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A run of 21 as Bucks celebrate a Training Center win along with the community

Charlie Wilkins prepares to get off a shot past the stellar defense of Holmes County Juvenile Judge Tom Lee. Wilkins and the Holmes County Bucks made it 21 straight wins over the Holmes County Community All-Stars in a game that has taken on meaning that goes far beyond the hardwood.

Dave Mast

Twenty-one times the Holmes County All-Stars have tried to defeat the Holmes County Training Center Bucks in the year-end charity basketball game. Twenty-one years the All-Stars have gone home on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

On March 21 at West Holmes High School in the Dungeon, game 21 came to pass, and the All-Stars again were denied victory as the Bucks soared to a huge early lead and made it stand up in a 91-70 victory that was one of the more lopsided Bucks wins in recent memory.

“For 21 years straight I have been part of this debacle,” long-time All-Star and former Holmes County Training Center board member Sam Steimel said with a laugh. “We just can’t seem to beat the Bucks, no matter what we do. But to me, while we have the Ohio State Buckeyes versus Michigan Wolverines rivalry in football, this is Holmes County’s rivalry game. I look forward to this game all year, and I know that a lot of other people do too, including the Bucks and the All-Stars. This is one of the most fantastic nights of playing ball and creating community togetherness that you’ll ever find.”

For awhile in the contest it appeared as though the Bucks were going to do something they had never done before in the game. No, it was not lose a game to the All-Stars, but rather eclipse the century mark.

“I was prepared to pull us out on offense and stall for the final two minutes to avoid that happening,” long-time All-Stars coach Mark Lonsinger said. “It’s embarrassing enough to get crushed the way we did.”

The All-Stars couldn’t contain Dayne Morrison, who kept dancing down the lane for points, recording a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Nor could they stop Blake Day, who entered the game in the first quarter and promptly dropped a quick seven points on the All-Stars to build a double-digit lead.

However, the biggest night belonged to big Jim Miller, who patrolled the paint and even added a 3-pointer from the corner as part of his game-high 18 points. Levi Hershberger got loose for eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to keep the All-Stars at bay. Hunter Barnett added seven, and Nathan Kline scored six to help the Bucks keep their winning streak intact.

With a very pro-Bucks audience spurring them on, the Bucks were unstoppable. In addition the West Holmes cheerleaders also were on hand to help cheer on the Bucks along with Bucky, the team’s mascot, who actually got into the game and scored a hoop in the second quarter.

The All-Stars were paced by Holmes County Park District director Jen Halverson and Juvenile Judge Tom Lee, both of whom scored eight. Patrick Shriver of Holmesville Electric and Dale Brown of Chuck Nicholson Auto SuperStore pitched in with seven apiece. With nearly two-dozen All-Stars volunteering as the sacrificial lambs for the All-Stars, it was easy to see how important this game is for them.

While the game was fun and entertaining, the final score took a back seat to the big picture of creating an environment that helps build the bridge between the community and integrating the HCTC clients into the community.

Each year the Holmes County Developmental Disabilities board comes up with a new theme, and this year’s is “Always There.”

Ron Hay, who was employed at the Holmes County Training Center for years and coached the Bucks during much of that time, officiated the game. He said having that special connection between the center, Lynn Hope Industries and the community is of the utmost importance.

“That slogan refers to adults and children with disabilities always being there for us, and it’s kind of neat that we can celebrate with them as a community,” Hay said.

He also said Ohio Developmental Disabilities is celebrating its 50th year, and although things continually change, one constant has been the incredible support the center and its clients have received from the community. As an outreach experience for the HCTC members, the Bucks versus All-Stars game is a venue that allows everyone to share in an evening of fun competition that is designed to celebrate the achievements and accomplishments that both the Bucks and the Training Center have achieved.

“The big thing is that all of these folks with disabilities who are participating here tonight deserve and belong in our community, and it is awesome to see this many people come out here and support them.”

For all of the All-Stars, winning and losing are not as important as giving the Bucks their time to shine. The event also is a tremendous time of fellowship and camaraderie. A great example was when All-Star and crowd favorite Ty Meyer took a tumble as he split two Bucks defenders. In an instant Bucks guard Joe Duran was there to stick out a hand and help Meyer to his feet.

“This is a special night, and you can see it in the faces of the crowd, in the Bucks and the All-Stars,” Steimel said, adding with a chuckle, “there is no agony of defeat in the game, and that makes it special. And every year this crowd seems to continue to grow. It’s a little depressing that nobody ever cheers for the All-Stars, but we know everyone’s hearts are in the right place because the Training Center means so much to our community.”

For a half-century of work in the developmental disabilities community, Holmes County has created one of the finest facilities in the state of Ohio, and with the caring staff, board and many supporters, the HCTC plays a key role of service to the many clients.

Published: March 27, 2017
New Article ID: 2017703279969