Saturday was quite an experience for me.
I've taken a bus ride with the Batavia basketball team before, but this one with Notre Dame was completely different and was a ton of fun, even though the team lost to Prattsburgh 70-64.
I live less than 10 minutes walking from Notre Dame, so I decided to walk to the school. As soon as I got in the building, coach Mike Rapone was doing a walk-through with his squad.
Prattsburgh and Notre Dame make trips each year to play together and their home courts and it is always a great game, with the home team usually winning.
We then got on the bus and it took exactly two hours to get to Prattsburgh, which is a great town that is old time. The buildings on the main street are from the way-back and the people there are just good folks.
The ride there was a lot of fun.
The kids from Notre Dame know how to bust each other's chops. There was the ribbing of Tommy Rapone on his Pokeman fetish, the gum wrapper belt put on Rick Lair when he fell asleep and just a lot of goofing off.
But when the Fighting Irish arrived at Prattsburgh, it was all business. I had some business to attend to, visiting friends from Notre Dame and Section 5 Talksback that made the trip.
I watched the jayvee game with the varsity squad for the third quarter, then midway through the fourth I went down with coach Rapone to hear his pregame speech.
Rapone is not a yeller and not a big ra-ra coach. He's one of those guys that has been around long enough to know everything the other team is going to do and he ran through it with his kids. He knew what players on the Vikings did and what to do if they pressed or went box-and-1 on Kevin Francis.
Notre Dame jumped out to a quick 15-6 lead in the first quarter. But Francis picked up his second foul and had to sit down, and that's when the flow of the game changed. Prattsburgh took advantage of arguably the Genesee Region League's best player being on the bench and wound up leading 34-27 at the half.
There was nobody on ND that could rebound in the second half and Prattsburgh was dropping 3-pointers like crazy. Patrick Wightman scored 21 points and hit five 3-pointers and Ryan Caron scored a game-high 29 points.
The crowd was totally into the game, with fans from both sides cheering when big things happened.
When the game ended and Notre Dame took it on the chin, Rapone gave his post game speech and basically told his team what they did wrong and hopes that they learn from the mistakes made in this game and become a better team from the loss.
Then the two teams, coaching staffs and all of the media and some locals that were there got together to enjoy pizza, subs and cookies together. It is a tradition that when the two teams play that they get together afterwards and enjoy and meal.
This is not done with any other rivalries as far as I know. Very cool.
As we loaded the bus to go home, I was expecting a depressing ride and kids sleeping. Yes, some were depressed and yes some slept, but it wound up being as much fun as the two hour ride there.
It started with Greg Barr leading a chorus singing songs from cartoon movies of the past. I could not stop laughing.
Then those that were not sleeping, gathered around my seat to talk and hang out. The conversation was good and everybody got a preview of the video, seeing the footage I took on the bus ride up.
There is a sad point that I must end on. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association is attempting to cut the amount of games that a team can play in a season.
That would mean Notre Dame would play it's regular season games and then have three open slots. They aren't going to back out of the Lions Club tournament, which only allows them to play one extra non-league game. This very well might be the end of a great rivalry and tradition that has lasted for many years. Rapone and Prattsburgh coach Jim Burke are both over 500 career wins and good friends.
The kids enjoy playing each other and making the long trips.
But it looks like a great tradition is over.