They traveled about 400 miles across land and lakes. They saw Beaver Island. And they conquered.
The Put-in-Bay High School Panthers co-ed basketball team defeated the Islanders from northern Michigan’s Beaver Island in a long-distance, interstate, island vs. island matchup Monday.
The Panthers traveled from South Bass Island in western Lake Erie’s Ottawa County to the larger Lake Michigan isle northwest of Charlevoix, Mich., for the unique away game, the first between the two teams.
Put-in-Bay claimed a 65-46 victory, though the game was about more than the final score.
It’s not just basketball that ties the two island teams. Both know the challenges of remote geography, games that hinge on flights and weather conditions, small class sizes, and the peculiar particulars of island life.
“It’s like looking into a mirror, the similarities … the culture, the people, and the activities,” said Patrick Myers, who lives on South Bass and traveled to Beaver Island to report the play-by-play for a Webcast at WPIB.com.
Put-in-Bay players went to a Detroit Red Wings hockey game en route to Beaver Island, which greeted their opponents with a handmade welcome sign posted to the gym wall. Students from both islands got to know one another off the court — the visiting team arrived the day before the game.
Put-in-Bay coach Craig Schuffenecker said they played dodgeball, basketball, and Twister. The South Bass students also got a chance to appreciate Beaver Island’s relative roominess: It measures about 13 miles long by 6 miles side, compared to their Ohio island’s 3½ mile-by-1½ mile dimensions.
Schuffenecker said the team had fun, but the tone turned serious once the game clock started ticking.
“For the 32 minutes it’s a business trip,” he said.
The opening tip went to the Panthers, who got a layup on the opening possession and never looked back. They led 19-11 after the first quarter and 30-20 at the half.
Put-in-Bay’s team includes several girls because the 18-student high school is too small this year to field a separate girls team.
Casey Ladd led the Panthers with 17 points, while Cody Porche and Ericson Booker each added 10.
The Panthers also sent a couple of cheerleaders and a student dressed as the school’s mascot, who entertained fans with peppy antics and, on one occasion, tossed an out-of-bounds ball back to the referee.
Back in Put-in-Bay, about 50 restaurant regulars and fans gathered at Tipper’s to watch the game’s video stream on a big-screen television.
“We wanted to bring out the community to support the Panthers,” said manager Patty Bauer. “It’s been the excitement on the island. Everyone was excited that we could broadcast the game and show it here.”
After the game, the Put-in-Bay team quickly headed for Beaver Island’s airport to fly the roughly 30 miles back to Michigan’s mainland. The students are expected to return to South Bass and to class today.