Hoops On Hooves
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Apr 1, 2014, 11:56
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A basketball player tries to get back on his donkey during a fundraiser at Prince George High School on Saturday.
PRINCE GEORGE — The laughter was louder than the cheers Saturday night as basketball players tried to get their donkeys to cooperate.
The games were not high-scoring affairs, with only a few shots finding their way into the hoops. Players spent most of the time trying to coerce their four-legged counterparts in the right direction.
The donkeys lived up to their reputation of being stubborn, either refusing to budge or bucking their players onto the wood floor. Players wore red or blue baseball helmets as their only protection from the falls.
One donkey stood out as the one no one wanted, not because it refused to move, but because it would buck and then dart down the sidelines as fast as it could, often sending the rider hurtling to the floor.
Corey Lee, who was playing for the student team, fell down several times after being stuck with that particularly difficult donkey.
“It kept trying to buck me every time I got on. The first one wouldn’t go anywhere that I wanted it to. … They are pretty stubborn. They live up their stereotype,” he said.
The rules are much like regular basketball, except there is no dribbling. Players are allowed to get off of their donkeys, but they can only hold the ball for 15 seconds. Players have to be on a donkey to shoot.
Teams representing the high school girls basketball team, the teachers, the police department and the sheriff’s office competed in the event. The students and the sheriff’s office advanced to the final game.
While the girls basketball team had the athletic advantage, the sheriff’s office likely has a lot more experience dealing with the uncooperative. They decisively won the final matchup.
Capt. Mark Payne, with the Prince George sheriff’s office, said it was challenging to ride the donkeys.
“It’s P-A-I-N right now because I am in a lot of it,” he said with a smile after taking a few falls.
“They told us that a lot of donkeys don’t like males. … And the bigger you are, the donkeys really don’t like all that weight. … The one I had, he would duck his head trying to throw you off the front. They said to stay away from the back part because they could kick you,” he said.
After taking a few falls, Payne said he wised up and decided to pull the donkey by the reins and try to grab rebounds. His team left the shooting to the teammates with the more cooperative donkeys.
Markia Smith, a varsity basketball player at Prince George High School, said its a lot harder shooting while riding a donkey. She also took a tumble several times.
“They’re stubborn. They don’t really go in the direction you want them to go in all the time. Sometimes they sit, they go in the opposite way,” she said.
Samantha Hancock, who works for Prince George Animal Control, said she has been riding horses since she was 3 years old and does barrel racing, but this was her first time riding a donkey.
“It was really hard because their so little. … So when you get on, they are smart enough to know to duck their head and you slide off,” she said.
Sherri Jones, who teaches math at Prince George High School, said riding the donkeys was fun.
“At first I was scared, but once I got up there, he reassured me that I was going to be OK and then I started getting into it. I was like ‘Come on Rocket, lets go!’” she said.
Jones said it was difficult to shoot the basketball while on the donkey.
“You are worried about staying on there and hanging on,” she said.
Billy Gray, the head coach of the Prince George High School girls basketball team, organized the donkey basketball game as a fundraiser for the team. The donkeys came from a company based in Ohio that organizes the events. They included a referee who would loudly tap a stick on the floor behind the donkeys to get them moving, often to the dismay of the rider.
They just came off of a record year, going undefeated in the regular season.
Gray said the fundraiser Saturday night drew about 500-600 people and the money will help pay for scholarships and dinners for the team.
“All of this is spent right back on the kids,” he said.
He said the Tilted Kilt restaurant sponsored the event.