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The Suburbanite
  • King's View: Lake, Jackson play game of their lives

  • In the days leading up to it, the matchup between Lake and Jackson high schools on Feb. 8 was being billed as the boys basketball game of the year in the Federal League.

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  • In the days leading up to it, the matchup between Lake and Jackson high schools on Feb. 8 was being billed as the boys basketball game of the year in the Federal League.
    That made sense since it was winner-take-all for the league championship.
    Midway through the fourth quarter, though, it was apparent it was much bigger than that. It was the game of the year in the area — in any league.
    Much later, when it was finally over, it was clear it had dwarfed either of those labels.
    It was the game of players’, coaches’ and fans’ lives as they jammed every nook and cranny of the Lake gym.
    Lake 93, Jackson 92 (2 OT).
    You’ve heard the term “instant classic” in sports, when, maybe even before the game is over, everybody realizes what they’re watching is special.
    But this wasn’t just special. It was epic.
    Years from now, when people in both communities think back, they will call it very simply “The Game” and, without also mentioning the sport, the date, the place, the teams involved or the score, everybody will know exactly what those people are talking about.
    Lake 93, Jackson 92 (2 OT).
    But this wasn’t just a game, or even “The Game,” really, but rather a seminal moment in the lives of just about everybody who was privileged enough to play it, coach it or just watch it.
    You could watch hundreds or even thousands of games in a myriad of sports and will never see anything quite like it.
    Lake 93, Jackson 92 (2 OT).
    This game meant a lot to the Jackson Polar Bears, but it meant even more to the Lake Blue Streaks.
    Jackson has won Federal League championships before. They were going for their fourth-straight league crown. In 2010, the Polar Bears captured the Division I (big school) state title under head coach Mike Fuline, a former Manchester player and Green assistant who is now the second-year head coach at Mount Union.
    The Blue Streaks have not enjoyed that kind of success, and the victory clinched for them the first boys basketball title they’ve ever won in their 26 years in the Federal League.
    In addition, it was their first league title of any kind since way back in the 1982-83 season when they were still playing in the old Senate League.
    Think about that. When’s the last time anyone in the Lake community has had the name “Senate League” roll off their tongue? Maybe some of you didn’t even know that there was even once anything called the Senate League.
    That Senate League championship was earned exactly 30 years ago, probably before many of the parents of the players were even in high school themselves. To finally break that drought three decades later, to the year, is the stuff of which dreams are made.
    Page 2 of 2 - Lake 93, Jackson 92 (2 OT).
    This was like a heavyweight boxing match in which the combatants didn’t waste time throwing jabs or feeling out their opponent, but rather got right to it and began trading haymakers.
    With each punch they landed, they thought the other guy would go down. But it didn’t happen. Though maybe staggered and a bit wobbly, the guy who just took one to the chin battled back out of the corner and started getting the upper hand himself.
    Jackson led 22-16 after the first quarter.
    Lake rallied to tie it 36-36 at halftime.
    The Polar Bears then went back on top 55-47 through three quarters.
    The fun was just beginning, though.
    Lake battled back to lead 75-72 with two free throws by Alex Belinsky with just 7.4 seconds remaining.
    But Jake Vassas of Jackson hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the score at 75-75 and force the first OT.
    Jackson surged in front 82-79, but Lake’s Chase Vaudrin buried a three-pointer of his own with six seconds left to knot the score and push the game into a second overtime.
    But even then, the contest was not decided until Jackson missed the latter of two free throws with a tenth of second remaining that would have tied the score again and forced a third OT. But as it was, a weary Lake prevailed.
    Lake 93, Jackson 92 (2 OT).
    Lake is the smallest school in the Federal League, so score one for the little guys.
    Jackson is one of the biggest schools in the area, so score one for the big guys.
    To be sure, there were no losers in this game, only winners and heroes and champions on both sides. No one for the Polar Bears needs to feel bad or disappointed about anything.
    The members of both teams will tell their kids — and their grandkids — about playing and coaching in the best game ever, the one that will forever be remembered.
    Lake 93, Jackson 92 (2 OT).
    The game of their lives.