On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the outside doors were open on the Brown County High School auxiliary gym, and the sound of basketball fans cheering drifted into the warm air.
March 13, Brown County Parks and Recreation’s adult league had their championship tournament, ending a season where six teams played each other over and over for T-shirts, bragging rights and fun.
Randy Hedrick played on the 1976 Brown County High School regional champions team, and kept on going.
Like most of the players, he does it to stay in shape, “And I love to play basketball, mostly.”
There are a lot of ways to get exercise, so why play in the parks league?
“It’s Indiana; it’s basketball,” said Craig Hoskins, who played for the Brown County Eagles a decade ago.
Hoskins’ team, sponsored by Bradley Farms, lost the final game of the tournament 54-52 to the Big Woods and Q’s Bikes team.
Even so, Hoskins took away more enjoyment than disappointment.
“When it’s clean like that, it’s fun,” he said.
For John Tiernan, who played alongside Hedrick on the American Family Insurance team, it’s about love. “I just love playing ball,” he said.
“Just exercise and competing — and yelling, probably more than you should,” he said.
Now a volunteer coach with the Brown County High School boys basketball team, Tiernan got into coaching as an offshoot of playing with the parks league. A teammate, Doug Payne, recruited him.
When American Family Insurance lost 58-48 to the Big Woods and Q’s Bikes team in the second round of the tournament, many of the players Tiernan faced were ones he had coached.
“If I’m doing a good job as a coach, they should be beating me,” he said.
“I’m on a steady, downhill slope,” Tiernan quipped. “Hopefully, they’re still getting better.”
Dennis Fox has played with the league for 30 years, but this season he was on the sidelines with injuries. “Being out here and gettin’ hurt don’t pay my bills,” he said.
But being off the court didn’t keep him out of the game.
With the tone of a coach, Fox was yelling pointers and encouragement to the younger players on the Big Woods and Q’s Bikes team.
“I love them to death, and I just wanted to see them win and play some good ball,” Fox said.
Fox and Hedrick said the younger players have the advantages of youth, but there is no substitute for experience.
“Young guys may have all the speed and the talent, but they’re not always the winners,” Hedrick said.
One thing that all age groups in the league share is the camaraderie of the game.
“These guys are like my brothers,” said Bryce Boyer, a member of the Big Woods and Q’s Bikes team.
A 2011 Brown County graduate, Boyer played high school basketball with many of his parks and rec teammates, like Jordan Rose and Quincy Robinson.
Rose and Robinson both graduated in 2012 and have been playing together since elementary school.
“These are all my brothers,” Rose said.
Their team plays in other leagues and in pick-up ball between seasons.
“I’m just a competitor,” Boyer said. “I like to get out there and I like to scrap and play ball.”
When the dust settles and the scrapping is over, the camaraderie crosses team lines.
“It’s nice to see, like, (Evan) Markley and (Jordan) Rose,” Tiernan said. “It’s good to see them continue to play.” Markley just graduated from the high school Eagles team last year.
After their tourney loss, Hedrick and Tiernan retired to the stands, watching the final game with intense interest, cheering the players on.
“(The parks league) keeps everybody involved and keeps them in the community,” Fox said. “It keeps everybody active, out of trouble, having fun.”
“It kept me in shape,” he said.
Taking a play from the older players, Robinson said he and his teammates are thinking about starting a basketball camp for kids — possibly through the YMCA.
“I want to make sure all these little kids — you know, they’ve got big dreams, big goals to go farther in basketball, and I want them to know how to play the right way,” Robinson said.
“It’s about giving back to the community,” Boyer said. “Basketball changes lives.”