

I usually like my sit to the side of one of the baskets to take pictures in the first half of both games. That isn’t possible at Cameron, where the baseline is approximately six inches wide. I start off at the Cameron end, but quickly realize that was a mistake as all the action is down at the other end. I walk to the other end and squeeze my body into a doorway that provides a little more room and hopefully keeps me from tripping one of the officials, or them from stepping on me.

I haven’t taken a picture at a basketball game since last March. I wonder if I still have it in me. Seriously. Howe is attacking the basket with a passion and I soon have some keepers, although I did have to throw back a few because of bad focus.

Unfortunately, the game is one sided and it is hard to stay interested. I go out to get a bag of popcorn and a student shows extreme gusto and chases me down to sell a chance on a rifle. As I mentioned before, I don’t hunt and don’t need a rifle, but I cough up my two bucks.

The first game ends with a final score of 78-17 in favor of Howe. Despite the score, Cameron does show some improvement under new coach Sheila Jones.

Finally, the excitement starts to build as the boys take the court. This promises to be a good one as Cameron has three starters back from last year and starts five seniors while Howe is much improved over last year’s bunch.

The action is at a frantic pace from the start. Both teams play defense like it should be played, man up, belly to belly. Easy shots are few and far between.

Howe slowly builds a lead through the first half and stretches the margin to nine early in the third quarter, only to see Cameron come back, even though its two big guys are on the bench and the Jackets don’t have a player on the court who is six-foot.

The intensity builds. The fans are into this game and the noise level picks up. Players dive for loose balls and an already physical game gets even rougher as players from both teams play like this is for the county championship, not an early-season game.

The fouls start to mount up and trips to the charity stripe build. Cameron loses its two big guys as does Howe with Daniel Barnhart. Each possession is critical and the game could go either way.

Rodie Snell makes a three for Cameron with 1:45 left. It is his only basket of the game and breaks a 51-51 tie and puts the Jackets ahead for good. Howe misses a couple of shots and Cameron converts to build the lead to six in the final minute.

The game finally ends at 61-57. A good game and night, even though somebody else won the gun I didn’t need.

But basketball is back.

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