When you are a high school basketball player and you get a chance to play at The Palace of Auburn Hills, home of the Detroit Pistons, you don’t worry about what time it is.
Even with an 8 a.m. tip off, almost two hours from home, on Saturday morning, both St. Philip and Bellevue were thrilled to be playing basketball on the Detroit Pistons home floor in a special-event game, hosted by the NBA team.
“Everybody brought their cameras, they were taking pictures, the whole experience was great for the kids,” Bellevue boys basketball coach Joe Costello said. “You might think playing at 8 a.m. is brutal, but if they would have said play at 7, I would have said, let’s play at 7.”
The experience was fun, but the end result wasn’t great for both teams as Bellevue rolled to a 66-38 win over St. Philip in this Southern Central Athletic Association boys basketball game. But looking beyond the score, it was worth the trip.
“It was awesome to be on the court, a great experience for the kids,” St. Philip coach Dino English said. “We were all taking pictures with family on the court. After the game, I told Bellevue, thanks for inviting us. It was straight-up great sportsmanship for them to include us in this game.”
The Detroit Pistons approached Bellevue to play a high school boys basketball game prior to a scheduled NBA game, as the franchise does various times during the season. The game was originally scheduled to be played last Wednesday prior to the Detroit Pistons game with Philadelphia. Both Bellevue and St. Philip were asked to sell tickets to the game where people could see the high school game and stay for the Pistons game.
Due to poor weather on Wednesday, the game was called off. With only one week left in the regular season, there weren’t many opportunities for The Palace to host St. Philip/Bellevue on the same day as a Pistons game. But officials decided they could still play the game in the NBA arena on Saturday.
“They came to me and told me about our opportunity to play the game and I said count us in,” Costello said. “It’s a great thing for our kids to do. They said, who do you want to play, and I said give me St. Philip, give me Dino. He’s a great guy, a fun guy and I knew St. Philip would enjoy something like this also.”
As for the play on the court, Bellevue jumped out to a 35-20 lead by halftime and didn’t look back as the Broncos improve to 15-4 on the season. Dawson Morgan had a big game for Bellevue with 23 points and 12 rebounds with Wyatt Waterbury getting 11 points, six assists and five steals as Cam Shaw chipped in 10 points.
St. Philip couldn’t seem to get going throughout the game as the Tigers struggled shooting, especially from the free throw line where they went 9-for-27. Ben Swagler had 12 points to lead St. Philip, which falls to 7-12.
The early start might have hurt the Tigers more than Bellevue.
“We just couldn’t get ready to go this morning. Bellevue stayed here last night in a hotel, and a lot of our guys drove up this morning. I think they were fresher than we were, they played with a lot of energy,” English said.
Costello agreed his team was fresher, and looked it on the court, and he added he thinks the experience will be a fresh memory in his player’s minds for years to come.
“Guys were on the court early and even after the game shooting from the NBA 3-point line to see what it was like – it was just great,” Costello said. “I wouldn’t have traded this for anything and our kids will remember this for a long time. When I was in high school, we played in a state semifinal but I don’t remember much of what happened. I guarantee these kids will remember playing at The Palace.”
Bill Broderick can be reached at bbroderi@battlecreekenquirer,com or 269-966-062. Follow him on Twitter:@billbroderick