The Column: Fisher, GCMS hoop squads to play two

Go to a high school girls basketball game, and the crowd won’t overwhelm one’s senses.

Usually it’s just a handful of parents and relatives, with a small smattering of students from the home team.

Go to a high school girls basketball game between nearby rivals Fisher and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, and the crowd isn’t as bad, but it doesn’t come close to filling up the bleachers or creating an atmosphere where you have to yell to hear the person next to you.

We’re not saying the fire marshals will have to clear spectators out of the Falcons’ home gymnasium when the two schools meet next Tuesday night in Gibson City, but it’s a good bet by the time the fourth quarter arrives, Fisher and GCMS will have a larger than usual crowd on hand for its Heart of Illinois Conference game.

That’s because the Fisher and GCMS boys basketball teams will take to the Falcons’ home court after the girls are done playing in a rare scheduling snafu or blessing, depending on one’s opinion.

Fisher athletic director Ben Derges said it wasn’t by design for the Fisher-GCMS girls game to tip off at 5:30 p.m., with the boys game to follow at approximately 7 p.m.

“Those games were originally scheduled for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1,” Derges said. “Those were the reciprocal dates with the conference schedule, so we had to move the dates. It was just kind of a funky thing with the IHSA calendar, and then it resets next year. It was just a one-year deal where we knew we couldn’t play it on the 31st or the first.”

Derges said dates are already lined up for the 2013-14 season to avoid a varsity doubleheader. The two schools will also have a JV doubleheader later this season when they meet on Thursday, Jan. 24, in Gibson City.

“It was more out of necessity (to have the doubleheader),” Derges said. “You want the girls to be able to have the varsity game at the varsity time. You don’t want to slight them. You don’t want to see them as the under card.”

All logical points, but turning the Fisher-GCMS game into a doubleheader and making it a permanent fixture on future schedules could bring out huge crowds. It’s worked at other schools in the past.

Having worked in the western suburbs of Chicago for three years, it was common for me to see natural rivals like Oswego and Oswego East, or Yorkville and Kaneland, or Sandwich and Somonauk schedule these doubleheaders.

When Oswego and Oswego East would play, a crowd of a few thousand would be in their seats by the time the girls game hit the fourth quarter.

One year, they had to turn away people at the door before the second half of the girls game had even started because the place was sold out.

Mind you, the fire code was probably broken that night at Oswego High School since spectators crammed themselves into every nook of the 1,500-seat gymnasium, including sitting in the aisles.

The bleachers in the 3,000-seat Oswego East gymnasium Oswego East would be filled to the brim, too. And what an atmosphere it was.

“It’s a little bit out of our routine, but I kind of like it,” Fisher girls basketball head coach Ken Ingold said. “Maybe it will give a little more attention to the girls game, and we’ll have a little bit larger crowd than what we normally do. I’m certainly not opposed to it, (but) I wouldn’t want to do it often.”

Fisher boys basketball head coach Ron Ragle said he’s not a fan of the doubleheader setup.

“For me, as a coach, I kind of warm up with the JV kids and making adjustments with them in the JV game until the end of the third quarter,” he said. “It gets my mind rolling. When you don’t have that interaction, it takes a while to get going.”

Another predicament with the Fisher-GCMS doubleheader is it comes during finals week for Fisher, with exams set for Dec. 20 and 21.

It also falls right in the middle of the Bunnies boys basketball team playing in the week-long Leader Classic.

By the time the final day of the Leader Classic arrives on Friday, Dec. 21, Ragle’s team will have played five games in an eight-day span.

Fans in the small towns of Fisher and Gibson City do a superb job of supporting their athletic teams, This night, they just get a chance to do so twice.

Matt Daniels is the sports editor with the Rantoul Press newspaper. Like the column, love the column or hate the column? Let him know at mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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