Still Hoopin' It After All These Years
Stan Hudy, Community News 01/10/2008
Tom Clinton (1970's) and Joe Yattaw (1980's) tip-off in the first annual Waterford basketball alumni game.
WATERFORD - The sounds were the same as they were years ago inside the Waterford-Halfmoon gymnasium, the basketball bouncing off the basketball backboard, the squeak of sneakers from its quick, cutting players along with the creaks and groans coming from the floor.
The difference this Monday night was that the creaks came more from aging knees and joints and the groans came from the former Fordian basketball stars coming together for the first annual Waterford-Halfmoon Alumni basketball tournament.
The event, created as a fund-raiser for the Fordian varsity baseball team, came about in just a few short weeks under the tutelage of its baseball coach, Bob Jesmain. "I thought it was a good fundraiser and decided to give it a shot," Jesmain said. "We only got board approval a month and a-half ago, but I've got a good group of parents to support us."
The event gathered momentum quickly and more than 30 former Waterford-Halfmoon players paid $20 to participate in the event, bringing together players from the past five decades. Fordian star Joe Yattaw (Waterford '81) helped engineer the evening's format and round up support. Each game utilized a 15 minute, running clock and trips to the foul line were awarded only for shooting fouls.
"Bob (Jesmain) called me and asked if I could get 20 to 30 guys to play," Yattaw said. "My brother and I (Paul) know everyone in town and he's the star." Joe Yattaw was surprised by the turnout for the first-time event at the high school. "I thought we might get 20 people to watch," Yattaw said. "I thought it would be mom and some other moms, but we had about 250 people here tonight."
The evening also gave Joe Yattaw the opportunity to show off his shooting touch for his 1980's squad that swept its way to the first-ever championship. "I played a little in college, but that was before the 3-point line," Yattaw said. "My goal was to just shoot three's until I made one. I ended up with four." Despite their age, the 1980's squad may have been considered stacked with two 1,000-point high school scorers in Matt Moore, Paul Yattaw and Joe Yattaw with 899 points in his own high school career.
The high-scoring trio still had its share of challenges on the court. "I played in a men's league until I was 32," Matt Moore said. "It's been eight years since I played competitive basketball. I felt good great early, hitting three threes, but then my muscles and bones wouldn't let me move as much."
The inaugural event fulfilled everyone's plans. "The best part was to see all the faces you haven't seen in years," Paul Yattaw said. "It was good to see that no one was trying to kill anyone, everyone kept it in the proper perspective." The event was set up as a four-game round robin with the best records facing off in the championship game. Experience prevailed over youth Monday night as the 2000 squad lost to the 1990s squad, 17-12 and the 1980s team 21-12 before falling to the 1970s unit, 16-11, in the consolation final.
"Our defense was bad," 2006 Waterford-Halfmoon graduate Harry Martel said. "Mr. Messier's three's were killing us. I asked him if his back was hurting from carrying his team." Martel was quick to help out his alma mater and its varsity baseball squad.
"Coach Jesmain called us and told us he was trying to raise some money for their spring trip," Martel said. "We play here Monday and Wednesday nights, so we were happy to help out with this."
Harry Ferguson (Waterford '69) played on the 1970s team as the lone representative of an earlier time for the Fordians. "Waterford has had a great program here for years," Ferguson said. "I wanted to come and put a face with all the names I've read about over the years." The oldest competitor held his own on the court, often seen driving the lane for a lay-up, dishing off to a teammate, or facing the occasional blocked shot. "In the middle of the first game I had parts of my body set that I didn't know I had," Ferguson said. "We held our own in the last game (16-11 consolation win over the 2000s). I think we tired them out."
While the youngster, Martel, plans on returning for redemption, Ferguson plans on a full squad to represent his decade next year. "I'd like to get more of my class and classmates here next year," Ferguson said. "We're all slowing down, but having a nice showing of all the 60s classes would be nice."
At the end of Monday night's festivities, the 1980s squad had a reason to smile, knocking off the 1970's squad, 31-14 in the first round, dropping the 2000s team, 21-12 and outlasting the 1990s unit, 15-12 in the championship game. "It felt good to take it to the younger guys," Paul Yattaw said. "I guess that competitiveness doesn't go away. My back is seizing a little bit, but I can walk out with a smile."
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