PRINCETON — Fran Robbins sat on the bleachers in Prouty Gym behind the home bench, just as she did years ago, watching her sons play for the Princeton Tigers.
Half of her boys made it back to play in Saturday’s first PHS alumni basketball game, including Tom (class of 1979), Scott (1983) and Doug (1985).
“This was fun,” she said, hoping next year that son Tony (1979), Jeff (1987) and Jimmy (1991) can join them.
PHS athletic director Jesse Brandt divided the alumni into two games, the first featuring PHS alums 35 and older and the second for those 35 and younger.
About the first game, Scott Robbins, class of 1983, said, “we didn’t run much, but that was kind of the gameplan.”
Donny Smucker had the honors of being the oldest player suiting up, calling himself a “young 60” just days before turning 61. He’s a 1971 graduate of Tiskilwa High School, which annexed into Princeton in 1995-1996. As a junior his Tiskilwa team reached the regional finals against LaSalle-Peru in the old one-class system.
“I like playing against the younger guys,” said Smucker, who plays once a week in a half-court league on Sunday afternoons in Rock Falls.
Chad Hamel, a three-year starting point guard for Roger Lowe’s Tigers from 1988-90, was the youngest of the players in the first game. He showed he’s still got some game, leading the Blue team to a 52-42 victory.
“I guess I did OK. My boy said I played pretty good out there,” said the father of three.
His wife, the former Nicki Lange, said she found herself wanting to perform some of her old cheers from her cheerleading days.
There was a lot more get up and go in the nightcap, which featured players graduating from the turn of the century. Nathan Cook was the oldest from the class of 2000 with 2012 grad Jacob Fisher the youngest.
This game featured some interesting sibling matchups between the Fisher and Vrana brothers.
Scott Vrana (2006) was hot early for the White team, knocking down several three-point shots in the row. He said on his last he was just wanting to shoot it as high as he could so his not-so small little brother, 6-7, Ryne, “didn’t knock it into the bleachers.”
Ryne Vrana (2010) went on to play at Sauk Valley and the past two years has been tearing up intramurals at ISU. He added some dunk shots as did former teammate Garrett Youngren (2009), now a teacher and coach at Peoria Heights High School, who tested out the Prouty Gym backboards and rims with some powerful slams.
While Jacob Fisher gave the nod to his brother on the court, Jon Fisher (2009) said his little brother did “some things that made me say, ‘Wow.’”
Brandt, who officiated the games along with sophomore coach Michael Fredericks, said he expected the competition too get pretty intense, especially in the late going. He matched the players from the class of 2009 (Youngren, Jon Fisher, Daniel Murray and Brandon Dressler) on the White team who were seniors on his 2009 sectional championship team the against the class of 2010 (Ryne Vrana, Brik Wedekind and Scott Roseberg), who were juniors.
“Those two classes went at it pretty good in practice,” said Brandt, who utilized a 5-for-5 hockey line platoon for his 2009 squad which beat Peoria Manual 71-65 for the sectional championship.
The game did stay intense and close to the end with the White team prevailing 94-90.
As former teammates, hugs went around after the final horn sounded. Most of the players attended a postgame celebration sponsored by the PHS Boosters to rehash the game and talk about the good old days.
Everyone was making plans to play again next year.
“This was a lot of fun. I hope we do it next year,” said Dave Enbom (Class of ‘83).
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