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Larry Peterson - Straight Shots

Sports departments get creative during quiet period

KSIB video highlights Creston’s 1997 state champs

This graphic to go with Damon Helgevold's YouTube video on Creston's 1997 state basketball championship was created by Creston Community High School senior Sara Keeler from the school's CAST program.
This graphic to go with Damon Helgevold's YouTube video on Creston's 1997 state basketball championship was created by Creston Community High School senior Sara Keeler from the school's CAST program.

Sports departments are getting creative in their attempt to offer content after weeks of social distancing and no scheduled activities.

For example, Tyler Hetu and Brennen Normand did an enormous amount of work in compiling information from Creston and area spring sports coaches and athletes in the News Advertiser’s special edition published on April 30, “The Lost Spring.” I really enjoyed it.

(By the way, I no longer have access to my News Advertiser email address during this layoff, so see below for a different email to get in touch.)

Likewise, I’ve enjoyed joining forces with KSIB sports director Damon Helgevold on a couple of video documentary projects he’s putting together on a series of great moments in area sports history. It’s an idea I should have used in a newspaper format long ago, or especially now in this relatively dead period for sports.

I really enjoyed sharing thoughts with him about the 1997 state basketball champions from Creston for his video that was posted on YouTube last Friday. The link is https://bit.ly/3c5e0Cu.

As of Wednesday night, the number of views was up to 858. Damon did a terrific job of mixing clips of the championship game from that night’s television broadcast with current interviews of some people involved — head coach Mike Gerleman, all-state guard Ben Gerleman, retired KSIB sports director Gary Bucklin, and myself.

I had helped sports editor Chris Short, editor Jeff Young and photographer Jon Britton that weekend in coverage of the Panthers’ first basketball state championship since 1939. Creston also won the Sportsmanship Award, which was so gratifying to the late Curt Olson, then the school’s activities director.

The accompanying graphic was prepared by Creston Community High School CAST student Sara Keeler. Helgevold plans to involve that group with future projects, as well. It’s a great community collaboration.

Helgevold and KSIB colleagues Chad Rieck and Terry Freeman came up with the idea of putting these “special moments” videos together, tying them with sponsors who would normally be connected to live event broadcasts.

The timing of ESPN’s ongoing documentary on the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, “Last Dance,” with KSIB’s release of the Panther team from that same era, was a great way to launch the concept.

Helgevold spent nearly five hours on Zoom video chat interviews on Tuesday, April 28, and was able to mix excerpts from those conversations with game clips in a final 42-minute product launched at about 10 p.m. Friday night. In all, he spent about 15 hours on the editing process.

Now that he has the entire game loaded on his computer, he hopes to post the whole game on YouTube soon. It would be popular, I’m sure. Over the years I’ve talked to many people who missed out on that era of Panther athletics, but always heard about it and are curious.

I asked Helgevold what stood out to him after completing the project. He is a recent college graduate and resides in Osceola, so his prior knowledge was based solely on what he heard from work colleagues.

“When you look back at the pictures and scorebooks from back then, you gain an idea of who this team really was,” he said. “To have two players combining to average 50 points a game (all-state guards Kyle McCann and Ben Gerleman), you don’t see that often. The game action looks different than today. You don’t see a lot of 3-pointers, a lot of forced shots or fancy stuff. It was fundamentals to the core, taking what was given.”

He said it was fun to watch a young, gangly Kyle Korver play for Pella against Creston in that championship game. At 39, Korver was still active in the NBA this season for the Milwaukee Bucks, and built his career on his 3-point shooting prowess. Yet as a Pella sophomore, he was a 6-4 mid-range player. At one point in the title game, McCann streaked by him after a steal on his way to a two-handed dunk. That play ignited the large Panther crowd in a sold-out Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Yet, you could tell Korver had many skills on the court and could become a special player.

In going back to watch some of that game in preparation for my conversation with Helgevold I gained a renewed appreciation for how well that Panther squad passed the ball, and reacted quickly and efficiently upon receiving those well-timed deliveries. They simpmly didn’t beat themselves.

You can watch it to hear what I said, but one memory that I thought of later was a response from starting guard Brady Steenhoek later that championship night in the Creston gym at the public reception.

“I looked back over the hills of Stuart Road through the back window of the bus,” Steenhoek said about the trip back from Des Moines, “and all I saw was a stream of headlights for miles. People following us home. That’s when I realized, this must really be a big deal!”

Helgevold has already moved on to his next project and I was fortunate to speak with him again, because I was involved in covering that event. I’ll give you a hint in that it was an achievement by a Creston program that had sought such a dream for many years, but often got derailed by that dreaded rival from Shelby County. But on this night, it was magical, and I saw an eruption of emotion at the end of the game like I had never seen for one play in the previous 34 years of newspaper work.

Stay tuned!

•••

Contact the writer:

Email: malachy.lp@gmail.com

Twitter: @larrypeterson

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