Traveling to basketball games is far from ordinary for the 10 players on Put-in-Bay High School's boys team. First, there's no scouting report to review their opponents. Then there's the airplane flight from Put-in-Bay to their opponet, And finally, an overnight stay at a hotel. The biggest perk for the players is shopping at a mainland Wal-Mart.
"We just play to have fun," said Sheldon Stonerook, one of three seniors on the Put-in-Bay team. "It's good to play, but it's also a good excuse to get off the island." In the winter, leaving Put-in-Bay, a small town on South Bass Island north of Sandusky, means flying over a sometimes icy Lake Erie. "It's definitely different," said first-year head coach Craig Schuffenecker. "But by the time you're up in the air, you're coming down."
The coach, who grew up in the northwest Ohio town of Genoa, is just getting used to living on an island with 130 year-round residents. What's different about coaching the Put-in-Bay team is that they're not in a league so they don't get a chance to win any conference titles. Their 14-game schedule is against mostly junior varsity and freshman teams.
"I try to approach it as there are two things we can control," Schuffenecker said. "We can't control not playing for any titles or things like that, but we can control attitude and effort every day."Senior Adam Bianci has grown up on the island. "In the winter we basically spend a lot of time playing basketball, ice fishing, riding around on four-wheelers and snowmobiles," he said. Flying used to leave him uneasy. "I got over that and now it is definitely fun," Bianci said. "You get to see all the ice on the water, so you're always watching to see when the ice starts to take shape. That way you know when it is time to go ice fishing."
The team flies from Put-in-Bay to nearby Port Clinton where a van waits to take them to their game. But because Put-in-Bay's airport has no lights, the team can't fly back until the next morning. On Monday after beating the freshman team from Fremont St. Joseph, the players stopped to eat and then shopped at Wal-Mart. "They love going there," Schuffenecker said. "We'll let them meander through there for a half an hour looking at things and buying something they need.
"From there we head back to the hotel. Usually they have a swimming pool, or sometimes maybe we go bowling or catch a movie. Then, of course, we have to be back on the plane to Put-in-Bay bright and early in the morning."
Put-in-Bay is a popular vacation spot just 2 miles offshore of mainland Northwest Ohio in Lake Erie. While "Put-in-Bay" is technically the name of the village on South Bass Island, the name commonly is inadvertently used to refer to the entire island. A summer resort since the mid-1800's, the village can be considered the hub of tourism among the Lake Erie Islands, with its numerous taverns, wineries, restaurants, waterfront condos, rental homes, and hotels.