By John Bombatch
It was a moment that will be remembered by many, including this writer.
Tuesday night’s boys high school basketball game between Greater Western Ohio Conference, South Division foes Fairborn and Springboro was a battle that determined which team (or teams) would lay claim to the division title.
And you could sense the tension and excitement in the Springboro High School gymnasium. At least I could. I was trying my best to sit calmly and collectively at the scorer’s table, filling out my play-by-play lists and scoresheet with due diligence, but even my hand was shaking with the excitement of the game.
Here was a Fairborn team that began last week with the seemingly insurmountable task of knocking off the two GWOC South schools that were leading the division at the time — Springboro and Xenia — and they had to do it in consecutive games.
Win both and the Skyhawks would share the divisional crown with the Buccaneers and Panthers. Lose just one of those games and the best Fairborn could expect to do would be to finish third.
After trailing early, Fairborn defeated Springboro by 10 points. They’d defeated Xenia by nine points the previous Friday.
Fairborn’s feat will long be thought of as one of the most exciting regular season finishes in Skyhawks basketball. They battled two equally talented teams in Xenia and Springboro — teams which had beaten Fairborn earlier in the season — and they forged a win both times.
But the moment that I’ll never forget came after the game.
Yes, every rebound, every point, every second mattered in the game. But what Springboro coach Mike Holweger did after the game showed a lot about the man’s character and his level of sportsmanship. And I applaud him for it.
His team had just blown it.
All Springboro had to do was defeat Fairborn at home, a team the Panthers had dealt a 66-60 setback at Baker Memorial Fieldhouse earlier this season, and they couldn’t do it. Springboro hadn’t lost a home game since its season opening loss to Piqua. They’d won six straight games in the Panthers gym.
Had they defeated Fairborn, Springboro would’ve been able to claim the GWOC South title all to itself. They would’ve had just the one two-point road blemish to Xenia on its division record, Xenia would’ve finished second with two losses and Fairborn would’ve wound up third with three losses.
So when Fairborn emerged as the victor, and as the Skyhawks’ amazing student section was going absolutely nuts, it could’ve been easy for Holweger to simply guide his players to the locker room and call it a night, a bad one, but still a night.
But instead, the Springboro coach asked the Fairborn players to remain on the court as he congratulated them during the postgame handshakes. Holweger then grabbed the PA announcer’s microphone and addressed the crowd.
He spoke of his disappointment in losing, but he wanted to make sure to congratulate not only his team but the Xenia Buccaneers and the Fairborn Skyhawks in winning a piece of the GWOC South crown.
He saw Xenia coach Kent Anderson in the crowd and recognized him and his staff and collection of fine players, ones who have now either won outright or shared the GWOC South title two years in a row.
He applauded the considerable effort of Nathan Chivington and the underdog Fairborn Skyhawks, and he thanked everyone for coming out and creating such an incredible and exciting atmosphere.
And he urged the crowd to applaud all three teams for the amazing season they had.
THAT is what competitive sports is all about!
Sure, you want to be the champion. You want to be the top dog, to lay claim to a title all your own. But when you don’t pull off the outright title, it’s perfectly okay to respect and appreciate the abilities and talents of your opponents.
Coach Holweger showed his players and the Fairborn players what it means to lose a game and still remain positive, to still be a good sport, and to appreciate the game and skills of others. His class and sportsmanship will never be forgotten.
Thanks coach. It’s a lesson from which we all can learn.
John Bombatch doesn’t have a dog in the fight. He’s equally proud of all three GWOC South teams for an amazing boys high school basketball season. He can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.