If you hang around gymnasiums long enough, it’s likely you’ll have some stories to tell. Robert Stegbauer, our sports editor here at The Times-Gazette, reminded me of a few this week when he said two words: Paint Valley.
Robert was wanting to know which girls basketball game he should cover Thursday night: Lynchburg-Clay at home against West Union or Whiteoak at Paint Valley. Considering that he had already covered the Lady Mustangs at least a couple times and that Whiteoak’s Emma Wardlow needed just 15 points to reach the coveted 1,000-point plateau for her varsity career, it was an easy choice – better head east on U.S. 50 to Paint Valley than in the opposite direction, I told him.
As is often the case when Robert tells me something – like how he banged his shoulder on the backboard at Paint Valley tracking down a Bearcat on a fastbreak – I respond with a story of my own.
I do it way too often, I know. But it’s my job to be a storyteller, so I guess it just comes naturally.
It’s not that I’ve been in the Paint Valley gym all that much. I’ve been in lots of other gyms a lot more. And, in fact, I’ve probably reported on more football games at Paint Valley than I have basketball games. But I’ve been in the gym enough that it has left an impression on me.
Once I even played basketball in the old Bainbridge High School gym, a precursor to the current Paint Valley gym. Ironically, the person who took me to play there was Randy Abbott, Emma Wardlow’s current coach at Whiteoak. I don’t know if the old gym is around anymore, but when I played there in my early 20s the gym still had a working clock with hands on it.
Yes, if you’re a regular reader of this column I mentioned that recently. I just think it’s cool. And, when any conversation about bygone basketball days breaks out, I can alway say: Well, fellows, I played back in the day when the clock actually had hands on it.
I suppose the first time I walked into the gym at Paint Valley was when I was about a freshman and my hometown Indians were playing there. As I remember it was a fairly intense game, and somewhere along the course of action Hillsboro’s Rick Seeling dropped a Bearcat to the floor like Mike Tyson dropped most of his early opponents. Yep, he caught a red-headed Bearcat with a punch to the face that dropped the guy like he’d been shot. I remember it so clearly that I could probably take you out on the court and show you pretty much where it happened.
The following year I was with a bunch of buddies, coming back from a Hillsboro sectional tournament game at Unioto High School. Just as we were passing Paint Valley High School we were overcome by a terrible, tear-inducing odor. Someone must have hit a skunk just seconds before because the unmistakable smell was so overwhelming that tears were actually rolling down my cheeks.
Ever since, I’ve associated basketball tournament time with the smell of skunks. My wife and kids have heard it way too many times, but check it out for yourself next time you smell a skunk. If it’s a road kill, chances are it’s late February or March.
Two years later I played my last high school basketball game at Paint Valley. Our sectional tournament was played there and we had a decent little run. After losing to Washington C.H. in the next-to-last game of the regular season, 74-51, we opened the sectional tournament by upsetting those same Blue Lions, 70-46, and I played possibly the best game of my high school career. Then we knocked off Wellston, 81-64, and I played well again, before losing to Waverly, 70-47, and I played like crap.
A few years later, working as a reporter, I saw a Highland County coach berate an official at Paint Valley worse than I ever saw any coach berate an official. It was very funny in one sense, but sad in another. It was so bad that a sheriff’s deputy walked over to the coach and tried to shut the coach up. But an officer working security at a basketball game is not supposed to come on the court during the game unless he’s beckoned by a member of the officiating crew, and the coach obviously knew the rules more than the deputy. So a different game official had to escort the deputy back to his proper location.
A handful of years later I returned to Paint Valley as a junior high basketball official with one of my brothers. Sarah Hull, who would go on to post an 87-6 four-year varsity record at McClain, and her talented Greenfield teammates were playing there. It was a lopsided game, and the Paint Valley coach was not happy with our calls. She was so unhappy that after a couple of her players fouled out, she refused to put a player in the game to replace the last player who fouled out. So we played the last couple minutes of the game with just four PV players on the floor.
We were fairly inexperienced officials at the time, to the point that we weren’t sure if the coach had to put a player in the game or not (for the record, if a player is available they must be put in the game), but it seemed easier to let the coach have her way than to argue with her any more.
In another twist, Whiteoak finished its game Thursday at Paint Valley with just one player on the floor. All the other Lady Wildcats had fouled out.
There have been many other memories at Paint Valley, like the time I had to rescue a son from getting beat up by a handful of kids there. But that was at a football game and it was a bunch of Hillsboro kids that had him surrounded.
It’s interesting how life’s web is spun. And it’s funny how many memories a couple words can trigger.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.