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Blocking out the present, traveling in memory lane

Tales of some of the most glorious times in Citrus High basketball history were told Friday night at a faculty-alumni game. But, perhaps, most telling were the sneakers. From the original Converse hi-tops worn by 1969 graduate Robert Simmons _ the white, now dull beige, canvas ones that provided about as much footing Friday night as a pair of sweat socks _ to the all-leather jobs worn by 1990 graduates Luke Simmons and Lance Powers, CONS written in bold lettering across the back of the heel.

And certainly the gleaming white sneakers bought especially for Friday's game by 1960 graduate Pete Kelly, now an Inverness city councilman, and 1961 graduate Larry Hartman, now a minister at the Church of Christ in Floral City, had their message.

It's been a long time.

"I couldn't have worn my old work ones out here," said Kelly, whose alumni team beat the faculty 123-107.

The game was a fund-raising event for three Citrus High players _ Scott Toumbleston, Nathan Smith and graduate Simmons _ traveling to Ireland this summer to participate in the Limerick Treaty 300 tournament as part of the USA Florida All-Stars.

It reunited players such as Kelly and Hartman, teammates on the 1960 team that went to the state Class B tournament, only to fall victim to a flu bug. Hartman went on the next year to be part of the Hurricanes' state runner-up club that lost in the Class B finals to Malone, 66-32.

Four members of the 1983-84 team that won a one-time school-record 23 games suited up for the alumni _ Sport Franklin, Sean Tribble, Mickey Dixon and David DeCarlo _ while their old coach, Bob Trenta, came all the way from St. Augustine to play for the faculty.

And the youngest players in Friday's game, Simmons and Powers, were members of the 1989-90 team that broke that school record for wins in a season with a 24-7 mark their senior years.

All had a chance to shine Friday night as long-ago, and some not-so-long-ago, high school careers were relived for seconds at a time _ in sizzling passes, driving layups, ferocious rebounds and even a blocked shot or two.

Though uniforms that once were snug through the chest were instead a little taut over the tummy, and bald spots outnumbered flattops three-to-one, they haven't lost their touch.

Michael Redding was deadly from three-point range, routinely hitting shots that were worth only two points when he last wore the black and gold in 1972. His son, Mike Jr., now plays for the Citrus jayvee team.

Clarence Alexander, who stood 6-foot-1, 175 pounds as a senior in 1972, still knows how to clog the lane, though he clogs a bit more of it now at 235 pounds.

"Let's hear it for them, they lasted one half," called announcer Rob Malpica, a sophomore running back and basketball player for the Hurricanes. "They need a rest."

But they came back out for more, and even pushed the tempo a little bit as the faculty made a run at the alumni's 53-44 halftime lead.

Citrus High girls basketball coach Bruce Nelson canned two three-pointers in the final minute, finally connecting on his southpaw set shot.

Citrus baseball coach Mike "Bo knows basketball" Bocock crashed the boards with gusto.

Citrus assistant basketball coach Tommy Densmore blocked a shot.

But at the end of the game, not much on the scoreboard seemed to matter. For more than two hours the players had laughed, swapped stories and shared memories, until it was time to go home, and put the sneakers back in the closet.