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Joplin Area Catholic Schools debuts 'All-Schools Day Game'

Jan. 25—Students filled the gymnasium at McAuley Catholic High School on Thursday afternoon to watch the basketball teams take on New Covenant Academy from Springfield.

All of the Joplin Area Catholic Schools let out early for the games.

There were joined by students from Saint Ann's in Carthage and Saint Mary's in Pierce City.

This was the debut of an idea that girls basketball coach and athletic director Mike Howard, along with JACS Director of Advancement Marjorie Comer, established with this game. They wanted to let kids get out of class to watch their peers compete for a day. The event was referred to as "All-Schools Day Game."

The Warriors won both games with the boys coming out on top in a 51-29 final score. The girls were victorious by the score of 67-36.

Both head coaches spoke about the atmosphere on Thursday.

"This is an old gym but it'll get loud," boys coach Tony Witt said. "The kids have been looking at this one for a long time, getting to play in front of their peers. It was a great atmosphere for them from the get-go. From the first bucket they were engaged. They were loud. There were times that we had miscues because they couldn't hear me, and that's what we want."

Witt wasn't the only one who enjoyed the noise rocking the gym.

"That was great. We decided to do that earlier this year to try it out and see how it would be," Howard said. "It was a great decision, because those fans were fantastic. Those kids that get to come here and experience that to get out of class and come support their team. Not only does it build school pride but it also gets kids interested in playing activities."

That was a big part of the decision for Howard as an athletic director — getting kids interested in high school sports from a young age.

"We want kids to be interested in activities and to play," he said. "I think this is a great way to get introduced to it."

Some of those future Warriors took the court themselves at halftime of the boys game. The scorer's table called for two students from the third, fourth and fifth grades to take the floor on one side and one boy and girl from each grade. The teachers picked those students and then they did the same thing for the other side of the floor.

So each basket had six students lined up ready to play the classic game of "knockout."

It is played by taking turns shooting from the free throw line. Two players have a basketball at a time. If the person behind you makes their "free throw" before you, you're out.

Winners were third grader Jane Robinson and fourth grader Wyatt Russow.

"I was kind of nervous but not really nervous," Robinson said.

Russow was a man of one word: "Yeah."

Robinson and Russow both got to pick free candy from the concession stand for winning. Robinson chose a Kit Kat while Russow went with Sour Punch Sour Straws.

"Because it's my favorite," Robinson said of choosing a Kit Kat bar.

Meanwhile, Russow was seeking value: "Because it was the most expensive thing."