Memories bright as Pit lights ready to dim

Memories bright as Pit lights ready to dim

A few thoughts from the week in sports …

The lights that shine on The Pit will be turned off for the final time after a varsity basketball game later this month.

Triway will host archrival Orrville in a girls/boys basketball doubleheader on Feb. 17, which sold out 15 minutes after tickets were posted for sale online.

After that final regular-season home game for the Titans, the final chapter will be completed after 61 seasons calling The Pit home.

The Titans’ basketball teams will play in the new Triway One building in 2023-24 and call Carmichael Court their home.

The Triway boys hoops teams were usually among the best in Wayne County — in some years the entire state. The Titans have won 20 league titles, nine district titles, and made four trips to the state Final Four since the school and The Pit opened in 1962.

The Titans girls have only won two league titles but have enjoyed many winning seasons and produced some outstanding players.

The home-court advantage in The Pit was huge. The Titans intimidated teams with the noise of the crowd and tight confines of the court, which is sunk 5 feet, 2 inches below the second floor that holds the bleachers.

I asked several notable boys players and coaches who competed at The Pit to recall their most memorable game at the iconic 1,200-seat gym:

—Randy Montgomery, Triway coach 1983-2002: “There’s so many. I remember Brandon Sprang hit a jumper there to beat Orrville (1994).

“The Orrville games were always like the Michigan vs. Ohio State. I remember one year we were (ranked) No. 1 in the state and they were No. 2, and we played them here (in the early 1990s). The place was packed at 3:30 p.m., and they got off to 10-0 run and the place just kinda got (quiet).

“I called timeout and got them over there (to the bench) and said, ‘Well, maybe they’re right. Maybe we are overrated.’ The guys looked at me and said, ‘We’re not,’ and we scored the next 10 points. It was back and forth the whole night, and finally, there was a steal and Andy Rhamy laid a bucket in as the buzzer was going off and we won. I’ve never heard it that loud anywhere that I’ve been.”

—Keith Snoddy, Triway Class of 1976 and head coach from 2002-13: “A favorite game of mine was a win over Orrville (in 2010) because we weren't expected to beat them that year, although we were both good.

“We had Dana Brooks and Zach Houmard and some of those guys, and Zach actually made a bucket at the buzzer to beat them here. The place just went nuts. It was pretty impressive and a lot of fun. That's what this place brings out.” (Note: Orrville avenged the loss to Triway in a district final and wound up as a state runner-up.)

—Rick Rottman, Triway Class of 1969: “During my junior year of the 1967-68 season, we had a game scheduled with Northwestern, and they expected a big turnout. I got to the game at 5:45 for a JV game as a varsity player.

“When myself and another fellow varsity player opened the doors to go into the gym, we started to walk alongside the railings, and all of a sudden, the whole side stood up and applauded because we were varsity players. I looked up and every single seat was filled, even in the aisles 15 minutes before the JV game. We had no composure at all, and we turned and kind of scooted out so we didn't have to walk in front of everyone and be embarrassed. We ended up going under the bleachers to get to the locker room. Unfortunately, we lost to Northwestern and Mike Grenert, but it’s still a cool memory.”

—Sly Slaughter, Orrville Class of 1993 and later the Riders coach: “I guess it would be the first time I ever played in The Pit my sophomore year. Triway used to set a blind screen at half-court, and the gym was so loud I couldn't hear my teammates, Anthony Durden especially, calling out the screen. I picked up three fouls early in the first half, and coach Smith was not happy with me, Anthony or the officials.

“Every time we turned the ball over while I was on the bench, I got yelled at because I wasn't in the game. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I hate this place.’ Not so much because of the fans or the atmosphere, but because I was getting yelled at. Luckily, we escaped with a win, and in the second half, I was able to play a bit more. I am glad that I was able to play in The Pit and will miss all the great Orrville vs. Triway battles that were played in that gym.”

Pit trivia

Q: Who was the best high school team to ever play in The Pit, or in Wayne County for that matter?

A: Oak Hill Academy from Virginia, which beat a good Triway team by 40 points in The Pit in 1993. The Warriors featured future NBA players Jerry Stackhouse, Jeff McInnis, Makhtar Ndiaye and Mark Blount and a total of nine players who signed with Division I colleges. The 1992-93 Oak Hill team finished 36-0 and was named the mythical national champion by USA Today.

Any Triway team member or fan who was there that night will list this game among their favorite Pit memories. Oak Hill dunked the ball so many times with such ferocity that it rattled the rafters. That caused paint chips to fall off the ceiling and onto the floor, which eventually needed to be swept.

Q: Who was the first Triway boys basketball coach?

A: Abe Mast, who had set the Wadsworth scoring record with 36 points against Bob Knight and Orrville in the 1950s.

Mast only managed a 4-16 record with that first Triway team but has been a big success in almost all his other endeavors. Mast went on to found the company that produces the paper you're reading right now, the Wooster Weekly News.

Parting shots

Super Bowl LVIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs is almost here. When the teams kick off in Las Vegas on Sunday at 6:30 p.m., an estimated 115 million viewers will be watching worldwide.

I’m always interested to look for Ohio connections in the big game, which sadly the Browns have never been a part of. This year it’s great to see 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk from nearby Cloverleaf High School in the big game.

—Super pick: I actually successfully picked the 49ers and Chiefs to both win in my last Bargain Hunter column. In the Super Bowl, I’m going with the Chiefs, 30-27. Patrick Mahomes is a difference-maker, and the Chiefs also have an outstanding defense.

Aaron Dorksen can be emailed at

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