Their performance finally woke up the moribund gloom of the tournament’s first day. Their following gave indication that championship basketball was relevant. The John Glenn ‘Muskies’ stole the first day’s show.
Columbus – John Glenn did the OHSAA state tournament a huge favor on Thursday evening.
No, not the astronaut John Glenn, the first man to orbit the earth in space.
But John Glenn High School’s Division II basketball team that delivered a breath of fresh air to an otherwise nondescript first day of the state tournament…and put 11,800 butts in the seats of Value City Arena to see it.
The ‘Muskies’, as they’re called, played to the essence of basketball. They “shot” the ball, and they shot it well. They scored 84 points, shot 48% from the floor (28-58), and thrilled the onlookers by hitting 11 of 22 from behind the three-point arc. Making their first state tournament appearance ever, they blew out a good Bay Village team, likewise making its first trip to Columbus, 84-56.
The day’s first three games (Division III and II) drew an average of 8,000 fans, and many left with no particular impression of what they’d seen. In contrast, EVERYONE left talking about John Glenn and their remarkable ability to play basketball the way basketball was meant to be played!
It was refreshing to watch, something different from the average high school offense of point guards charging down the lane, barreling head-on into a defender, or tossing the ball to an open teammate for a shot that may or may not go in. No, when John Glenn’s Matt Weir shot the ball it didn’t take long for people to understand…that IT WAS going in.
Weir scored 26 points, connected on 4 of 5 three-pointers, and finished the game shooting 57% from the floor. He wasn’t alone. Teammate Drew Rackley scored 22. Tanner Slack, a rail-thin 6’4″ senior scored 14, and Austin Blatt added 11.
It was refreshing, too, for the fact of a group of kids from the country, from Muskingum County, who grew up together, came together, and won 26 games their senior season. Rackley, Weir, Slack and Blatt are all finished after Saturday’s final.
Think of them in terms of a modern-day Hoosiers, if you will, except there’s obviously no rule from Gene Hackman (the coach of Hickory High School in the movie) about making seven passes before anyone attempts a shot. No, apparently Greg Woodard, the John Glenn coach, plays by the mantra of “if it’s there, take it.”
Refreshing to see kids play with the confidence of pulling up on the fast break and shooting a jump shot instead of driving to the rim…because they could.
Refreshing to see kids who obviously have practiced, and practiced, and practiced their trade for thousands of hours…committed to basketball and the essence of the game; which as former Piqua coach Dave Zeller used to describe as, “put the thing in the ring.”
Refreshing for the fact of no stated hardships that accompany the ascension of so many inner-city standouts at the average tournament. There were no dunks, there was no chest-thumping. Jah Blevins, a sophomore, was the only player with a tattoo.
It was basketball the way you remember it; for the reason you once paid 50 cents to watch your local team and your own “Jimmy Chitwood” (the star shooter from Hoosiers) put the thing in the ring.
I’m telling you…the John Glenn kids lifted the spirit of the tournament Thursday, and did the OHSAA a huge favor; because those 11,800 are going to come back for Saturday’s Div. II final against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary…and they’re gonna’ bring a few with them.
And just for added drama, St. Vincent-St. Mary lost to John Glenn (the team, not the astronaut) back in January, 54-51. The rematch will be the gem of the tournament.
And it’s gonna’ draw the biggest crowd. Far, far more…than 8,000!