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Column: An All-Star sized thank you

Column: An All-Star sized thank you


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor


After a few days to reflect on the first Portage Sports High School Basketball All-Star games, I felt it was important to revisit the night to address a few things that helped turn the night into success.

It was an amazing night, the stars were shining bright and I appreciate how much support the event received from everyone.

• It was amazing to see so many people turn out to watch the games. Thank you to everyone that attended. It was great to have you!
• Thank you to everyone at Ravenna High School that helped arrange for the games to be played. From the first phone call I made to athletic director Jim Lunardi, who immediately supported the idea, to working with Ravenna athletic secretary Megan Greene to help connect all of the logistical dots to get it on the calendar. The school’s custodial staff was very helpful throughout the setup process. The booster club volunteered to open the concession stand and they were amazing. Ravenna turned out to be a beautiful host site for the first Portage Sports All-Star games. Thank you!
• Thank you to all of the volunteers that stepped forward to help in various ways. Marty and Jane Hill worked the ticket table. Jack Hugg was the voice of the night as the public address announcer. Joe Siciliano, Angela Gibson and CJ Pierce were the bookkeeper and scoreboard operators, respectively. All of these jobs were critical to keeping the night moving smoothly and all of them did a tremendous job.
• Thank you to game officials James Dod, Jimmy Gooden and Rick Macer. They were true professionals in both games, but also were not afraid to smile and have a little bit of fun, too. They called clean games and kept the games about the kids and the spotlights they deserved. They were brilliant and kept the games moving.
• And how about the James A. Garfield Double-G Brass Machine Pep Band?! They were spectacular, just as I anticipated they would be. When I first began plans for the games, my thought was to put someone in charge of the music and then approve a playlist for the night. Then, I realized how boring that idea was, and I quickly shifted my thoughts to securing a high school pep band to fill the space and set an atmospheric tone. The G-Men did that — and then some! An interesting fact about the pep band is that they are completely student run and are led by senior Landen Gedeon. Ben Coll serves as the co-advisor and attended the games with the pep band, while the school’s band director is Theo Cebulla. There were all-star basketball players in the games, but there was no denying that the pep band was filled with their own set of all-stars!
• The games were very entertaining to watch and both had thrilling finishes. In the girls game, Team South defeated Team North 56-53. In the boys game, Team South beat Team North 85-84. Both games came down to the final possessions. The players in both games competed very hard and played together that kept the ball moving instead of turning things into a one-on-one showcase, especially in the girls game, which featured some very unselfish play. None of the teams connected in the weeks leading up to the event for any practices. They simply showed up, warmed up and started to play. Basketball, though, has its own language and once they standouts were on the court together, that language was put into action.
• Thank you to the coaches of the games. For the girls game, Rootstown’s Joe Leonard coached Team South and Carl Singer coached Team North. For the boys game, Mogadore’s Russ Swartz coached Team South and Nick Marcini coached Team North. As expected, all four were great with their group and kept things light, while encouraging good play. It was a night for the spotlight to be on the kids and all four coaches kept that true. They are four of the county’s best coaches and that was on display on Wednesday, too.
• The feedback from all angles was overwhelmingly positive, including this comment from Portage Sports supporter Carla McIntyre: “What an amazing evening! To bring together all this talent was nothing short of brilliant! The competition, the talent, the pride, the energy, the love of the sport, that all of these athletes represent— Was so inspiring! Thank you for this event! Truly, an amazing evening and perfect way to end the basketball season!”
• Ideas for next year’s basketball All-Star games are already noted, including a tremendous idea from Ravenna cheer coach Samantha Fincham to include cheerleaders as part of next year’s invitations. I would also like to explore the idea of a Portage Sports High School Football All-Star Game.
• Lastly, a special thank you to my family for helping support the event. From the help and support of my wife and three daughters, as well as my parents and grandparents, for being there to help with any last-minute items and to simply support me and Portage Sports. Thank you!

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