I had a familiar feeling Monday night, watching the Charlotte High School varsity boys basketball team scratch and claw their way to a regional semi-final win over Haslett. The intensity, the crowd, the atmosphere was a glimpse of what gave Charlotte’s gym its nickname in the first place.
I fell in love with the game of basketball in that gym. I was in elementary school going through the lay-up lines during Saturday Morning Basketball when coach Jerry Ernst asked me my name.
I was pumped.
By that time, my dad had begun taking me to Charlotte High School varsity basketball games at the Dome of Doom, as it was aptly named in the mid-80s and early 90s. I remember I couldn’t wait to be out there on that court, in front of a standing-room only crowd just like Randy Grundstrom, Chuck Malcuit, Eric Menk, Steve St. John, Jason Bossard, Jeff Pepper … the list of my childhood heroes goes on.
There was always excitement surrounding Charlotte basketball. The Orioles would play anyone, anywhere, anytime, and they would play them tough. The Dome was always packed and the student section was always rocking.
I saw all of that again for the first time in a long time during the Orioles run through the MHSAA playoffs. First year head coach, Steve Ernst promised the community before the beginning of this season that it would be proud of how hard the team would work. He asked in return for support from the community to make the Dome a special environment again.
The team didn’t disappoint and the community certainly responded.
Never was the support more evident than when the Charlotte community owned the Lakewood High School gymnasium on Friday, March 13 for the Class B District Championship. It’s the night the Orioles’ exciting tournament run really took flight. Led by one of the most impressive high school student sections I’ve ever seen, the Charlotte crowd turned the Lakewood gym into a home-court advantage. It was apparent Charlotte was ready to take the place over before the opening tip, when an army of CHS students marched into the gym in unison, passing by the Hastings student section behind a giant “Flight Club” banner.
Then things got turned up a notch when the team returned home Monday, March 16 for the Class B Regionals … welcome back to the Dome of Doom.
The team has created the excitement with its style of play and passion. Of course, winning doesn’t hurt either and the Orioles have done a lot of that under Steve Ernst. The community and students, though have created the special environment he was looking to restore.
Charlotte Public Schools has been big on identifying Oriole Pride since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. I’m sure they’ve found it in this team (the players and coaching staff), in their students and certainly the recognition from the community.
This season was meant to be the foundation of a new beginning for Charlotte basketball. All involved should be proud of what the team accomplished and the support it received from so many. There were new heroes created this season for youth in Charlotte to look up to and I know there are kids who can’t wait to run the show like Matt Donley, rip rebounds like Liam Hickey, fly through the air like Sy Barnett, knock down big free throws like Kyle Peterson and Greg Dornbos or drain threes like Tanner Johns.
That’s how the program builds again, through passion and kids dreaming of playing one day in the Dome of Doom.