By Pete Chiodo
January 23, 2013 7:00 a.m. SHARON —
Lingering throughout Tuesday night’s boys basketball game between Sharon and Meadville were the still very raw emotions surrounding Sunday’s tragic shooting death of Tigers sophomore guard Le’Angelo Crumby Ford.
Ford died from a single gunshot wound to the chest early Sunday morning in Sharon. Jontae Maurice Barnes, 19, of Sharon, is accused of the shooting. He was apprehended shortly after the incident took place.
At last night’s game, the first since Ford’s death, the Sharon fans in attendance all wore the color green in his honor. Members of his family and his friends entered the Sharon High gymnasium to a standing ovation and sat in a large group behind the Tigers’ bench. At halftime, his family, including mother Donna, received a pair of basketballs signed by Ford’s former teammates and members of the Sharon student body. And throughout the game, Ford’s cousin, starting senior guard Khalil Hopson, donned the departed athlete’s No. 3 jersey instead of his usual No. 10.
Somewhere amidst all of this, two teams had a basketball game to play. And of all the tributes offered to Ford last night, the effort put forth by the two sides over the next 36 minutes was as fitting as any.
Sharon got the win in overtime, 81-75.
“It was an important game,” said Sharon head coach Jason Rankin. “And it was a tough situation because in the perspective of life, it’s real small. But in the perspective of their lives, it was huge, because it helped them heal one step closer. It helped them forget about it for a couple hours. For me, personally, I still hear his voice. I still hear him talking to me. I still talk to his mom all the time. And for a couple hours I didn’t think about it. And I was kind of embarrassed at the end because it just kind of came out.
He added, “We played through a lot of emotional turmoil, and that’s tough. But in the overall scheme of things it was a tremendous job for them to pull through and go out and do what they had to do.”
The win improves Sharon’s record to 7-7 overall and 5-4 in Region 5.
Meadville, losing its second straight, falls to 10-4 on the year and 6-3 in the region.
“Really, I have no complaints,” said Bulldogs head coach Norm Price. “I told the kids, ‘You don’t miss shots on purpose. You played your hearts out.’ And it was a tough night for Sharon to play; very emotional. And I thought their kids played a great game given the circumstances. They obviously were emotionally charged up. I think it meant an awful lot to them. And I was proud of our kids with the way they competed. It wasn’t an easy game. It just was a very intense high school sporting event.”
Sharon led the way for most of the night. They fired out to a 20-13 lead after one quarter and still led 32-28 at the half.
Hopson then carried the Tigers through the third quarter, scoring 12 of his team’s 17 points as Sharon went into the fourth leading 49-42.
However, Meadville clawed back into the game in the final frame. Midway through, the Bulldogs used some turnovers and some big defensive rebounds to go on an 11-2 run, pulling ahead 60-56 with a few minutes to play.
However, Sharon wasn’t going to be denied. The Tigers battled back to take a 64-63 lead. Malik Anderson sunk a free throw to tie it with a minute to go. Yet, neither team could get back on the scoreboard in regulation (Zak Price had a 30-footer that just rimmed out at the buzzer) and the game went to overtime.
“Usually the team that keeps their composure down the stretch will win games like that,” said coach Price. “And I thought late in the game we had a little bit of a lead and we made a couple mistakes and usually those things will come back to haunt you.”
Sharon started overtime with a 7-2 run, punctuated by a slam dunk by Hopkins that made it 71-66.
The Tigers then kept its lead with some clutch foul shooting, hitting 8 of 10 tries down the stretch.
Hopson later added a second dunk in overtime to finish off the Tigers scoring. He then turned to the home crowd now lined up behind the Tigers’ bench and pointed both index fingers to the sky.
He finished the game with 31 points, shooting 8-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-3 at the line in the second half plus overtime.
“Khalil was just a wreck,” said Rankin. “(Ford) was his cousin. He kind of almost went into hiding, he was so upset. I was there and I saw him at the hospital the night the whole thing happened. He was sitting out in this weather and he was shaking his head. You grow up some. You understand that bad things happen to good people and you have to move on. That’s the sign of a man, to come out and still do his job and to still do his best for his team, for people that were counting on him. And I give him credit.”
Darrell Stovall ended the night with 17 points and added 15 rebounds for a huge double-double. Mark Henry and Mike Porterfield added 10 points each.
For Meadville, Zak Price paced the team on the scoreboard with 20 points. He led the Bulldogs in overtime with seven. Freshman Jason Clune had a marvelous night on offense, scoring 17. Donte Hollingsworth finished with 14. Trevor Clune had a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double.