It’s a VCR-quality recording, as you’d expect it to be roughly 21 years later, and the screen is filled with sepia tones and mullet-headed, feather-headed teenagers and shorty-shorts and mustachioed men in the crowd — And hey, there’s The Beautiful Heth at the scorers table! — and the team in white that was behind by 18 points just a few short minutes ago is suddenly within a single point of the lead and has the ball with 11 seconds left, and a high school senior wearing No. 10 receives the ball at the top of the key, dribbles left and then into the lane and goes up into the air and lofts a crumpled up piece of paper of a jump shot that floats softly toward the rafters, then back, before glancing the backboard and settling straight down through the net, and there is a celebration, then a time out, then a stolen ball, and then two more foul shots for No. 10, and the game is over, 57-54, and No. 10 is buried under a mass of bodies near half-court, and Merrimack Valley High School of New Hampshire has won the 1989 Class I basketball championship, — And hey, there’s The Beautiful Heth celebrating in the middle of everyone! — and one of the nets goes ceremoniously to No. 10, and the bus ride home is escorted by fire trucks and police cars, and everyone in Penacook, it seems, is out on the streets to greet the team as they drive up Fisherville Road to the school.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet No. 10, Mr. Paul Dean.
He scored 21 points that night, in the final game of his high school basketball career. (I guess now would be the appropriate time to mention that my high school basketball career ended slightly differently, with me walking home alone in my uniform after losing to Hopkinton. Now, back to our story …) The Beautiful Heth was the manager and scorekeeper for that Merrimack Valley championship team, good friends with Paul, and he and I would later end up at Plymouth State together — him as a player, me as a school newspaper sportswriter — but it was not until the Facebook age that we all reconnected in earnest.
Glad we did, because he’s a wonderful dude with a terrific, kickboxing wife, Michelle, and three special kids of kinda the same ages as Things 1, 2 and 3. We met up at Paul and TBH’s high school reunion last summer, and then Paul was kind enough to join HFH and help rebound the final 20 up to 100,000 at a Merrimack Valley/Pembroke basketball game in January. And most recently, on Friday night, the families joined forces at their home in Reading, Mass., for dinner and Wiffle Ball and jungle-gymming and swimming and E-Street Radio and, at the very end of the night, some foul shooting under the floodlight on Dean Court.
Five hundred (added to the 1,000 made earlier in the morning) went quickly, despite the fact that Paul was basically staring directly into 120 watts the entire time. That ability comes with the home court advantage and with being an ath-a-leeeeet, I guess. But what made his task particularly difficult, I noticed, was that the net was obviously not new and tight, so many times the ball came down through the hoop like a bullet, almost as if there was no net at all. When I pointed that out to Paul, he smiled and said, “That’s the net from the championship game.”
Pretty cool, I thought.
Thanks for the help, Paul, and for the hospitality, Dean family. With the 1,500 total from Friday, 1,000 Saturday and 1,500 this morning (Sunday), we’re now at 388,007 down, 611,993 to go to 1 million made foul shots.
For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.