B/R Exclusive: Gatorade REPLAY Rekindles Glory Days for Crusaders and Trojans

Benny VargasAnalyst ISeptember 12, 2010

Photograph by Edward C. Clougherty
Photograph by Edward C. Clougherty

A great sports game doesn't require for there to be 30,000-80,000 fans in the stands.

Millionaire athletes aren't a prerequisite either.

Nor do you need to be playing for the Larry O'Brien Trophy, Stanley Cup, or any other prize with a familiar name.

That's the best thing about sports. It's beautiful in its simplicity. You don't need guys whose jerseys are worn across the globe. You just need two teams willing to compete and give it their all.

An incredibly competitive and thrilling match took place Friday night in Chicago, Illinois, and you're never going to see it on SportsCenter or ESPN Classic. Still, that doesn't take away from the sporting spectacle that transpired.

Gatorade put together an event that many of the 2,380 in attendance will be talking about for years to come.

REPLAY 3, between the Brother Rice Crusaders and the Bloom Township Blazing Trojans, seemed more like an NBA playoff game than an exhibition match of two squads filled with guys whose playing days had ended a decade ago.

From the tip-off, those of us on hand knew we were going to be treated to some hardwood magic. Both teams came out on fire hitting the first four shots that were taken.

The first half belonged to Brother Rice, which took a 17-point lead at one point only to see Bloom cut it down to four thanks to some gritty defense and team hustle.

The Crusaders then built the lead back up to 10, as the teams went into the locker room at halftime with a 54-44 score.

It appeared as if Brother Rice's long range sharp shooting would be too much for Bloom to keep up with. Then the third quarter began and the Trojans came out with guns blazing.

Led by Antonio Cool's scoring burst, the Trojans dominated the third period and stormed back into the lead.

Seems that the halftime lineup adjustments by coaches Gary Meyer and Dwyane Wade were exactly what Bloom needed. They outscored Brother Rice 30-15 and managed to turn a 10-point deficit into a five point lead.

This set up an exciting back and forth final ten minutes.

Brother Rice's Ray Jendra ignited a fourth quarter scoring barrage that would put the Crusaders back in front. Jendra went 4-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 from the charity stripe in the final period.

With 33 seconds left in the game Brother Rice held a two point lead.

After ten years and 71 minutes of basketball, these two rivals were still tied on the score board.

It looked as though this one would end up being decided on a buzzer beater just like it had a decade earlier. Alas this time the ending wouldn't be quite as dramatic, though it was much more enjoyable for both teams and their fans.

After point guard Vince Greene hit a pair of late free throws, the 99-93 victory had been sealed and with it a redemption that should ease the pain that Brother Rice players carried ever since their memorable match in 2000.

Sidney Holmes who finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds, including seven important boards in the fourth quarter, was named the games MVP. His presence in the paint made a huge difference through out the game, especially in the final ten minutes.

There were other heroes for Brother Rice as well. Mark Telander in particular was very productive for the Crusaders. He hit several big three point shots and finished with 17 points to go along with six boards. Greene contributed 14 points six assists and two steals. Jendra ended up with 18 points to go along with six boards. John Sexton added nine points as well.

Bloom was led by Joe Chapman and his game high 25 points. Chapman had been a two time All State Selection and played at Marquette University. He now plays in Europe for the Newcastle Eagles. 

The other main Bloom scorer was Cool who delivered 24 points in just 24 minutes of action. Devon Green tallied 11 points and five boards. Aaron Austin had nine points and six blocks. While Phillip Alexander finished with eight points and ten rebounds for the Blazing Trojans.

Brother Rice coach Pat Richardson said "for our guys to be up and then get down I thought we showed a lot of character but the reason we lost the lead is that Bloom is just a really good team."

As soon as the final buzzer went off  Brother Rice fans stormed the court. Then both teams met up for the trophy presentation. After honorary Commissioner Carlos Boozer handed the award the place turned into a virtual love fest as players from both teams were seen embracing one another along with family members and friends.

This article can never capture just how energetic that crowd was from start to finish.

Fans from both teams were cheering every basket, rebound, and steal. The Brother Rice student section was reminiscent of the Cameron Crazies at Duke. While Bloom fans came to life in the second half as their teams rally caused them to erupt in excitement

Nor will this article ever accurately describe the energy that was pulsating inside the tiny St. Xavier University arena that evening.

The vibe was so all-consuming that even NBA "Super Stars" Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard could be seen pounding on the court, screaming for defense and acting as though this game meant as much to them as it did for the original teams, coaches, families, friends and fans.

Both Wade and Howard even came close to getting called for technical fouls on separate occasions.

Wade said "it's basketball, and I'm a fan of the game. It was a very good game that went back and forth and I was very into it."

Wade and Howard will have their share of exciting games when the NBA season tips off in late October but this stage and spot light was reserved for two teams reconstituted ten years after most had hung up their playing sneakers.

Despite that the effort they put forth proved that the competitive spirit of an athlete never dies. You may get a little slower and can't jump as high but you still have that inner determination to win.

The players were jumping and diving for every loose ball. There was some pushing and shoving as bodies were hitting the floor all over the court.

This may have very well been one of the most competitive games that will occur this year in any sport and it was a game waged by a bunch of every day guys, whose daily walks now go closer to the parquet of a crib rather than a court.

For this Gatorade and their REPLAY series should be applauded.

Gatorade's vision and efforts put together an instant classic. The Gatorade Sports Institute staff accomplished wonder by getting these guys into playing shape during an eight week training and nutrition program.

Dwight Howard said "The guys were really good, I was happy to see that after eight weeks of training the guys played their hardest and let everything out tonight. It was a great [game] to see."

The game just like the first contest in 2000 could have gone either way.

Bloom may have held off playing their best players a little too much in the first half and that may have contributed to their inability to win this contest.

Coach Meyer said "Because these [men] had gone through two months of intensive training, as a staff we made a decision that everyone was going to play in the first half and get quality minutes. Looking back in retrospect we probably fell a little too far behind.

"At halftime we decided to go with the guys that we trusted were in shape and could play the best for us. If you look at the score sheet for the second half we won it but were too far behind."

Despite Wade trying to run off with the championship trophy, this game wasn't all about who won and lost. It was about a chance to relive the glory days of many nine to five guys who had long since given up on their playing careers.

Telander summed it up best in the post-game conference, saying "basically just being able to comeback together with our teammates and reunite with them and our coaching staff was great."

"We were here with all our family and friends just to experience this. That's what this whole thing is [about]. Win or lose both teams played an unbelievable game and this atmosphere; we could have never ever guessed that we'd be a part of something like this. Even now we're sitting up here with two of the best players in the NBA. This is like a dream."

Cheers to Gatorade and their REPLAY series for delivering the goods in a game that any sports enthusiast would have loved to either be a part of or witness.

In November, the one-hour documentary Gatorade REPLAY 3: Bloom vs. Brother Rice will air nationally on FOX Sports Net.

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