Cherished tradition returns in Garden City minus a local icon

 Cherished tradition returns in Garden City minus a local icon

Members of the alumni and current Garden City girls basketball teams pose for a post-game photo.

Former Garden City girls basketball players — some in their 40s, one carrying a baby — trickled into the high school’s gymnasium Thursday night to resume a 30-plus-year tradition that had been interrupted since 2019 by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gathering for the annual alumni basketball game — which was started in the late-1980s by then-head coach Marshall Henry — the long-graduated Cougars exchanged broad smiles, hugs and complimentary comments.

Their obvious joy could be summed up in five words: It’s good to be home.

Garden City head basketball coach Michele Tyree points to the signature of Barry Patterson on Garden City High School's equipment bin
Michele Tyree points to the signature of Barry Patterson.

They each grabbed an official black game T-shirt/jersey off a table stationed a few feet from the door. Each shirt was decorated by the words “Cougar Alumni” placed over the image of a basketball. Printed on the lower-right corner of the basketball was B.P. — the initials for much-loved GC softball and basketball coach Barry Patterson, who passed away in the fall after a battle with cancer.

Patterson made it a point to attend every alumni game, including the most-recent in 2019, to assist Henry with the alumni coaching duties.

“If Barry were here — and I so wish he was — he’d probably nudge me with his elbow, laugh and have something positive to say,” said Brittany Radtke, who played softball for Patterson before graduating in 2017. “He was such a huge supporter of his players, checking in with them about sports, but more about our lives.

“I saw him two weeks before he passed away when myself, some of my former teammates and Barry got together. I was shocked when I heard he had passed because it seemed like he was doing a lot better. But it was probably just his personality — holding it together and living in the moment.”

Honoring Barry

Donations were solicited before the game for a scholarship named in honor of Patterson.

The alumni game annually pits graduated players against the current roster of varsity and junior-varsity players. Once the opening jump ball is tipped, the game is always competitive, said former GC player and current varsity head coach Michele Tyree.

“I had to explain what this game was all about to most of my current players because — except for the current seniors — the last time we played in 2019 they weren’t in high school yet,” Tyree said. “They find out pretty fast that the alumni players want to win.”

Players battle for a rebound during Dec 29 Garden City girls basketball reunion game
Players battle for a rebound during Dec. 29 Garden City girls basketball reunion game.

As Tyree looked out at a few alumni players hoisting jump shots, 1993 graduate Kim Goodfellow was counting the players, knowing the fewer that showed, the more her playing time was going to increase.

“I’m crossing my fingers that at least two more players show up,” Goodfellow said, laughing.

Goodfellow got her wish as at least 16 alumni showed up.

And as Tyree predicted, the game was competitive, ending in a 64-64 tie.

First-time participants followed the time-honored tradition of signing the school’s basketball equipment container, which is highlighted by over 40 signatures, including Patterson’s and longtime assistant Ted Fournier, who passed away in 2020.

They also posed for a few post-game group photos that were heart-warming and enduring — but would have been enhanced, everyone would agree, if the man whose initials graced the black shirts had been present.

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Ed Wright

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