If you did not know what was going on at Meadville High School’s House of Thrills on Friday night, you may have thought you were transported back to the 1986-87 Bulldogs basketball season.

A raucous crowd firmly behind the home team. High-flying dunks, both in the warm-ups and in the game. And look, there is Mike Pero!

The star point guard for the ’86-87 ’Dogs that reached the PIAA Class AAAA final was only there as an observer, however. The stars of the show were the crowd favorite Erie BayHawks, who beat the visiting Fort Wayne Mad Ants in an exhibition game, 106-100.

And the 1987 MASH graduate was impressed with the show.

“It is obviously a different level,” said Pero. “To me, it is a whole different game. In high school and college, you have set plays. Here, you have an open shot and you take it.

“The three point line has had an effect,” continued Pero. “You could probably count on one hand how many times the guard tried to get the ball down to the big man. And with the 24 second clock, if you have an open shot you better take it or you may not get another.

“But it is entertaining, high scoring and fast paced. That is what fans want to see.”

Pero was not the only local who enjoyed the action.

Current MASH student and member of the current Bulldog round ballers Adam Barba was also impressed. Having been to one Pitt game a couple years ago, this was his first experience with such a high-caliber of play.

“It’s so fast paced,” said Barba. “In high school, we take the ball out and usually walk it up the court. But they just fly up and down the court.”

Meadville athletic Director Greg Williams said the entire MASH squad got to watch Fort Wayne during its shoot around. And while the Mad Ants’ Kyle McAlarney missed just one shot during that warm-up, Williams was somewhat surprised that he was pretty much silenced in the game.

“We are finding out tonight that jump shooters are few and far between in pro basketball,” said Williams, who also said the paid attendance was 838, but estimated the overall attendance to be around 1,100. “You have got to find ways to score other than just being a set shooter.”

All these revelations led to one decision, at least for Pero and Barba.

Both said they would be seeing more of the BayHawks this season. Pero said his children are now getting to the age were they can sit and enjoy the games. As for Barba, he won free tickets to Erie’s home opener with what was probably the dunk of the night.

Between the third and fourth period, Barba was given a chance to win the tickets by making a shot from anywhere on the court. He chose to dunk it. He then was given the chance to win season tickets if he could make a shot from the same spot ... but in the other basket.

“If I had known, I would have went for an NBA 3-pointer,” said Barba. “It would have been nice to win the season tickets. But, I am going to use my free passes and probably go up a few more times.”

As for the game, on this night it was the icing on the cake.

Erie jumped out to a 15 point lead midway through the second period and it looked like the team was in complete control. That did not last very long. The Mad Ants, led by Ron Howard and his 24 points, stormed back to tie the game at the half and then build a lead of 17 midway through the third period.

Game over, right?

“It is a game of runs,” said BayHawks guard Rod Wilmont. “A team can take a 15-point lead, and it isn’t safe. A 20-point lead isn’t safe.”

And with Wilmont on the court, the BayHawks proved it.

The 6-4 guard was held scoreless in the first half, but from the time the Ants took their 17-point lead, Wilmont scored 23 points to spark the team to the comeback win. And Wilmont was also involved in the play of the game — a steal ended up in his hands and he found teammate Alade Aminu for an alley oop dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

“The crowd really helped get us going,” said Wilmont. “That was what we needed. If we can have that all year, and play with the same intensity, we will be good.”

The BayHawks open the regular season on Nov. 27 at Fort Wayne. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 start.

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