Kent State gives assist COW will cherish
By AARON DORKSEN Daily Record Sports Editor
A few thoughts from the week in sports ...
WOOSTER -- When Kent State basketball coach Geno Ford's longtime friend, Wooster assistant coach Doug Cline, suffered one of the worst tragedies imaginable last February, Ford wanted to do something to help.
So the Golden Flashes' second-year leader offered to use the game that's been so much a part of both of their lives to give a special assist.
The result was a unique exhibition game played Saturday at Timken Gym that Cline said, "was a night my family will cherish forever."
The Golden Flashes defeated the Fighting Scots 76-59 in an exhibition played in front of 1,825 fans. It's believed to be the first time a Div. I team has traveled to a Div. III school's gym since the NCAA went to three divisions in the mid-1970s.
All proceeds from the game will go to the Corey John Cline Fund, in honor of the 3-year-old son of Doug and Lauren Cline, who was killed in an automobile accident last February.
Doug Cline addressed the crowd and teams just prior to the tip-off, saying, "I want to thank Geno Ford for this extremely kind gesture to honor my son, Corey.
"Thanks also to the Wooster community for all your support," he continued. "This fund will benefit (area) children who aren't as fortunate as Corey was."
After the tragic accident occurred, Ford said he contacted Wooster head coach Steve Moore and made the offer for the Flashes to visit Wooster.
"I've been friends with Doug for a long time and certainly felt for his family," Ford said. "Basketball coaching is tough enough on families with the long hours away, then when something awful like that happened ... I just thought, 'I've gotta try to help if I can.'"
The Flashes and Scots weren't even sure if the game would be permitted, though.
"We had to get a special waiver from the NCAA for a Div. I to travel to a smaller division school," Ford said. "They said this is only the second time it's ever been granted. Louisville went to Northern Kentucky, a Div. II, to open their new gym."
The exhibition raised $4,167 from ticket sales and $1,000 more after game officials Chuck Bullock, Ricky Smith and Scott Gooden donated their pay for the night.
There were more than a few moist eyes in the building as Doug Cline, and then Moore, spoke just before the tip-off. The crowd gave a standing ovation twice, the second time when the Kent State players came over one by one and hugged Cline.
For anyone who ever said, "sports is just a game," or "sports aren't that important," they should have been at last night's game. It was crystal clear how a game helped bring out the best of the many people who made last night possible.
"Playing at Kent would have been great, but it's phenomenal to play them here," Moore said. "It's so fitting to have the game in this gym, which little Corey loved so much and spent so much of his young life in. I know the little guy's up there looking down on us tonight."
SOME GREAT BASKETBALL, TOO
-- Wooster, which is a preseason favorite to win an NCAC-record sixth straight championship, actually led the Flashes 21-11 early after a 3-pointer by Nathan Balch and trailed 35-30 at the half.
However, the Flashes broke it open in the second half by dominating the action in the paint, including several rim-rocking slam dunks.
Freshman Jake Mays paced Wooster with 12 points and classmate Josh Claytor was solid, too, with seven points and a team-high eight rebounds. Justin Hallowell led the Scots with 11 points.
Mike McKee netted 12 points and Justin Greene and Frank Henry-Ala added 10 apiece for a Kent State team that Moore said earlier in the week would be the best opponent to ever play in Timken Gym.
"We had a real good start and I think our guys were really motivated to play and compete against them," said Moore, whose team will open the regular season next Sunday at Albion (Mich.). "In the second half, I think it got away from us some. We lost some concentration on contesting shots and had too many turnovers."
Wooster played without injured standout guards Ian Franks (ankle) and Brandon Johnson (knee).
KENT HAS BEEN TO WOOSTER BEFORE
-- Although the exhibition was historic in the modern era, Kent State's basketball team had been to Wooster before.
Scots alum Harry Weckesser e-mailed me this week to make sure legendary coach "Mose" Hole's teams of the 1940s and 50s weren't forgotten.
"Back in the 40's and 50's Kent State was a regular game on Wooster's schedule," said Weckesser, a former Scot and 1951 graduate. "The first game in which I played for The COW was against Kent State. It was in the old gym and we won. ... Even though there were no divisions in college sports back then, there were still the 'big schools' and the 'little schools.' We were obviously the latter, so a win was always a big one.
"There were some great basketball teams that represented The College back then even."