STERLING – There was basketball played on Sunday afternoon in Musgrove Fieldhouse, but not quite the kind the paying customers were expecting.
The Sauk Valley Predators were set to take on IBA-PBL Central Division rival Kenosha, but there was a major problem: Nearly two-thirds of the Ballers were initially no-shows, resulting in a forfeit for the Predators.
Instead, a bizarre, 40-minute scrimmage took place, with lots of dunks, little to no defense and Predators owner Brad Grenoble suiting up for the opposition.
The fun began at precisely 2:32 p.m., when Grenoble received a phone call informing him a van containing seven Ballers had broken down near the DeKalb Oasis. Meanwhile, four Ballers (two from Evanston and two from Chicago) traveling on their own made their way to Musgrove, and using Sterling Golden Warriors practice gear, were going through pre-game drills.
“We pulled up to go to the gym and we saw that the team van wasn’t here,” Kenosha player Mahlon Thomas said. “We were like, ‘Oh wait a minute, what’s going on here?’ “
Grenoble initially set out to retrieve the missing players, but when he reached Dixon and punched in the mile marker where they were located, he turned around and headed back to Musgrove Fieldhouse. They were more than an hour away, by Grenoble’s GPS estimate, meaning they were closer to Aurora.
“It would have been a 6 o’clock tip,” Grenoble said. “Nobody was going to hang around for that. I’m surprised this many fans hung around for what they had today.”
The game was declared a forfeit, leaving the Predators at 9-1 and firmly on top of the Central Division standings. They were coming off a 91-89 win at Bloomington on Saturday night in which they erased a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit.
“When you have a good game like that, you want to come back and have good back-to-back games, and have a complete weekend,” Predators coach Ryan Vasquez said. “It is what it is.”
It was decided to have a scrimmage between the teams, but the Ballers only had four team members. Cody Behrens, a former Newman and Sauk Valley Community College player in attendance as a fan, was asked if he wanted to round out the squad. He did, but first had to go home to retrieve his sneakers.
Behrens, who will next season at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa, also checked with his future college coach, Oliver Drake, to make sure there were no eligibility issues. There weren’t, and he played part of the first half with the Ballers.
When Behrens wasn’t on the floor, his spot was taken by Grenoble, the Preds owner who noted he hasn’t played an organized game of basketball since his days with the Marine Corps in 1994.
He mostly deferred to his new teammates, but did have a few wide-open shots that merely drew iron.
“I missed my open jumpers,” Grenoble said. “I guess I should have dunked it.”
Early in the second half of the scrimmage, a weird afternoon got a little weirder. The missing Ballers strolled into Musgrove Fieldhouse, thanks to the kindness of an unidentified woman from Rock Falls.
According to Grenoble, she saw the seven stranded players and offered a helping hand.
“She was like, ‘Where are you going?’ Grenoble said. “They said, ‘The Sauk Valley Predators.’ She was like, ‘Oh, I know where that’s at. I’ll take you.’ That says something about the good people of our area.”
Fans who attended Sunday’s game will have their tickets honored for the Sunday, May 5 game against the Kankakee County Soldiers.