Union City Pride

Union City lady indiana

I haven’t watched a high school basketball game from start to finish since my wife hung up her sneakers in 1998. (Annie was #44 in the playbook and #1 in my heart, although I was too cool to admit it.)

That changed this past Saturday when I cheered on the Union City Lady Indians against Wood Memorial in the Class 1A State Championship.

“I don’t know why I’m crying,” I said to Annie after a girl from Union City drilled a three out of the gate. (To qualify crying: I had a single tear welling up in each eye. It wasn’t like I was ugly crying.)

“I had tears running down my face watching The Facebook video of them leaving town,” Annie confessed.

Our hometown is Union City, Ohio, our school, the Mississinawa (yep, it’s spelled wrong) Valley Blackhawks. Our town was divided by the Indiana-Ohio state line. Our rivals were the Union City Indians.

Union City is a small town (2 towns actually) with a combined population of 5,000 with two mayors, two fire departments, two schools, and two time zones (part of the year).

I remember playing in a junior high basketball game against the Indians that ended in an all out brawl.

When we looked across the state line, we were rivals, but when we looked at the outside world, we were one. From the same small town. Many of our parents and grandparents went to school together or played against one another. Many of the factories that employed them left town taking pensions and futures with them. Leaving us.

Why do people stay in a small town when opportunity abandons them? Because it’s home.

The Indians drilled a jumper and went up 5 to nothing.

I didn’t know most of the girls on the team, but I knew their families and their stomping grounds and what our town had been through. I went to school with a few of the girls’ parents. I knew my piano teacher was cheering them on and so was everyone else who made up my entire world the first 18 years of my life.

Five to nothing would be the Lady Indians’ biggest lead. I think the game was tied at 7 and then Wood Memorial dominated with floor spacing, ball movement, and shot selection. They were a well-oiled machine. Union City was grit and hustle. They blocked shots, fought after loose balls, and somehow managed to hang around until the fourth quarter.

My hometown was written on their jerseys and they were on TV, and for a few minutes punched a perennial state-contender in the face. They had worked hard and were playing in a stadium where the Pacers play. I’ve seen LeBron James play on that floor. That floor was good enough for LeBron and it was good enough for the Lady Indians.

I think that’s what brought on the tears. They stood on a stage worthy of kings, and they played like winners. They belonged there. They knew it. They weren’t dwelling on the past or what might’ve been.

They were winners from a town that had experienced too much losing, and for two hours they reminded me and others just how proud we were to be from Union City.

Penny Whitesel Eley says:

I went to Mississinawa Valley (the school board wanted it spelled different from the river and township) but moved to the Indiana side when I married. I also watched the whole game and I was so proud of what these girls were accomplishing that being a winner did not matter as much as being able to get to the state level. These girls are winners and made the whole town proud

Scott Hollinger says:

Great article! Thanks from a guy who grew up on highway 32.

Angie Ford LeMaster says:

You nailed this on the head!! Really!!! This is exactly how I felt! Thank you for sharing this!

Clinton Randall says:

Had tears reading this…well written…would love for you to email a little shorter version to editor@earlybirdpaper.com for a letter to editor printvin paper…it is worthy! Or even an opinion column with a photo of yourself….would be great read for others!!!

Doug Kirk says:

I was vacationing in Hawaii when the game started. I left that little town when I turned 18 joining the Marine Corp. I never really left. I live in California now and will never forget those memories in my little home town. Playing Basketball was what we did, before school started in the morning,at lunch time, out at the public pool by the cemetary, or maybe down at the “pit” by the cop shop, heck you could find us playing in someones driveway in the dead of winter right after we shoveled it off. We weren’t destined for glory but we had friendships nurtured by shooting hoops. I swelled with pride telling people out here about the lady Indians great run. I wish I could shake all their hands and tell them what it means to people who grew up here. So very proud. Thank you from a guy who grew up on Columbia street.

Bruce Bennett says:

I graduated from UCCHS in 1969 and came down for the big game. Wood Memorial dominated the last quarter with stalling tactics. I’ve never seen a team run down the clock so much in my life. I think their coach was afraid to actually play against our fast paced team so he had them stall as much as possible. Yes, they “won” the game on the scoreboard but Union City won over our hearts with determination and grit on the floor when they played last Saturday.

brett hartman says:

I graduated for M.V and proud of that but my daughter attends UC. And my daughter played on the team. I told her beenin for a small town and gettin to that stage a memory will never forget. On that note im a proud dad of #20 and proud of the whole team. And a town who has crazy support. Much love from florida

Barbara Marker says:

Great article Kelsey. I totally agree. I also had tears at many times. They represented the school, the town and our community very well. We have a lot of which to be proud.

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