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INDIANAPOLIS — Most junior high basketball players have dreams of one day getting to step on a National Basketball Association (NBA) court for the first time and playing a game.
The Waynesfield-Goshen basketball team fulfilled that dream several years early on Sunday. As part of the Indiana Pacers’ “Court of Dreams” program, the team played Northwest Central Conference (NWCC) foe the Lima Perry Commodores Sunday at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The experience was surreal enough that the 31-19 loss to the Perry Commodores nearly seemed to be an afterthought.
W-G Tiger fifth grade coach James Elliott started taking his team each year to an Indiana Pacers game several years ago. Elliott said he learned about the Court of Dreams program and decided this was the year to step up the experience for the team.
“We had to sell 100 tickets for each team,” Elliott said. “They asked us if we wanted to play a local school from the Indianapolis area, but I got a hold of them at Lima Perry. I thought it would be more exciting for another local team to get to go.”
While the two teams did not use the actual locker rooms of the NBA teams, they were treated to the cozy confines of the “green room,” which are the rooms reserved for stars and celebrities during the games.
The team had to bring its own referees, which was handled by volunteers Ben Andrews and Shawn Plummer of Waynesfield. W-G teacher Jason Wolke called the game using the Pacers’ announcing booth to add to the big game feel.
Prior to the game, the players got to meet several Pacer players for autographs, which included stars Danny Granger, who was one of six players to score in double figures in the Pacers’ convincing 108-73 win, and George Hill, who sat out with a sprained ankle.
They also got to meet with several of the Pacer cheerleaders for autographs and pictures.
One of the Waynesfield parents, Shannon Youtse, was selected to participate in the halftime show, the “sandwich run,” where they ran across the court taking different ingredients in an effort to be the first to complete a sandwich. Youtse was the hands-down winner.
“It was just a great time and a great experience for all the players,” Elliott said. “It is something they will always remember.”
The fifth grade team is made up of Britton Elliott, Jayden Elliott, Stephen Andrews, Wesley Eller, Blake Youtse, Parker Martin, Cole Barnes, Caesar Gossard, Gallant Shephard, Quinn Humes, Nick Wolke and Dustin Plummer.
Shannon Youtse voiced her opinion on Elliott’s performance as coach of the team.
“He is a great guy who does a great job,” Youtse said.”The players look up to him.”