Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Newsome High's Silent Night looks to collect canned goods without a peep

LITHIA — Shhhhh.

Don't say a word. Put away your noisemakers. Sit on your hands and just watch, calmly and patiently.

That's the game plan for fans of the Newsome High School boys basketball team when the Wolves host Durant Wednesday night at 8.

Newsome plans to introduce the community to its version of Silent Night Basketball, so can your cheering.

Inspired by the popular event at NAIA Taylor University in Indiana, the Wolves are asking fans to play the quiet game — until Newsome scores its 10th point. Whenever the Wolves cross that benchmark, the Newsome faithful hope its gymnasium will erupt into the biggest show of school spirit ever, perhaps something akin to winning a state title.

This dramatic strategy aims to encourage Wolves pride while creating awareness for a canned food drive Newsome is organizing. Before the game, canned goods and nonperishable food donations will be accepted at the door to benefit the community food pantry at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon.

"The kids are excited about it," said Newsome basketball coach Barry Jacobs, who has visited Taylor for a football camp. "It's going to be strange for the crowd. It will be a little weird."

The idea stemmed from senior point guard Jeff Povelones, who "watches way too many basketball videos online," according to his mother, Sue. After seeing how enthusiastic the Taylor students acted, including dressing in outrageous holiday costumes and bursting into song after the 10th point, the thought emerged at Newsome's parent night and Jacobs then cleared it through administration.

Taylor University earned a reputation for its Silent Night Basketball game with arenawide support the Friday before final exams for more than 20 years. The University of Illinois also has rolled it out twice, calling it the Orange Hush, thanks to coach John Groce, who attended Taylor University.

On the Newsome campus, word about the game is spreading quickly. Students talk about it in the halls, parents know, cheerleaders have been briefed, social media alerts are planned and co-captain Hayden Harkins delivered the message on the school's morning show.

"I let the student body know that this is a big event to help the team and community," he said, reminding them of the underlying motivation to bring food items to the game.

Jacobs said he also tipped off the Durant administrators and the Cougars basketball coach, Trent Tice, in hopes of generating a calm before the storm. But there's no telling how the Cougars faithful will react.

"They can cheer all they want," Jacobs said.

Jacobs has led Newsome to a 5-1 start entering Thursday's game at Robinson, including a perfect 3-0 at home. He said he's not going to draw up any special play to net the 10th point.

"The guys know any way the points come, I'll take them," Jacobs said. "A steal and a layup, anything."

Harkins feels the same way as a player who might take the historic shot.

"It's going to be whoever ends up with it," said Harkins, who along Anthony Gamble, leads the team with a double-digit scoring average. "We will pass the ball around like we usually do and whoever scores, we will be excited."

Newsome usually draws a pretty decent crowd for games, but it hopes this new tradition will spark even more excitement, after the 10th point of the game and for years to come.

"We have some pretty good fans," said Fisher Curry, the Wolves' other captain. "So I expect nothing less."

Regular admission fees will apply. Newsome High School is located at 16550 FishHawk Blvd. in Lithia.

Eric Vician can be reached at [email protected]

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