There were no school bands. Few fans. No roaring "Go-C-I-Go" cheers. But the rivalry between Crosby-Ironton and Brainerd was alive and well in the Brainerd Family YMCA gym Wednesday night.
Although the high school teams no longer compete in basketball, adults have revived the competition.
In the YMCA's adult basketball league, an undefeated Crosby-Ironton team played an undefeated Brainerd team Wednesday night. Bragging rights were on the line. Perhaps a small wager -- with a point spread no less -- was placed on the game.
The rosters brought back memories of high school glory and the healthy rivalry. Many of the names were familiar to high school sports fans, such as Brainerd players Mark and Todd Vanek, Chuck Jones, Joe Smart, Wade Haapajoki, Matt Pecarich and C-I players Jim Christensen, Greg Selisker, Greg Skeim and John Pribyl.
Both former C-I and Brainerd players prepared to rebound the basketball during first-half action Wednesday.
Although the names were familiar and the players were recognizable, many were a few pounds heavier. Some sported beards. Others exposed balding heads. The pace of the game was slower yet rougher. There were frequent substitutions. Lots of sweat. More vocal displays directed at each other and the referees than the typical high school game.
The players ranged in age from young pups at age 24 to the elders who have broken the big 4-0.
Many still play the game for the love of the sport. They enjoy the competition and the opportunity to keep in shape.
"You have to still love the game," Smart said. The 41-year-old Brainerd man said basketball is a good way to stay active.
Brent Stangel, a former Crosby-Ironton High School basketball player, tossed the ball around with his son, Trey Stangel, while warming up Wednesday for a Brainerd Family YMCA adult basketball league game. (Dispatch Photos by Steve Kohls)
Jones agreed. The 37-year-old said he believes his days of playing are numbered, running against the younger players.
Pecarich loves the competition. "It's the only league around," he said. "It's fun."
The former Warriors pulled ahead and kept the lead through the first half. But the Rangers crawled back to capture the lead in the second half. Both teams battled to tie the game several times in the waning minutes of the game before the Rangers pulled away to claim the win 52-47.
Selisker, who has four young children, said basketball is his time out with the guys. He said he enjoys playing, including reviving the old matchup with Brainerd.
Todd Vanek, Brainerd, stared down his opponent while playing defense during the Wednesday game.
Skeim and Pribyl said they enjoy the competition and the exercise.
Skeim said the only way he really wants to exercise or run is to play basketball.
"I try to stay in shape," Pribyl said. "It's a blast. I just can't stop playing."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.