When Don Carlson was diagnosed with prostate cancer last summer, his doctor asked him for his game plan.
Naturally, the former Republic High School basketball all-stater and Southwest Missouri State standout harkened back to his playing days.
“I said, ‘I know this … I want a full-court press,’ ” said Carlson, 67, who lives in Springfield. ” ‘It’s either a diamond-and-one, or a box-and-one. And, since John Wooden won so many games at UCLA with it over so many years, let’s use a box-and-one.’ “
The plan worked, and results from Carlson’s prostate-specific antigen test plummeted from 783 to 2.5 a couple of months after his diagnosis.
Although his alma mater did not use the box-and-one Thursday, there definitely was pressure applied by the Tigers in a 43-28 victory against Reeds Spring.
The game was the centerpiece effort for the local Coaches Vs. Cancer fundraiser, which took place over the last 10 days throughout southwest Missouri.
Local schools designated a home game during the stretch as a fundraisier. There, coaches wore sneakers with their suits, and organizers collected money for a donation to the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.
Some of the rest of the funds, though, are going to aid the plight of Carlson, who helped the Tigers to a state championship in 1962-63, played at then-SMS, then served as an assistant coach at Kickapoo from 1971-80, and at Glendale from 1981-96.
Carlson coached at Glendale under Mike Keltner, who organized the effort, which included a silent auction at Republic. Keltner said he did not yet know how much was raised.
“It was as good as it gets,” said Keltner, reflecting on the night. “I was so pleased that everything worked as good as it did.
“It was a plus in every way, and now we have got to think about year two and how we’re going to do it.”
The first donation was made by a group that included Carlson’s grandson, Zach Allen. Zach and friends, Aaron Baldwin and Cooper Hays, along with his cousin, Quinn Kelley, stashed away allowance money, took donations, and did lots of chores over the past several weeks.
The group contributed $111.66 to the cause Thursday.
“We were just on my mom’s laptop, trying to do a Word document and we just came up with a flier,” said Cooper, 9, of Springfield.
Added Zach, 10, of Springfield: “We wanted to help with something that affects a lot of people.”
On the court, Republic (6-1) started slow. With an ugly 14-13 lead late in the second quarter, senior guard Jake Fletcher made a steal and scored a layup in the closing seconds to give Republic a three-point halftime advantage.
“The big kid, Austin Selby, had swatted me three times, so I figured I’d take it right to him and try to get something going into half,” Fletcher said. “We had zero energy early, so we were just trying to get some momentum.”
It was Fletcher’s first basket, but the momentum continued into the second half, as the Tigers scored the first seven points to go up 23-13. The Tigers never looked back, and Fletcher finished with a game-high 19 points.
“It was a very special night,” first-year Republic coach Trevyor Fisher said. “Just having (Carlson) and the other guys here was not only special for me, but for our entire team. It’s just a sense of pride for our community as well.”
Reeds Spring (0-9) got 11 points from Selby.
“Our kids, they compete and they battle, and that’s a great quality to have,” Reeds Spring coach Barry Yocom said. “We talked about gaining respect in the district race, and to get people thinking in the district seeding meeting that ‘hey, we don’t want to play those guys again.’ “
Both teams play next week in the Gold bracket of the Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament. Republic, the second seed, plays Aurora in Wednesday’s first round. Reeds Spring plays fifth-seeded Clever. Both games are at JQH Arena.