NEW PALESTINE — On Jan. 18, the Greenfield-Central boys basketball team lost to Triton Central 68-65. One month later, G-C edged Shelbyville 86-80 in overtime.
There will be a rematch of sorts for the Cougars against both Shelby County clubs April 11.
G-C’s Grant Wolfe and Grant Gellert will be joined by Eastern Hancock, Mt. Vernon and New Palestine seniors in a Hancock County vs. Shelby County All-Star affair to benefit Families United for Support and Encouragement (FUSE).
In the girls-boys doubleheader, players from each county will battle in the annual contest that has been sponsored by the New Palestine and Triton Community Lions Clubs for over 20 years.
The teams will meet on Friday the 11th with the girls’ game at 6 p.m. followed by the boys. Admission is $6, with all proceeds benefiting FUSE, which provides support for special needs individuals and their families.
“This is all about giving back,” said New Palestine High School assistant principal Miles Hercamp, one of the event organizers. “Everyone donates their time for the game, including the officials and the scorekeepers. And we clean the gym ourselves so we don’t have to hire custodians, so that the money can go to FUSE.”
In past years, the Hancock-Shelby event was held over two nights, a Friday at either New Palestine or Triton Central, then the other gym on Saturday evening. But it has been cut back to one night per year for easier coordination and player participation. Next year’s contest will be held at Triton Central.
Even if it’s only one game, it’s still a joy for the players, who get the rare opportunity to share the same uniform as their Hancock County brethren.
“They’ve played against each other all these years, now they get to be on the same team,” Hercamp said of the Cougars, Royals, Dragons and Marauders. “And this is pretty much their last competitive high school game, so it’s a chance to play one more time and have fun.”
In the 2012 edition of the contest, the Hancock County boys opened the game with fan-friendly football hijinx designed by New Palestine and HC head coach Adam Barton. Following the tip, New Palestine’s Wade Whitaker “snapped” the ball to a teammate, who then threw a long lob pass down court. Unfortunately for Hancock County, the would-be TD strike was off the mark.
“All season long we’re serious,” Whitaker said at the time. “We have fun, but nobody gets to see the fun things we do (behind the scenes), so we thought we’d come out and try something stupid. We almost got it.”
In between the lightheartedness, Hancock and Shelby players will mingle or shoot around with special needs children. Each player will also present a donated basketball to a special needs person.
Prior to the start of the boys game, special needs kids will be introduced to the crowd, and will include a list of each child’s hobbies and interests, which might serve as an eye-opener, according to FUSE executive director Denise Arland.
“We look at the games as an awareness type of event,” Arland said. “Obviously, it’s a fundraiser, which is awesome. But when we do the introduction of the students with disabilities, and they list that they play wheelchair soccer or are into 4-H or whatever, people look at the kids a little differently, like, ‘Oh, they can do that.’
“Sometimes people don’t understand that people with disabilities have abilities.”
Throughout the year, FUSE offers parent support groups and training, as well referral services for folks who might need help having a ramp built outside their home or other assistance.
A display table will be manned by FUSE at the games, and representatives will be available to answer questions, as well as accept donations.
On the court, Shelby County will be led by seniors from Shelbyville, Triton Central, Morristown, Waldron and Southwestern.
Among head to head boys matchups this season, Eastern Hancock swept Morristown, Waldron and Southwestern in Mid-Hoosier Conference action.
The Royals’ Aaron Spaulding will coach the Hancock boys against Shelby County. In addition to Wolfe and Gellert, Spaulding will be joined by his own seniors, Isaiah McCormick, Caleb Wallen, Dustin Davidson and Garrett Hancock. New Palestine’s Keegan Lytle, Samson Haynes, Connor Roach and Seth Cox and Mt. Vernon’s Alec Lohman and Caleb Deckard fill out the roster.
Prior to the loss to Greenfield-Central, Shelbyville defeated Mt. Vernon and New Palestine in Hoosier Heritage Conference tilts. The Cougars’ win over the Golden Bears prevented Shelbyville from clinching a share of the HHC title.
In girls basketball action this season, Shelbyville went 0-3 against its Hancock County HHC counterparts.
The Eastern Hancock girls beat Morristown and Waldron with ease, but fell to Southwestern in a game that decided the conference championship. The Spartans went 9-0; EH, 8-1.
The Royals’ Jeremy Powers will coach the Hancock County gals, led by EH seniors Hannah Best, Kiersten Schrope, Lauren Harmon, Morgan Mench and Kristen Eischen. The big-school Hancock County squads are limited in seniors this year, so New Palestine juniors Gia Nitschke and Emma Laughlin and NP sophomore Katlyn Keele will suit up.
For more information on FUSE or to donate, visit www.fuseinc.org or call (317) 462-9064. FUSE offices are located at 1133 W Main St. Suite E in Greenfield.