Classic moves: Fun and trick plays the name of the game at CASA Senior Classic

You never know what you’re going to get with the annual CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Senior Basketball Classic.

Thursday was a prime example.

In between a showcase of basketball put on by the seniors of Warren and Forest county schools, you had highlight reel dunks, cartwheels drawn up into inbounds plays, and a referee score her 1,000th career high school point.

Yes, that’s right.

Not even close to what you would call a conventional night of basketball. But that was more than fine with the players, coaches and fans in attendance because, at the CASA Classic, “fun” is the word of the night.

The 8th annual edition of the event began with girls action featuring The Volunteers – made up of Sheffield’s Ashley Davidson, Abby Labesky and Hannah Vile and Warren’s Jaimie Eaton and Taylor Mineweaser – taking on The Attorneys – featuring Youngsville’s Katelyn Maille, Eisenhower’s Chelsea Parmeter, Alyssa Peterson and Halie VanOrd, West Forest’s Richele Botzer and Tidioute’s Aubrey Sonney.

After the Honorable Judge Maureen Skerda delivered the opening tip, the Volunteers jumped out to a big lead in the contest. It wasn’t quite as big as last year’s 22-0 run to open the game, but the lead was a comfortable 21-2 edge after the opening quarter.

The lead remained near 20 points until halftime where the gymnasts from the Warren County YMCA Powerhouse gymnastics team performed a routine.

In the third quarter, Volunteers team members Eaton, Davidson and Mineweaser paid homage to those gymnasts by performing cartwheels of their own during an inbounds play. The method did little to distract the opposition as the inbounds pass was stolen and Eaton admitted after the game that her tumbling skills are nowhere near her basketball skills.

“I would say my cartwheel was below par at best,” said Eaton. “I’m not a gymnast, but I would like to say that my cartwheel was the best out of the three of us who did them.”

The Attorneys would go on to win the contest, 46-29, providing one last victory for the senior members of Warren and Sheffield’s girls basketball teams. Winning coach Jeff Labesky also savored his first CASA coaching victory.

“It was nice to coach my daughter (Abby) one last time and it was a very enjoyable experience,” said Labesky. “It was good to see the girls come together so quickly. Most importantly, it looked like everybody had a lot of fun for a great cause.”

The girls game was followed by the boys contest between The Judges and The Advocates. The Judges’ roster featured Eisenhower’s Aaron Lundmark, Colin Shine and Ryan Williams, Youngsville’s Coll Dininny, A.J. Gustafson, Broc Horn, Austin Norman, Corey Jones and Dan McLaughlin and Warren County Christian School’s Carson Moore. The Advocates had Warren’s Jack Daley, Mark Davis, Andrew Hammersley, Austin Jerman, Matt Sandberg and Grayson Foley and Sheffield’s Tyler Fitzgerald, Dylan McNeal, Dylan Reynolds, Brendan Winslow and Shequan Wright.

After the Honorable Judge Greg Hammond tossed up the tip, the biggest competition of the night wasn’t even basketball. Rather, it was who was sporting the most awe inspiring look. Eisenhower’s Shine had his shorts hiked up nearly to his pectorals a la Steve Urkel of Family Matters fame and Horn and Daley’s “zubaz” themed shorts could have come with a warning sign about a possible onset of dizziness.

On the court, Norman stole the show early, knocking down four first-half three-pointers to keep his Judges team close. Norman said after the game that he enjoyed his CASA Classic experience.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Norman. “It was nice to play another game with my best friends from Youngsville.”

The Judges actually held an 18-15 lead after the first quarter, although the game was nearly tied when Foley – who joined the Advocates’ roster after the opening tipoff – came up just short on a halfcourt shot at the buzzer.

While the Judges boasted control of the opening stanza, the rest of the game would belong to the Advocates who would score 90 points over the final three quarters of a 105-68 victory.

The first dunk of the night came in the third quarter when Davis threw down a two-handed jam that brought the crowd to its feet. On the next trip down the floor, Davis delivered arguably the best assist of the night.

After dribbling into the lane, Davis found a wide open Lisa Ruhlman – the current Warren girls basketball coach who was donning the referee’s shirt on Thursday – in the corner for a spot up three-pointer. Ruhlman calmly connected from deep, adding to the Advocates’ growing lead.

After the game, Ruhlman claimed the play was the “single greatest moment” of her basketball career.

“To be able to be on the receiving end of an assist from the Mark Davis is the highlight of my career,” said Ruhlman. “Hey, I scored 998 points in high school. Does this count as my 1,000th point?”

Why not?

The final dunk of the night will be the one everybody is talking about on Friday.

With time winding down, Hammersley dropped to all fours in the middle of the paint. With the other eight players on the court looking on, Sheffield’s McNeal built up speed, planted a foot into Hammersley’s back and used the leverage to soar toward the hoop where he ended the game with an emphatic slam dunk.

A fun ending to a fun night.

“That’s what this night is all about,” said Labesky. “This is a great event and the kids really enjoy it.”