The Suburbanite
  • Polar Bears play on, find normalcy amid troubling allegations

  • About 1,200 people came to Jackson High School Thursday night for a freshman basketball game. It wasn’t so much to see the outcome of the game as it was a collective community hug.

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  • About 10 minutes prior to tipoff, Jackson High School Athletic Director Terry Peterson, seated in the middle of the scorer’s table, looked over his shoulder. His head panned left, then right.
    The stands were packed at Jackson High School. On the Polar Bears’ bench, 14 freshmen were ready to play a basketball game at home for the first time since their former coach was arrested and later indicted on eight felony counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. Scott D. Studer is charged with one count for each year he allegedly secretly videotaped his freshman players showering.
    At 7:28 Thursday night, before a crowd of about 1,200, Peterson spoke into the microphone.
    “Good evening, and welcome to Jackson High School for the freshman home opener this season.”
    The crowd roared.
    Freshmen in the student section wore free T-shirts that, on the backs, read “Polar Bear Pride.”
    A few minutes later, a referee shattered the brief silence — and the nerves — just before the tip with a loud blow of his whistle.
    Frustration was buried with each stroke of a 3-pointer. Players smiled, coaches coached and fans cheered as Jackson beat Firestone, 74-36.
    It seemed like a collective community hug for a team that needed one.
    “Absolutely,” said Jackson Local Superintendent Christopher DiLoreto. “Looking at this, with the amount of people who turned out ... this game is reflective of the support from our educational community, and it’s important for our student-athletes and our high school.”
    Jackson freshman games usually are attended by about 100 people.
    “This is a great atmosphere, and I told our kids before the game to just feed off the intensity and atmosphere,” freshman head coach Jim Kish said. “The support was nice. It does put pressure on them to play in front of a crowd like that, but it was a joy to see. They weren’t nervous at all. They were excited.”
    About 25 teams from Jackson’s robust youth basketball program were represented at the game.
    Early in the first quarter, Justin Johnston muscled in a layup to give Jackson a 6-4 lead. The Polar Bears never trailed. They led 24-8 after the first. Then 42-12 at halftime. It was 62-15 after three quarters and Kish had played everyone on his bench. Johnston finished with 14 points. So did Sam Miller.
    Kish seemed relieved at the turnout, and the win.
    “Once the ball goes up in the air for the tip, everything seemed to be back to normal,” Kish said.
    After the game, a group of parents waited for players. Behind them was a large picture of Jackson’s 2010 state championship team. Studer’s image has been airbrushed out.

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