Many Redmen get in the act in final home victory
Wilson beat Chaney, 52-46, before a full house and many alumni.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Let's pretend it's the year 2025 and two Woodrow Wilson alumni are walking up Gibson Street, remembering their former high school that no longer stands and recalling their final basketball game in their old gym.
"Hey, do you remember the last game we played at our home gym on Feb. 16, 2007, against Chaney?" one former Redman basketball player, now in his mid-30s, asks the other.
"Sure, who could forget it?" answered his former teammate.
"We jumped to a 16-1 lead in the first period and then, after Chaney rallied to take the lead, we managed to pull away from them down the stretch for a 52-46 victory."
"Well, do you remember who sparked us after Chaney took a 43-42 lead?"
"Sure, it was Lamar McQueen, remember? He scored the last six points of the game, the final four on free throws, to give us the win."
"Yes," agreed the other. "But don't forget William Johnson. He had two straight goals to give us a 46-43 lead. And then do you remember the key play of the game that followed? It was a defensive play by Justin Bryant. He blocked a Chaney shot and then another Redman fired a long pass downcourt on a fast break to McQueen for a score that made it 48-43 to virtually clinch the win."
"Yes, I remember now. Boy, what a game. What a great final home game for our high school and what a great game played by Chaney."
Then the other pointed out, sadly: "But then later that year, the school, was razed and half of our Redmen went to Chaney and then other half to East, and the Wilson Redman basketball team existed no more."
Back to Feb. 16
Now let's pretend we're back to that very cold night of Feb. 16, 2007, and that big, final Wilson-Chaney game before a full house and many alumni has just ended.
"[McQueen] played a strong game down the stretch and took the game in his own hands," said a happy Wilson coach Mark Cherol, who credited McQueen's final four foul shots for sealing the win. "We made our free throws down the stretch and that was very important. We lost some games missing free throws down the stretch."
Cherol called McQueen "one of our better foul shooters but he has been missing some lately."
McQueen and William Johnson each finished with 14 points while Keith Tubbs had 13 to lead Wilson. Tubbs and McQueen each had two 3-point goals.
Cherol also praised Johnson for a strong showing despite not feeling well.
"Johnson has been kind of ill. I don't think he was 100 percent. He is a good player," said Cherol, who is planning to apply for the East coaching job next season after Wilson is closed.
Chaney makes a comeback
After Chaney plunged into a 16-1 hole, Taon Belcher and Evan Busch began to find the net and lifted the Cowboys back into contention.
Belcher had six points and Busch five as Chaney cut Wilson's lead to 18-14 late in the second quarter, and then Busch added 10 points in the third period to spark the Cowboys to a 33-32 lead entering the final quarter.
Then Busch added five more points, including a goal and foul shot that gave Chaney its final lead, 43-42.
Busch finished with a game-high 20 points while the versatile Belcher added had 12 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals. Deandre Brooks contributed eight points.
Coach Bernard Bolha of Chaney was disappointed in the loss but was happy for Cherol and Wilson.
"Wilson stepped it up at the end and although we wanted to win, I'm happy for Mark Cherol. He was a coach at Wilson when I was a player at Chaney. He is a real class act. There is only one word to describe Mark: classy. I hope he coaches at East and I'm looking forward to some more matchups against him."
Free throws told tale
Bolha said the difference in the game was that, "Wilson got some key possessions at the points. They got to the line and made free throws." But, "There were a lot of key plays. The game had its ups and downs."
Bolha lauded Belcher's performance. "Belcher is our inside guy. The guys weren't getting him the ball early in the game. But they were able to get him the ball [later in the game]."
One of the most famous Wilson basketball persons in the alumni-packed audience was Dick Franko, a former basketball coach at the school when the team was called the Presidents.
Franko presided over an honorary tipoff, remembered how it used to be coaching the Presidents, then happily watched as Wilson's home basketball history ended with a win.