The crowd in Mount Airy Middle School’s gymnasium Saturday night had a rare chance to witness athletic prowess along with horsemanship, of sorts, at the fourth annual benefit Donkey Basketball game for the eight grade trip to Washington, D.C.
“This event is great for our community, students and staff,” said Principal Susan Bunch after the four-game tournament. “We appreciate our community coming out together to support this family oriented event, especially as it supports our students travel to Washington.”
The four teams setting their sights on riding to glory were the Blazing Saddles, Ba-donk-a-donks, Miami Hee-Haw and the Dunken Donkeys. In the first eight-minute match-up between the Saddles and the Donks, Frette Bobbitt was on figurative fire as he quickly poured in four points on his diminutive mount for a 4-2 lead early on.
Fine passing efforts by Jon Cawley and Bryan Taylor of the Blazing Saddles helped to knot the score at four on a bucket from Lauren Parker. Bobbitt would not be denied and added another two points at the end of the period to nab the win, 6-4. Parker, who said she has been around horses most of her life, quickly put the sport in focus.
“With horses, they’ll cooperate with you up until they feel threatened,” said Parker. “A donkey makes its own decisions. They don’t do what you wand to do. Even a mule is part horse and is easier to work with. There’s nothing worse than a donkey. I scored two points and I consider that a victory.”
Teammate Ben Cooke, who is competing for a second year in the sport, said the effort has taught him to be flexible.
“I quickly figured out my donkey was not having any part of letting me ride,” Cooke said. “I figured the key is to pass it to someone who can actually get on and stay on their donkey.”
Bobbitt later attributed his prowess to his steed, Houdini, and said he thinks the key to the sport is to not think too much about it.
“It pays to not be too intelligent when it comes to this,” Bobbitt said. “There are many here tonight who have thought much about this and will not be as sore tomorrow as I will be.”
In the second match-up of the evening, the Miami Hee-Haw set their sights on knocking off the Dunken Donkeys. The Hee-Haws got the first laugh with two quick points with only seconds off the clock. Felipe Chavez hit pay dirt and Kelly Hiatt of the Dunken Donkeys followed up with a shot of his own to make for a 4-point tie at the two minute mark.
Hiatt scored again to give the donkeys the lead but Miami fired back to send the game into sudden death with the score tied at six points apiece. Chavez claimed victory with a smooth shot to decide the contest, 8-6 for Miami.
Bryan Taylor, a veteran of the games locally, has been in every donkey basketball match staged for the benefit of students. Buckeye Donkey Ball Coordinator Rickie Cutlip said the sport began in 1934 and has always been a fundraiser. He said his group also stages donkey baseball and donkey races for fairs.
“This is the fourth year I have participated. Truly I am the Yoda of donkey basketball,” said Taylor. “I have learned you must get on (the donkey) in the front and not in the back. In all seriousness, this is a great fundraiser for our middle school and we appreciate the community support. All the money goes directly to the eighth grade trip.”
The championship round was won by the Ba-donk-a-donks over Miami, 6-4 as the Donks capitalized on a controversial illegal donkey blocking call for the victory.
“We raise an average of $1,500 with these events and with last year’s silent auction we earned $2,000. We have students who would not have been able to go to Washington without this,” said eighth grade teacher Cathy Hiatt. “For them to get to see our nation’s capital was a lifetime experience for them. This trip fits into the standard core of study. They get to see the White House and all the monuments, like the Tomb of the Unknowns. We had former students come back tonight to help out and ride the donkeys.”
Donkey basketball players included Jon Cawley, Chenoa Montgomery, Wes Brown, Brad Quesinberry, Landon Branson, Ellen McIntosh, Peter Raymes, Adam Cardin, Jaymee Chandler, Jennifer Freeman, Tyler Duty, Abby Gallimore, Steven Ayers, Caskie Walker, Sue Bennett, Amy Sawyers, Jared Jenkins, Nick Kendall, Matt Hutchens, Stacey Inman and Sarah Inman.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.