A few seconds into Concord High's alumni basketball game, former Spider great Ishua Benjamin dribbled hard toward the basket and blasted off to the rim.
You had the feeling the crowd came wondering whether players like Benjamin, Concord Class of 1994, could still dazzle as they did years before.
But whether Benjamin had thoughts of either dunking it or laying it in, he left the ball short of the rim, much to the crowd's dismay.
There were plenty of, uh, lowlights during the game's first 10 minutes, but when Benjamin and former Spiders teammate Kenyan Weaks caught fire in the second half, the game captured the excitement of any one of their state playoff games from years ago.
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On March 20, 30 basketball alumni from the graduating classes of 1986 through 1997 reunited to do battle against one another. Jeff Benton, Class of 1993 and the event's organizer, said there have been talks about using the $1,400 raised by the game to benefit the basketball program.
Most of the fans attending were adults who were likely in the bleachers when the alums were in high school.
The colorful Bo Brickels, whose name is given to Concord's "Coach Bo Court" for his coaching from 1986 to 1994, led the Black team. His assistant, Chris Lippard, coached the Gold team. Most players were from the Brickels era.
Benton said he had stayed in touch with some teammates since graduating. He got the idea for an alumni game a couple of years ago. It started gaining momentum through Facebook last fall.
The social networking site did its thing, letting one person know about the game, who let someone else know, who let someone else know.
Edmond O'Neal was a bit skeptical in January, when he found out about the game. But the more steam the project gained, the more O'Neal pushed himself to get into better shape.
A few weeks ago, O'Neal started hitting the gym at the local YMCA in Syracuse, N.Y. He and his wife drove 111/2 hours to Concord, the farthest of any player.
Before the game, Brickels joked to the crowd that the alums got together the night before and "lied to each other for about 20 hours."
In the first 10 minutes of the 20-minute first half, players had more bricks than a construction site and more turnovers than a bakery. Chon Black (Class of 1990), who is married to Concord High principal Carla Black, was the sharpest, scoring 13 as the Black team took a 44-35 lead.
During halftime, Jeff Lippard (1990) presented Brickels a game ball signed by all the game's players. Frazio Reed (1988) stole Brickels' thunder, though, joking that he should get the ball since he was responsible for his coach's success.
At halftime, O'Neal said, "We have some old stars putting on a good show for the crowd. I think the second half is going to be a different story. We're old now, so we're going to start tightening up."
Reed may have been right, as he scored all 16 of his points in the second half. But O'Neal was off target: The quality of play actually rose after halftime.
As the lead hovered around double digits with 13 minutes to go, Chon Black joked with Chris Lippard that his team was going to the "four corners" offense, that they "had it wrapped up."
Lippard replied, "Not in the last eight minutes."
At 8:10 remaining, and the Black leading 69-55, Benjamin, the former N.C. State player, and Weaks (1995), who played at Florida, re-entered the game. Benjamin scored 22 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, including the game's only two dunks, and Weaks scored 14 of his 27 after intermission.
The Gold team chipped away at the lead. Weaks' three-pointer from the wing pulled the Gold to within 87-84 with 29.1 seconds left, but they never got any closer. Three free throws by the Black sealed the win 90-84.
The selection of the game's Most Valuable Player was anticlimactic. Brickels announced it before tip-off.
"This is the first time we ever gave an MVP award before the game," he said, "and that's for the person that made this all happen: Jeff Benton."