|Former Columbia City basketball player Matt Moore, Photo contributed|
When I first started writing for our website, my goal was to bring exposure to local sports and their young athletes. I recently had the opportunity to have one of Columbia City's past local stars write what being involved with Columbia City athletics has meant to him. His response to my inquiry of what impact it made and his memories of life as a young athlete is exactly what this venture is about for me.
Mathew Moore is currently the head basketball coach for Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Moore brings a ton of passion to coaching his Cougars and in his words, "has his dream job." I hope you enjoy reading his story as much as I did.
Growing up in Columbia City all I ever wanted to do was play basketball. Through my time in basketball I have found that who you surround yourself with is just as important as enjoying what you do. I have had outstanding men guiding me through basketball ever since I started JAA at Marshall Middle School as a fifth grader. From current CCHS head coach Chris Benedict to Jim Sittler , Jerry Gurrado, Dave Lambert, Larry Umel and Steve McDivot. All of these coaches were great men with a positive influence on my basketball career.
As I think back to my experience with CCHS basketball it runs parallel with current head coach Chris Benedict and his tenure as basketball coach. My junior year was Coach Benedicts first season at CCHS and he was the one who first planted the seed in my heart of winning the sectional. Back then the state tournament was single class and Columbia City hosted the sectional which we had not won since 1978, the year before I was born.
I can recall watching some outstanding games in our gym at CCHS in the sectional over the years between the great Whitko and Manchester teams but rarely did Columbia City play for the sectional championship. I made it my goal to bring a sectional championship back to Columbia City and give Coach Benedict his first post-season championship.
My junior year we found ourselves playing in the sectional championship game against Tippecanoe Valley, a team that we had defeated in the regular season at the buzzer. This was one of the most important games I can remember not only for the chance to win our first sectional title in nearly two decades but it was the final year of the single class tournament. Unfortunately when the game ended we lost in overtime 33-32.
That experience for me would forever alter my direction as a basketball player. I took the loss very hard and dedicated my summer and fall to being the best leader, teammate and player I could to ensure during my senior year we overcome the challenges ahead. As my senior season began we opened up the year on fire winning 10 of our first 12 games, with both losses coming in overtime and double overtime to Warsaw and Manchester. That success continued as we defeated DeKalb 56-47 to win our first sectional championship in 20 years.
As I look back at that season and the experiences I shared with my teammates I now realize the impact it would later have on generations to follow. Since our sectional title in 1998 the program has taken off winning 3 sectionals, 3 regionals, 1 semi-state with a state runner-up in 2004 with a tournament record of 22-14 during that stretch. Dozens of middle school kids saw our team in 1998 accomplish something that had never been done in any of our lifetimes and it planted a seed for each of them to take the program to the next level.
I am very grateful for my experience as a member of the Columbia City basketball family and I take pride in the fact that I helped blaze a trail along with six other seniors that is still alive and well today within the community.
Now as a head basketball coach at the collegiate level, many of my beliefs and my philosophical approach comes from the foundation I laid as a player coming through the program at Columbia City in the late 1990’s. I value ‘team’ basketball and unselfish competitive spirit amongst teammates.
I remain very close to the program to this day and cherish my friendship now as a peer in the profession with Coach Benedict. Some schools throughout Indiana have good teams come through every so often but the great schools have programs that teach kids how to play the game the right way, and that is why Eagle basketball has sustained throughout the years. From the top to the bottom, being an Eagle means something...even 15 years removed.
Thank you Matt for sharing your passion for Columbia City basketball. We here at T & T Athletic Supporters wish him the best of luck in his coaching career.