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Having a 'ball' at 'camp'

March 22, 2013 - Neil Rudel
I just returned from a cool tradition held in the Cove during March Madness.

It's called "Ball Camp," and it's an annual gathering of 40-plus Williamsburg and Spring Cove friends celebrating the first two days of the NCAA Tournament in memory of their friend, Lynn "Wimp" Ranalli.

Joe Zehner, one of Williamsburg's 1,000-point scorers (who duplicated the feat at Mount Aloysius College, invited me to take part a couple of years ago and the welcome mat has been out since.

Everyone is dressed in their favorite teams garb -- Georgetown, North Carolina and Penn State.

Thursday night at "Ball Camp" is held at Mark Bechtel's home in Martinsburg. Friday night, "girls night," as I've come to learn, shifts to Williamsburg and the volume, maybe because it's now a weekend and/or maybe because the wives are letting their hair down, is definitely turned up at home of Jeff and Tracy (Houck) Colbert.

Tracy Colbert warmly greeted me by loudly suggesting I favored Bishop Guilfoyle during the intense rivalry of the 1990s when Williamsburg and BG met in multiple western finals.

My protests declaring neutrality were playfully shouted down.

It was nice to mingle with many of the names that fill Williamsburg's rich basketball lore -- Zehner and Houck, Grove and Brantner, Lilly and Greaser -- while remembering Wimp Ranalli.

As fate would have it, Ranalli was a devoted Georgetown fan, and the Hoyas fell hard to Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night, captivating the crowd surrounding the large basement TVs.

Ranalli would have been disappointed, but he'd no doubt appreciate how all his friends love to toast him annually at "Ball Camp."

*****

The most amazing moment of the first two days, to me, came with Marquette's last-second victory over Davidson.

Davidson held the lead throughout the game until Marquette hit a couple of clutch 3-pointers to pull within one with 12 seconds left. Still, all Davidson needed to do was inbound, force Marquette to foul and then salt the game away at the free-throw line.

Instead -- even with Marquette trying to foul -- Davidson lost its composure and threw the ball upcourt and out of bounds.

Marquette had no timeouts left, but officials sorted out how many seconds were left -- a process that took at least three minutes -- which allowed Buzz Williams to draw up the game-winning play.

Nursing a one-point lead with 6 seconds to go, Davidson could not foul and lost the game because it didn't wait for a foul that Marquette was trying to make five seconds earlier.

********

Now down Wisconsin and the Hoyas, my Final Four has been blown up.

 
 
 

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