2018-01-11 / Sports

Bushen: Atmosphere electric in Buckley

A column by Jay Bushen
Sports Editor

What a spectacle it was at Buckley Community Schools on Tuesday.

Multiple news outlets were on site. All conceivable parking spots were taken. The gym was at capacity. The fans were rowdy.

And Buckley came to play.

I had seen Denver Cade, Austin Harris and the Bears twice in the 2016- 17 campaign before their appearance in the state finals and knew what to expect. It’s a fast, focused, athletic, fundamentally sound and downright scrappy group that never seems to take a possession off. I saw all of that and more in the team’s 73-59 win over Glen Lake on Tuesday.

I’ve often heard people refer to this Buckley team as special, and for good reason, but there’s always a hint of “it’ll never happen again” when I hear about the Bears.

I’m not so sure about that now. I watched Buckley beat Suttons Bay in the regional finals last season, and appreciated how well their fans traveled for the occasion, but had never seen their fans at home. I definitely didn’t expect the atmosphere on Tuesday.

“Wasn’t that great?” Buckley coach Blair Moss said after the game. “This is what it’s all about. Glen Lake always brings a crowd. We bring a crowd. That was good basketball.”

Sure, it was a clash between two really talented Northwest Conference frontrunners, but I was still caught off guard. It felt like a playoff game.

Moreover, I sensed a real passion for basketball.

Among the fans in blue was a noticeable contingent of toddlers in little Buckley basketball uniforms — including many who tried to take the court once the game was over. Elementary boys also competed in a blue-and-yellow scrimmage at halftime.

My takeaway? Maybe the success of that program is more sustainable than I previously thought, especially if the up-and-comers follow in the footsteps of Cade, Harris, Joey Weber and the Beeman brothers.

I mean just ask any county coach: The Bears play with hunger.

And they’ve proved it against county teams.

In fact, since the start of the 2016-17 season, Buckley has outscored Glen Lake, Suttons Bay and Leland by a combined score of 602-378 in eight games — that’s an average win margin of 28 points. And don’t forget the Lakers and Norsemen each won district championships last season.

I know the Bears have already lost two games this season, but I fully expect to see them make a deep run in the playoffs again this year. I’ve said since last season that Glen Lake has the talent to beat the Bears, and the Lakers came close in a 63-60 home loss last year, but it’s going to take one heck of an effort.

Ultimately, that’s a good thing for Glen Lake — and a good thing for all in attendance.

When those two teams get together, it’s quite the spectacle.

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