HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – An array of events took place Friday night as about 2,000 people were on hand to witness the final game at Veterans Memorial Field House.
The White team, led by J.R. Vanhoose’s 21 points, won the game 101-98. He, like many, felt the effects of lacing up the sneakers for the first time in a while.
“After my final ABA game in March I had a lot of health problems with my back, ankles and my knees and I just decided to quit,” Vanhoose said. “I haven’t touched the ball since. I can feel it trying to get up and down the floor, it wasn’t the same. But with all of these people here, you’ve got to play hard for the fans.”
The frantic pace started from the opening tip as Joda Burgess nailed a three-pointer with the first shot attempt of the game.
“I forgot how long this floor was,” Burgess said.
The pace slowed some as the game pressed on and continuous substitutions helped the players catch their breath.
With perhaps the greatest Marshall player to ever play the game, Hal Greer, sitting on the White bench, his players were doing their best to imitate Greer’s 1957-58 squad that led the nation in scoring.
Tre Whitted led the Green team with 22 points and Jean Francois Bro Grebe scored 20 points including a dunk.
Every player, nearly 100, was assigned to a team. However, only those played who were able.
The green team trailed the entire game, but was down just three points with six seconds to play. Russell Lee then checked into the game for the first time. He stood up by his bench and fired two three-pointers before the buzzer, but both came up short.
Despite the competitiveness on the court, the game’s result had little importance on the evening.
“It feels good,” said Reggie Giles who played on the Green team. “I’ve met some of the legends of the game from the field house. It feels pretty good to team up with some of them in the past and present.”
The “Voice of the Herd” Steve Cotton served as the emcee for the evening. The program started with 75 Marshall student-athletes on the court, each holding an American Flag as the Star Spangled Banner was played by the Marshall pep band.
The field house was erected in 1950 in honor of the city’s veterans. Woody Williams, West Virginia’s only living Medal of Honor Recipient, spoke to the crowd about the buildings’ meaning as a war memorial.
“We can all be thankful that Marshall University leadership has agreed to keep this memorial to honor those who fought the hard fight,” Williams said. “And for the loved ones who gave their husband, son or daughter to help us remain a free people.”
The program closed with a tribute video showing Field House events such as boxing, concerts, circus and commencement. Taps was then played by member of the Huntington High School marching band.
The Field House will soon be demolished and replaced with Veterans Memorial Stadium, future home of the Marshall soccer teams, and Veterans Memorial Park.