The civil North-South war

May. 16, 2014 @ 04:26 PM

A foul sent Anthony Henderson to the free-throw line for the Old School Alumni Weekend’s North team Thursday night at Riverside High School.

The South squad was up 62-60 with 11.3 left in the game.

Henderson knocked down a free throw to get his team within one before missing the second attempt.

The South got the rebound but lost the ball. North guard Corey Evans ended up with it and drew a foul with .5 showing on the clock.

Evans missed the first free throw, drawing groans from around the gym. But he made the second one to tie the game.

A desperation heave by the South was no good, sending the game to overtime.

It was just like old times.

“Brings back a lot of good memories,” South guard Carmen Williams said. “I haven’t played since high school.”

Williams, 35, was on that Hillside squad when the Lady Hornets won the state championship in 1996. She graduated from Hillside in 1997.

A whole lot has happened since then. Terrorists have attacked America. Barack Obama became president of the United States. Brian Johnson became president of Tuskegee University.

Johnson’s story is remarkable in part because he grew up in Durham’s notorious Few Gardens housing project but still had this attitude that was like, “OK, world, here I am!”

On Thursday, Johnson was at Githens Middle School giving his first official public address since taking the helm at Tuskegee. He essentially took away from those Githens students any excuses they had about not making it in life.

At halftime of the North-South game at Riverside, Delbert “DJ Kraze” Jarmon, a Hillside alum and one of the organizers of the annual Old School Alumni Weekend, had Johnson come to halfcourt so the crowd could show him some love.

Many of those in the stands cheering for Johnson were his former classmates at the old Durham High School, where guys like Henderson, Cornelius McCall, Fred “Pop” Bennett, Kenny Covington and Kenneth “Fruit Loop” Lucas graduated.

They played for the North team, which, along with Durham High, represented Northern and Riverside. Durham High graduate Fred “Pop” Bennett coached the North.

James “Bug” Tucker went to Durham High before graduating from Hillside in 1996. He played college basketball at N.C. Central University.

Hillside, Southern and Jordan repped the South.

Old School Alumni Weekend is a once-a-year galvanization of alumni from the Durham high schools. They get together and hoop and bowl and golf and eat and go to church.

Please don’t cue the Pharrell Williams music, but it’s a happy time.

It’s a humbling time, too.

“The way life is now, it’s just good to see old classmates still here,” McCall said.

More than a few alums who should have been at the reunion either have gone on to be with the Lord or just otherwise gone on. The streets are mean like that, McCall said.

McCall went from Durham High to Virginia Union, where he said he played basketball with Ben Wallace, who had a nice career in the NBA.

Pop was on that N.C. Central basketball team that won the Division II championship in 1989. Known for his brilliant shooting stroke back then, Pop, while coaching the North-South game, was working one of the referees so hard that it looked like he was escorting him down the court.

There were scores to settle out here, because Evans said his Northern teams never beat Riverside when he was in high school. He was able to check that off of his bucket listed while playing in an earlier game featuring younger alums.

Evans is 27 but has rather fresh legs and still moves around on the court like he’s 17, displaying that during the overtime session, when the game would be decided by the team that made the first basket.

The North got the first look. Evans attacked the rim with a nice move but missed the shot.

Fruit Loop controlled the rebound for the North. He was double-teamed, so he passed the ball to Bug, who knocked down a 3-pointer.

Ball game!

Now, heroes who hit big buckets like that generally talk about how they knew those shots were good when they released them.

But Bug told the truth.

“Naw,” Bug said. “I hadn’t hit one all day.”

A similar thing happened the other night in the NBA playoffs when a 3 by an old-school ballplayer allowed the Miami Heat to clinch its series over the Brooklyn Nets.

“Ray Allen, baby,” Bug said.

John McCann on Twitter is @johntmccann; email him at