After Sweet Sixteen run, UNI seniors clash with senior metro standouts

Ali Miller/Staff Writer

Seeking one last game in the hometown, UNI seniors and many of their adoring fans gathered in support for a fundraiser that raised money for basketball and sports programs that raised thrills last year. The Cedar Falls Booster Club hosted the fundraiser with metro high school senior basketball players and UNI senior basketball players on Thursday, April 29.

Top seniors from Waterloo West, Waterloo East, NU High and CF rounded out the competition for the Panthers.

CF senior Laura Johnson was definitely one of the crowd’s favorites. Johnson had fans on their feet not only while being announced but as she was sinking multiple threes. Being the only girl on the court that night, Johnson said she definitely had some jitters after finding out she’d be playing only two days prior to the event.

“At first it was kind of weird for me, but I decided I would play just because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. It was really fun. I’m glad I did it. It was really cool they did this; everyone loves (the Panther players).”

Head CF coach Tom Bardal had high respects for the UNI boys taking time off to come out and raise some money. “I think it just speaks volumes of what type of kids they are. Right now they’re in the process of preparing for final exams, so for them to want to come back and play basketball, take two hours out of their time to study and allow our fans to watch them play basketball for one more time is, I think, just a great thing to do for our community.”

Bardal said he felt it was important to get high school seniors from everywhere, not just involve Cedar Falls. “We felt that it was the right thing to do to make it not just a Cedar Falls thing, but a Cedar Valley thing.”

The final score came out as UNI 80, Metro Seniors 78. CF senior Matt Glenn was a bit tired and worn out after the final buzzer. “It was really hard. They’re really big. And too strong. And I haven’t played in a long time, so it was difficult. I had no nerves; it was just an exhibition game. I just wanted to go out there and have fun.”

Comparing playing UNI to other high school teams, Glenn said it was a huge shift. “It was really different. Ali (Farokhmanesh) shoots the ball from too far out.” The metro area kids had no practices before the game; the coach just told them to go out there and play.

Not all the drama came from the players, however. Science teacher Marcey Hand’s two-year-old son, DJ, had a little game interference about halfway through the night. DJ threw a dime onto the court and went after it while the mob of huge players was running toward him.

“I was scared to death,” Hand said. Hand then proceeded to run onto the court and kicked the dime off of it, but she didn’t know whether to grab DJ or not because he would’ve run the opposite direction of her, toward the boys. “I knew he would run from me, so I just stood back and prayed he wouldn’t get trampled.”

As the players piled up to avoid squashing DJ, Farokhmanesh could only crack up. After the incident, DJ got a high-five from the very well-known athlete. “It was one of the scariest things, but it ended well. There were no trips to the ER.”

Two-time MVC player of the year Adam Koch was scheduled to play but instead ended up in Indianapolis for NBA training and tryouts.

Farokhmanesh was on again, shooting his trademark threes. Farokhmanesh got to play one of his last games for UNI in the town he’s spent his last two years in. The community came out to support both teams, and it made an impact on Farokhmanesh.

“It was fun. I mean this is where I played my last two years, so it was fun to come back to Cedar Falls and play at the high school.”

Farokhmanesh loved the support the area brought to the gym. “It was awesome. For just having us four here, there were quite a bit of people. It’s really fun for us. It was definitely fun coming out here and seeing everybody.”

All the support from so many people was his favorite memory of the night. “I think that was the biggest thing was just having all the support. I think that’s what I’ll remember is everybody coming here and everybody being in purple is just awesome.”

Some fans waited in line for up to an hour after the game ended to get autographs and pictures with the athletes. Farokhmanesh ended with, “It was just a match made in heaven. It was perfect for us.”

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