HARRISONBURG — Paul Hatcher could not make a decision on who to start Saturday.
The former Lee High basketball coach, who retired in 2011 after coaching for 43 years and winning 897 games and four state championships, returned to the bench for at least one day Saturday to coach Team Hatcher in the first Shenandoah Valley all-star basketball game.
Hatcher had never coached any of the players on his team and really had no idea who his starting five should be. His son, Jarrett Hatcher, didn’t want to make the decision either. So the Hatchers turned the decision over to Ben Edwards, the 10-year-old son of Spotswood coach Chad Edwards.
It was funny that Ben was even on the Hatchers’ bench because his dad was helping coach the other team, Team Bergey. Roger Bergey coached for 30 years at Harrisonburg, starting in 1972, and won 435 games and two state championships, both with Ralph Sampson. Along with Paul Hatcher he was asked to come out of retirement for a day Saturday, and Edwards agreed to help him.
But two of Edwards’ players — Kobe Davis and Malik Davis — were on Team Hatcher, so Edwards’ son decided that’s the team he wanted to hang out with for the day.
Harrisonburg coach Don Burgess came up with the idea and hopes it’s an annual event, one that will give college coaches a chance to see area talent and give high school seniors one last chance to wear their school jersey.
Before coaching the Blue Streaks, Burgess coached at Bridgewater College. While there he attended events such as Saturday’s throughout the state, but often wondered why the Shenandoah Valley didn’t have one. NCAA regulations prevented Burgess from starting one as a college coach, but now that he’s coaching in high school, he saw an opportunity.
On Saturday, players were represented from as far north as Warren County to Rockbridge County in the south and east to Albemarle High School.
In the girls game, two local players participated — Lee High’s Jesse Bartley and Fort Defiance’s Lizzie Doughty.
Bartley earned Team North MVP honors after scoring 24 points and pulling down 20 rebounds. Bartley got a text from Jarrett Hatcher about the game last weekend, and she agreed immediately.
“I just played my game,” said Bartley. “I like to hustle after the ball, and that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Bartley is planning on attending Bridgewater College next year. She was considering playing golf for the Eagles, but now thinks she’ll pass on playing sports, saying it’s too much of a time commitment. She said even if she was approached to play basketball at Bridgewater she would pass. She just wants to be a college student.
In the boys game, Waynesboro’s DeVante Robinson, Fort Defiance’s Atlee Hanger and Lee’s LJ Johnson played for Team Hatcher.
“It was really fun,” said Hanger. “It was nice to put the jersey back on because after we lost our last conference game I thought I was done in the Fort jersey, so it was nice to put it back on.”
Robinson finished with 15 points in the game. He said it was great playing for Paul Hatcher. His cousins — Tyler, Ryan and Eli Crawford — all were part of Hatcher’s state-record 85-game winning streak more than a decade ago.
Hatcher’s team fell behind 17-2 early on, but made it a one-possession game late before coming up just short. Still, it was a thrill for the legendary coach to be back on the court.
“I was really surprised at the attendance,” said Hatcher. “That was a nice crowd for something like this. I think it’s something they will continue. I enjoyed it.”