The game was close down the stretch, but employees of the City of Wilmington managed to outlast their counterparts from New Hanover County in the first-ever battle on the hardwood between the two local government agencies.
“It felt awesome,” said the city’s legislative liaison Tony McEwen, who helped organize the event. “You’re out here playing with your co-workers and New Hanover County, who we partner with on so many things. It was great to play with them as well and have this fun camaraderie.
“It was even more fun that we came out victorious,” added McEwen.
The first half of the game, which took place at Roland Grise Middle School, was lighthearted, with breaks to let kids from the crowd of around 100 spectators be pulled onto the floor to shoot free throws or show off their signs for their dads. The city came out on top by a score of 12 – 11 at the end of the half.
“We have a game plan,” said New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet, who coached the county team, at halftime. “We’re just going to keep running fresh bodies out there.”
Coudriet’s team, which had over a dozen players compared to the city’s roster of nine, also featured the biggest man on the court: 6’9″ Mike Gibbs, a former player for the local Wilmington Sea Dawgs minor league basketball team. Gibbs helped the county take the lead in the more serious second half, capping off a scoring run with an emphatic dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.
Still, it wasn’t enough, as the city, who was coached by Deputy City Manager Tony Caudle, mounted a late comeback and took the game by a final score of 48 – 41.
“It felt exciting,” McEwen said of those last few intense minutes. “We were no longer partners with the county, we had to break those ties.”
Though a couple of the county’s elected officials had to pull out at the last minute (Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Jonathan Barfield Jr. was scheduled to play and Sheriff Ed McMahon was to be a referee), local teens were able to participate. The 13-year-old sons of Coudriet and Gibbs, both basketball players at Roland Grise, saw playing time for the county team. Laney High School senior Sihe Ingram-Colvin, a member of a joint YMCA and City of Wilmington program that teaches teens skills in basketball rules and officiating, was one of the referees.
“It was a good time,” Ingram-Colvin, who’s been with the program since it started a year ago, said of the experience of officiating the game.
No elected officials from the city were on the roster, but joining McEwen and Caudle (who also played) from the City Manager’s office was Deputy City Manager Richard King. The Wilmington Police Department was also well-represented with three players: Megan O’Bryan, Amy Argo and Twonne Bannerman. Rounding out the winning team was Bill McDow from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Nick Shepherd from the Wilmington Fire Department and Aaron Cramer from the Department of Public Services.
“It’s just neat to be able to come out here and do that and have a good time,” said McEwen, who added they hope to make this an annual or even biannual event. “We enjoyed it, and it was all for a good cause.”
The game benefited the United Way of the Cape Fear Area. A check for $44,225 was presented at halftime by the city and county to the UWCFA’s Community Impact Fund. According to McEwen, the two government entities have raised closer to $50,000 for the organization’s annual campaign, as that total does not include some other funds that have been raised, including proceeds from the $5 tickets sold for admission to Thursday night’s game.