Chris Michael considers the BACF Basketball Classic ''kind of a special night,'' so it should come as no surprise that the Ravenswood head girls basketball coach ''jumped at the opportunity'' to guide the fortunes of the West Virginia girls team versus Ohio today.
Michael was an assistant coach in the game twice previously for the W.Va. girls under then-Wirt County's Mike Fallon and Parkersburg Catholic's Dick Wildt, ''and really enjoyed the experience,'' he said. ''It's a lot of fun, being able to help out a great cause, Battle Against Cystic Fibrosis, and being able not only to work with those girls you've coached against all year long, but also getting to know them a little bit outside of the competitive aspect.
''So when (game director) Bill (Camp) called to ask if I was interested in being the head coach, I said, 'Absolutely.'"
On his own two players, point guard Emily Rector and 5-11 center Sarah McMillan, on the W.Va. team. ''Emily and Sarah are definitely the epitome of what it takes to be successful,'' said Michael ''They're great leaders, never a problem on or off the court and have really been a big part of why we've been successful.
''You've got to have a great point guard like Emily if you want to have a great team and also great role players with Sarah the ultimate definition of that. She plays great defense, blocks shots and is an offensive threat, good for six to 10 points a game.
''They're two outstanding kids and two outstanding talents, so just to get a chance to coach them one more time is definitely a blessing.''
Rector, a two-time first-team Class AA all-state selection, is ''really excited to get to play again, especially with coach Michael coaching us again one last time in our final high school game.''
She watched her brother Brett play in the BACF game eight years ago. ''But what makes it fun is playing with some of the girls you've been playing against your whole career.''
The BACF, Rector added, is ''a great idea, but it's even for a better cause than just a game.''
For honorable-mention all-state choice McMillan, who ''loves basketball, a chance to play one more game is really amazing, especially with Emily, who is a good friend and teammate, and for coach Michael again.''
McMillan too ''likes helping a good cause, so I was really glad they chose me, since cystic fibrosis is a very dangerous disease. I'm glad that I can help in any way possible.''
For Michael, ''we want everybody to have fun'' in the game today. ''All the girls want to play as much as possible, but they're all good and you still want to win. So at the end of the game, you're trying to get the people in who are playing the best throughout the game to give your team the best chance to win.''
And Michael is ''defensive-minded, so I'll definitely mention defense to these kids a little bit. But don't get me wrong. We're going to try to get up and down, spread the floor, penetrate and pitch, and be exciting, but still try to play a little bit of defense as well.''
In that vein, Michael said too that ''these kids are all competitors. They want to be here, otherwise they wouldn't be playing. So they'll play hard on defense, push the ball and I'm sure they'll share the ball. So I'm sure it'll be fun.''