Harlem Wizards Return to PHS for Evening of Entertainment

“Tricks, hoopz and alley oops” were on display at Portage High School on Saturday night as the Harlem Wizards took on the Portage P.E.A.K. team in a fundraiser game to benefit the PHS Football Program. The Wizards, who have been combining comedy, tricks and basketball for 50 years, travel the world entertaining fans of all ages.

Hundreds of Portage residents packed into the PHS gym for the chance to see prominent members of their community take on the Wizards and to support the Indians. All proceeds from the game benefit the Portage Football Booster Club.

“Basically, what the money does is it helps us, during football season, feed the kids twice a week,” PHS Football Booster Club President Jennifer Donohue said. “It really makes sure that they have the nutrients and a good solid dinner before game time.”

Donohue orchestrated the event with greater ease since she headed up the Wizards’ initial visit to PHS in June 2011. The Booster Club spent about four months planning for the game. Head football coach Wally McCormack, his wife, the assistant coaches and many of the football parents assisted Donohue.

“We did a lot of planning last time, so we kind of had the formula down,” Donohue said.

The home team could not keep pace despite being awarded ten free points during the first half and seven more at half time. The Wizards eased their way to an 80-71 victory, but the final score was of minimal importance on a night centered around fun, family, smiles and raising money to support the Indians’ football program.

The Wizards entertained the crowd by dumping water and confetti on fans, making jokes over the public address system during the game, allowing students to dance to the song “Apache” on the court between the third and fourth quarters and a slew of others games, jokes and tricks.

The Portage P.E.A.K team was partially comprised of representatives from various Portage Township Schools: Tish Coleman (Aylesworth Elementary teacher), Josh Sabinas (Jones Elementary teacher and assistant varsity football coach), Renee Grant (Kyle Elementary teacher), Amanda Alaniz (Central Elementary Principal), Jeff King (Myers Elementary Principal), Scott Hufford (Crisman Elementary Principal), Marci Johnson (Saylor Elementary teacher), Lisa Warne (South Haven Elementary teacher), Tom Bonez (Willowcreek Middle School teacher and football coach), Nick Wellman (WMS teacher and freshmen football coach), Josh Wissing (WMS Dean of Students and assistant varsity football coach), Phil Misecko (Fegely Middle School Principal), Derek Hart (FMS Teacher) and Melissa Miller (PHS teacher).

The roster was rounded out by other significant members of the Portage community: Danny Gonzalez (Portage YMCA), Ryan Smiley (Boys and Girls Club), Portage Police Chief Troy Williams, Portage Police Officer Mike Candiano, City of Portage Mayor Jim Snyder, Drug Enforcement Agent David Reynolds and former PHS and Purdue University football star Albert Evans.

McCormack said he made an effort to gather as many Portage graduates as possible to play in the game.

“My wife and I tried to get, aside from teachers, graduates from Portage High School that have gone on to be in some pretty cool occupations as they’ve gotten older, just so that we can have the example for the little kids of Portage that you can be anything you want to be,” McCormack said. “You don’t have to settle into any role because you were from a certain town.”

Portage Township Schools Superintendent Ric Frataccia served as one of the officials for the game. When asked how he would handle one of his PTS staff members arguing a call, he said “absolutely a technical foul.” Frataccia, who was officiating for the first time since his college days, was happy to help out a worthwhile cause.

“I think anything that we do to bring the kids together and the community together and raise money for the program is a good thing,” he said.

The Wizards signed autographs for the youngsters after the game, and everyone who attended, regardless of age, went home with a smile on his or her face.

“It’s just great to have the community out here supporting,” Donohue said. “We hope that they’ll continue to support the football program in the coming years.”

Click here for more great photos of the Harlem Wizards game at PHS!!!