GUY — The memories flowed as freely as John Hutchcraft's style of basketball Friday night.
They were fast and constant.
Guy-Perkins coach John Hutchcraft, who is retiring after 42 years, coached his last game at the Thunderbird Complex.
There were tributes, signs, T-shirts — and tears. Tissue could have been a best-seller at concessions — and not for nacho stains.
Appropriately, the Hutchcraft's Thunderbirds played St. Joseph, a Faulkner County rival in a series of games that were a flashback to a golden bygone era.
The matchup, with the two schools currently in different classications, was not an accident.
"We worked on this for months because we want St. Joseph to be his last game here," said Charlotte Hutchcraft, his daughter whose son, Wyatt Spires, is a senior on the team.
Back in the day, this was one of the fiercest rivalries in the state, like the old Celtics and Lakers in miniature.
Guy-Perkins and St. Joseph were both Class A at the time. The teams, boys and girls or both, were not only one-two in the conference year-end and year-out, but both were annually two of the top teams in the state in Class A. They'd often play four times a year — two time in conference, then district, and regional, always with something significant on the line. Their matchups would many times determine the pecking order in the state tournament.
This was a rivalry that spawned stories and memories for generations. Fans would pack each team's gymnasium, usually lining part of the baseline area, much to the consternation of officials. When the Thunderbirds played in their old stone "band box" building, where a wall was just a yard or two from the baseline, a layup was an adventure. The teams' locker rooms were behind a stage and teams ran onto the court off the stage.
This was "Hoosiers" with a Faulkner County flavor.
And the teams, well-coached but usually playing opposite styles, went at it with a Final Four ferocity. Cheers and taunts reverberated and crescendoed throughout the small gymnasiums. The excitement was contagious. This was bigtime basketball in a small town setting.
It was the kind of atmosphere that attracted so many of us to basketball in the first place. One dose and you were addicted.
Guy-Perkins and St. Joseph went at it with the same intensity Friday night, but it wasn't quite the same. The two old county rivals have gone different directions. They are neither in the same size classification nor conference.
There was nothing at stake Friday except pride and a salute to a longtime coach and a bygone era.
Still, it was neat.
One person watching from the top of the stands was former St. Joseph coach Joe Mallett, who still feels the exhileration of victory and the scars of defeat from many a classic, down-to-the-wire matchup with Hutchcraft. He was at the pregame reception for Hutchcraft, who attended Mallett's retirement reception a few years ago.
"Lots of memories," Mallett said. "I told John that I don't know if they'll ever be this type of rivalry again. Things are just different now."
"I'm glad my last game here was against St. Joseph; it made it special," said Hutchcraft, who had to pause several times during the game to shake hands with well-wishers. "The St. Joseph people were very cordial to me and I'll remember that forever.
"And they won one (senior girls) and we won one (senior boys) so that was probably about right."
After each of the three games (junior girls, senior girls and boys), players of both teams circled at center court, held hands and prayed.
Sacred endings to a night of sacred moments.
Sports editor/columnist David McCollum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dmaclcd.