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Rough Riders girls basketball preps for season with charity game

By Andy Harris correspondent

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Kent Roosevelt High School. The girls' basketball team played in an Ohio High School Athletic Association Foundation Game to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, Ohio Buckeye Chapter. (Photo courtesy Jon Ridinger)

KENT: The final score, 48-45 in favor of the visiting Mogadore Wildcats, was of little consequence last Saturday night for the girl’s basketball team at Kent Roosevelt High School.

The host Rough Riders dropped a close decision in their penultimate exhibition game before starting the season tonight against Jackson. However, the significance of the game came not from what happened on the court, but everything going on around it. For the fourth consecutive year, the Rough Riders and Wildcats came together in an Ohio High School Athletic Association Foundation Game.

Foundation games are sanctioned by the OHSAA as preseason games played under otherwise normal game conditions to raise money for a charitable cause or organization, such as cancer research or hurricane relief. In each of its four years, the Roosevelt-Mogadore tilt has raised money for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, Ohio Buckeye Chapter.

The idea for the game came from former Mogadore coach George Tompkins' daughter, Tiffany, being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008.

"The game started because we always do Community Service projects and we hooked up with George Tompkins, who has a daughter suffering from M.S.," Roosevelt coach Craig Foreman explained. "I knew about it personally as my aunt had suffered from it in her life.  It is a great kickoff for our community service efforts each season, and we loved being to help George and his daughter personally."

In four years, the game has raised more than $5,000 for multiple sclerosis research, including more than $1,000 this year. The week of the game is filled with promotional efforts at both schools. At Roosevelt, players wear donated t-shirts made especially for the event. The Rough Riders also take the lead in selling tickets and getting the word out about the game, according to Foreman.

"As a team, we spend time in community service projects at many levels, even hooking up each year with Habitat for Humanity in house projects. This charity game is a symbolic kickoff for what I hope to instill as a drive for my girls to always see beyond basketball and how one collective group can really make a difference," Foreman said.

The Rough Riders use the game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season as it is the closest they get to normal game conditions during the preseason. "It helps the girls get the jitters out," Foreman continued.

Other events, such as a half-court shooting contest at halftime, also raise money for the cause and all revenues from concessions go to Ohio Buckeye chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

Not only do the game and surrounding activities raise awareness of MS in the community, but they also bring the issue to the attention of the players.

"I have had some players who have never heard of it or don't know what MS is, so it brings awareness to them," Foreman said, who is in his seventh year with the Rough Riders.

Tompkins has retired from coaching, but new Mogadore coach Tom Pollock and Foreman spoke earlier this year and both were eager to keep the game going.

Both the junior varsity and varsity squads faced off and in a unique twist, the same volunteer officiating crew worked both games.

During the regular season, crews worth either JV or varsity, not both. The three-man crew of Bill Hespen, Ken Starkey and Bill Tilker donated their time to work both games. Foreman hopes the game's continuing support from the school and community will result in its continued presence on the Rough Riders' schedule each year, regardless of who is calling the plays.

"Even with George gone I'd love to continue this well past this season as a yearly tradition," Foreman said.