Venture Hawks make it three straight –
By Mark Carpenter –
The faces may have been different on one bench, but the results were the same as the past two years. Adams County Sheriff Kimmy Rogers made the puzzling decision two years back to challenge the Venture Hawks basketball squad to an annual contest, knowing that his chances for victory were below slim and none.
After suffering losses the first two times that they teams met, the Sheriff decided to re-evaluate his strategy for the 2018 contest. After finding out that his deputies and staff at the Sheriff’s office were no match for the mighty Hawks, Rogers went a different route with this year’s roster, loading up with local basketball coaches, politicians, and businessmen/women. It didn’t matter.
Though the Sheriff’s so-called “Adams County All Stars” did put up a better fight, it was the Hawks who again performed like pros at crunch time and handed the Sheriff his third consecutive loss as a basketball coach, hanging on for the 73-71 triumph.
“I can’t say enough about the performance of the Hawks,” said Sheriff Rogers after another tough defeat. “I don’t know if there is anything out there we can do to even beat the Venture Hawks. Last year we got within three points, this year we got within two, but I just don’t think we can beat them.”
“I’m not going to give up, maybe we just need some more new players next year.”
Another capacity crowd was on hand last Sunday afternoon at West Union High School, all there in anticipation of an exciting afternoon on the hardwood along with the many other activities of the day, organized by Liz Lafferty and her staff at Venture Productions.
Before any basketball action took place, the crowd got to hear from Mr. Johnny Vilardo, who has been dubbed the “Unofficial Mayor of Milford, Ohio” and as a representative of the Special Olympics program, was sporting a gold medal around his neck, earned as the Special Olympics Gold Medalist in Golf. When Vilardo finished, to a standing ovation, the microphone was handed to the very exuberant Maria Sexton, who played and sang the National Anthem in a way that only she can. After emcee Gary McClellan introduced all of the players and cheerleaders, the basketball action began.
Though losers in the end, this new batch of All Stars put up a pretty good fight in the opening 10-minute quarter, though they couldn’t stop the Hawks’ Kenny Nichols and Charlie Gardner. Nichols and Gardner each scored two baskets as the Hawks forged a 14-12 lead after the first quarter.
The fortunes for the All Stars took a complete turn for the worse in the second period, mainly because the “man of the hour” took control. The Hawks’ leading scorer and crowd favorite, the very intense “Dunkin” Darrel Grooms lit it up in the second frame, scoring 18 points from every possible angle, time after time weaving his way through a porous All Star defense. With Gardner adding two more buckets, the Hawks put up 30 points in the second stanza and built a comfortable 44-25 halftime lead.
The intermission brought more entertainment to the assembled crowd, with dance performances by Creative Spark and the award-winning Venture Ignite Competitive Dance Team. As if their basketball talents weren’t enough, “Dunkin” Darrel and his teammate T.J. Liston are part of the Dance Team also. The Adams County Health and Wellness Coalition presented their annul Healthy Hero award to Aaron and Leslie Lockhart of Unchained Fitness, and the halftime festivities concluded with retired OSHP trooper Donnie Edgington speaking about motorcycle safety.
Perhaps the halftime break was good for an exhausted group of All Stars as they began their comeback in the third quarter, behind the offensive firepower of the Moore girls, Barbara and Ashlee, who combined for 12 points. The Hawks’ offense stalled, though they did get a big three-point goal from Brian Carroll,but by the end of the third quarter, and with the help of some extra coaches from the WUHS boys’ staff, the All Stars had closed the gap to 55-51.
As the game came down to the wire, the All Stars managed to secure a tie on a bucket by Commissioner Ty Pell, and after a 6-0 run by the Hawks, the Sheriff’s squad came right back with six of their own, tying the game on a basket by J.R. Kirker, who spent most of his energy in the game defending the dynamic Liston. With the game on the line however, the cream rises to the top, and it was “Dunkin” Darrel who came through in the clutch, driving through the entire All Star defense to score what proved to be the winning basket in a 73-71 triumph for the Hawks.
“I’m not sure if anyone noticed but we put five players on Darrel and we still couldn’t stop him, so how is that the coach’s fault,” said Sheriff Rogers after the game. “Win or lose though, this is always a great day for our community.”
After the well-deserved win, the Hawks were presented with yet another championship trophy, and an opportunity for Liston and teammate Connie Riggs to grab the microphone and talk a little “smack” to the Sheriff and his squad.
As is usually the case, Grooms led the Hawks in scoring with 32 points unofficially. (There was some question of that number at the scorer’s table, but when the points come as fast as Grooms can score them, it’s hard to keep a solid count). The winners also got 10 points from Charlie Gardner and 6 from Chasity Glascock and Kenny Nichols.
In her first outing as a member of the Sheriff’s squad, Ashlee Moore was the leading scorer, racking up an unofficial 18 points, with local attorney barbara Moore adding 10.
On the court, the Hawks were the winners, but off the court, everyone who enjoyed the day’s activities left as winners.
“Celebrating Community and supporting people with disabilities was quite apparent at today’s fund raiser game,” said Lafferty. “It was yet another record crowd and donations exceeded $6,000 for the Adams County Special Olympics and the People First Self-Advocacy group.”