BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – In Indiana, basketball in March is king, and for the 16th year, Bona Vista Programs hosted its own version of Hoosier Hysteria with its annual Disability Awareness Basketball Game. And for at least the eighth consecutive year, the Bona Vista All-Star team defeated the Celebrities Team 79-58 in front of hundreds of cheering fans at Memorial Gymnasium.
“It is always a great event and a fantastic way to support Bona Vista,” said Allison Brantley, development and public relations coordinator at Bona Vista. “This will also people to interact with some of our adult persons served at Bona Vista – they are very social.”
After a slow start by Bona Vista – the Celebrities led 12-8 after one quarter thanks in part to Bart Irwin dropping in five points – the home team got things going in period two. Eric Chalk and Craig Simmons took over the offense, combing for 14 points to give the All-Stars a 34-26 lead at the break.
The Celebrities tried to get back in the game in the third quarter with 3-pointers from Rodney Ogle, Brian Pier and Troy Stiner, but Nate McFarland got hot for Bona Vista and responded with eight points. With Simmons adding another six points, the All-Stars led 62-39 going into the final stanza. Holding a 23-point lead, Tallis Bowers sealed the win with a 3-pointer for Bona Vista.
McFarland led all scorers with 16 points for Bona Vista. Chalk added 14 and Simmons scored 12 for the champs. Tristan Rogers scored 10 with the rest of the points coming from Steven Martin (6), Robert Weaver (4), Patrick Hamilton (4), Jessica Brewer (4), Charles McKinney (4), Tallis Bowers (3) and Dorman Miller (2). Other members of the team included Eli Alexander and Ally Oyler; Donta Rogers served as the head coach.
For the Celebrity Team, Stiner scored 13 and Irwin dropped in 10. Other scorers included Pier (9), Ogle (8), Tom Hughes (6), Jason Snyder (5), Torrey Roe (4) and Ryan Smalley (3). The rest of the team included Jessica Green, Kevin Sprinkle and Mark Jansen. Steve Geiselman and Chad McCarter served as coaches; Green and McCarter earned technical fouls during the contest.
Despite the technical foul – which was made in jest – Green said she loves the event and getting on the floor of Memorial Gymnasium. The former Nebraska high school sharp-shooter and current morning host on Z92.5 is always a crowd favorite.
“We participate and promote the Bona Vista basketball game because we 100-percent support the services provided. They are changing lives daily and providing opportunities for people who might not have them otherwise,” she said. “We feel it’s important that all members of our community feel a sense of belonging and realize that their piece to the Kokomo puzzle is just as important as everyone else’s. We love Bona Vista.”
The evening started with a declaration read by Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and the National Anthem sung by Kim Sprinkle. During breaks in the action, there were performances by Kickin’ It with Kari junior and senior group, Kokomo High School cheerleaders, Central Middle International School Fusion Class and the Kokomo Dance Team (KHS and CMIS pom and hip hop).
The event also served as a fundraiser for programs at Bona Vista.
“It had not been a fundraiser in the past,” she said. “Because we have an amazing community, we thought we could generate some funds for Bona Vista programs. And we had great celebrities who helped. We also solicited sponsorships this year, and we are excited about that.”
Brantley said this year’s game was the most successful ever, raising more than $17,000 to far surpass the original goal of $10,000. Maple Crest STEM Middle School Principal Tom Hughes won an award for the celebrity who raised the most money. With the help of teacher Vicki Boles and Maple Crest students, Hughes presented a check to Bona Vista for $5,653.85.
Brantley said she would like to thank the following for donating time to the event: basketball officials Tim Knowland, Greg Cunningham and Dick Smith; scorekeeper Noah Zunick; PA announcer James Robinson; Kellie Weaver and family for concessions; Felicia Lowrey; Expressions Design; Z92.5, WIOU 1350 and Rock 98.5; Kokomo Center Schools; Kokomo Herald; Kokomo Perspective; Kokomo Tribune; Sports Journal of Central Indiana; and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.