If you had made me guess which of my friends would have been most likely to join me for a game during the 800 Games Project, my died-in-the-wool Ohio State Buckeye fan of a co-worker probably would have been very low on my list of guesses.
But there I was on Saturday, sitting in the stands at Bender Arena with my good friend Nate, who tends bar at the restaurant where I worked. It actually makes sense in hindsight. Nate is a native of Toledo, Ohio, and his father lived next door to the family of Phil Beans, the starting center for the Holy Cross Crusaders.
Naturally, Nate wanted to be able to have a chance to see Phil play live and in person, and the only real opportunity he was going to get was for Holy Cross' trip to the District to visit American. Unsurprisingly, I was more than happy to make the trip with Nate for the game.
So there we were, a server and a bartender taking a Saturday off from work to watch Patriot League basketball. A note to those who haven't worked in the service industry before: if we're taking off work on a Saturday to do something else, whatever else it is we're doing is probably pretty damned important. It actually ended up being more important than I had previously imagined -- the Sunday after the game was my last shift at this particular restaurant (something I didn't realize would be the case when we bought the tickets), meaning Saturday's game was going to be the last chance I'll probably have to see one of my best friends for a little while.
Admittedly, it was a little weird settling in and preparing to root for Holy Cross, given that I'd been pulling for American on the couple of other occasions when I'd seen the Eagles this season. But being seated in a Holy Cross section and seeing Nate's reactions to Phil's play made it a lot easier.
At first, I thought we would be in for a bit of a lousy game. Holy Cross couldn't hit anything from the field in the first half, while American couldn't seem to miss. The Eagles led by as much as 18 in the first half; for the Crusaders to only be down 12 at the half almost felt like a victory given the circumstances.
It looked at one point like Holy Cross would maybe be able to steal a victory, as the Crusaders found their shooting stroke came back to take a one-point lead with 9:22 to go in the game. But the go-ahead jumper would be the last field goal Holy Cross would make the rest of the way, and American pulled away for a 67-54 win.
As for the man of the hour, Phil Beans had one of his best statistical games of the season Saturday, finishing with 11 points and 9 rebounds, one board shy of a double-double. I'm not so naive as to think Nate's presence had anything to do with that, but it's certainly a happy coincidence.
Heading out of Bender Arena, I ask Nate what it was like to see Phil out there on the court, playing Division I basketball. It was weird, he tells me. After all, Nate used to play HORSE with the guy in his backyard in Toledo, and now here he is on a basketball scholarship in the Patriot League. You can tell Nate has a sincere appreciation for what he just witnessed; I'm just glad I was there to see it with him.
at AMERICAN 67, HOLY CROSS 54 01/14/2012
HOLY CROSS 8-9 (2-1) -- P. Jackson 6-12 1-2 18; J. Burrell 4-8 0-0 9; D. Brown 3-10 8-9 14; R. Evans 2-8 1-2 6; D. Dudzinski 0-7 4-4 4; P. Beans 2-7 5-8 11; M. Cavataio 3-7 2-2 8; J. Stevens 1-2 0-0 2; M. Miller 0-0 0-0 0; D. Goens 0-0 0-0 0; T. Abt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-49 20-25 54. AMERICAN 11-7 (2-1) -- C. Hinkle 4-10 9-10 17; D. Munoz 5-7 4-4 14; J. Schoof 2-6 0-0 5; S. McCormack 4-5 0-0 8; T. Wroblicky 3-4 0-1 6; T. Brewer 3-8 0-0 7; R. Grafft 2-3 1-1 5; D. Fisher 0-1 1-2 1; B. Jolivette 0-1 2-2 2; W. Simon II 0-1 0-0 0; K. Kager 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-48 17-20 67.
Three-point goals: HC 4-17 (M. Cavataio 0-1; D. Brown 0-2; R. Evans 1-2; P. Beans 2-6; D. Dudzinski 0-4; J. Burrell 1-2), AMER 2-13 (T. Brewer 1-3; C. Hinkle 0-2; W. Simon 0-1; D. Munoz 0-2; J. Schoof 1-5); Rebounds: HC 26 (P. Beans 9), AMER 32 (C. Hinkle 10); Assists: HC 4 (M. Cavataio 2), AMER 14 (C. Hinkle 5); Total Fouls -- HC 20, AMER 17; Fouled Out: HC-None; AMER-None.