Monday, March 15, 2010
Your Canton Fieldhouse Memories....go!
The Riders are back in regionals, and what a perfect time to talk about all the great memories we've had there over the years. I'll share mine, and expect...no....demand that you share yours too.
It's no secret....I love the fieldhouse. If there's a better venue for basketball in Northeast Ohio (maybe the entire state), I sure haven't seen it. The Fieldhouse has an echo to it, unlike any other basketball gym I've ever been in. I like to think it's the echoes of generations past (corny right? But it's true). Of teams, players, coaches and fans from bygone eras. All one needs to do is look up toward the rafters and see the banners from old Lehman High and from the great McKinley teams to get a sense of the history that was made on the court below. Walk the halls for a who's who of Canton basketball and pictures from the old All-City nights.
I can still smell the smoke that used to fill the concourses during halftime. Still hard to believe that you used to be able to smoke INDOORS.
Give me a seat in the corner, and a box of popcorn, and it doesn't get much better.
I vaugely remember my first game there. I believe it was in March of 1986 when Orrville lost to Hawken in a Class AA regional semifinal. The Hawks were undefeated and state ranked and we lost by 1 point. I remember a missed dunk (by Keith Denson, I think) that turned out to be the difference.
I missed out on the Orrville/St. V showdown a year earlier, a game that the Riders would win for the district (not regional) title. The game featured a showdown between the Irish's All-American Jerome Lane and Orrville's Tom Bolyard. The Beacon Journal reported that 4400+ fans were in attendance which basically means a sellout.
My most fond memories of Fieldhouse games were in our runs during the 90's....and at the top of the list is the 1992 win over St. V. I don't need to rehash it, but many would call that the greatest Orrville win ever. It propelled us to our first state title, and was the typical "parochial roadblock" game that took overtime to secure the win. I still curse the name Clint Smith when I think of that game. That was still one of the most clutch 3's I've ever seen, and it again seemed like the Riders would be denied. I remember looking up in the stands and finding my dad, we both had that look of "what do we have to do," as I'm sure most Orrville fans had. Thank goodness we prevailed in overtime.
The next year, we advanced to regionals again, to the surprise of many and took on Cleveland Central Catholic (yes, the very same team) who boasted a diminutive point guard by the name of Earl Boykins. The Riders would prevail behind senior leadership of Sly Slaughter and Jermaine DeHart. They also had a freshman named Marcell Denson.
I remember the 1995 district title game against Norwayne that was moved from Wooster High School. It was nip and tuck the whole way, but Renauld Ray took over in the 4th and sent the Riders on to regionals. We'd win 2 more at the Fieldhouse the following week and win our 2nd state title that year.
It was always cool to see TV cameras at the game, usually Channel 23 out of Akron. Seeing highlights of the game you just attended never got old. Sports Reporter Phil Ferguson was the best.
The memories over the last several years haven't been as good (11-11 in the Canton district since 1999), but we've still had some memorable moments.
Most notably, the win over undefeated and #1 ranked Northwest (had to be in 1997 or 1998) in the first round, and the district semifinal win over Triway in 2004.
I'm sure there are plenty of other games I'm leaving out. We've gotten used to leaving that building after a loss in the past decade....but it will never take the glow off the wonderful performances we've seen there over the years.
Please share your memories in the comments section. I know there are plenty of eyes out there that have seen much more than I have. So let's hear it....and it doesn't necessarily have to be an Orrville-centric memory. If you're landing here as a fan of another school, I'd still love to hear about your memories. I've seen Berlin Hiland play there plenty of times, and I'm sure our friends in Triway purple could write a few stories...ones that Orrville fans may not like.