When taking a glance at the men's basketball scores one night earlier this week, something stood out at the bottom. Following the scores from the Far West was listed the result of an exhibition game. And those exhibition games have appeared at other times.
I always wondered why a college basketball team would be playing an exhibition game, particularly in January. Then I recalled it had happened here in January of 1982.
The Jamestown Community College men's basketball team had ended the first semester of the 1981-82 season ranked 10th in the NJCAA national rankings with a 14-1 record. Its final game of the 1981 portion of the schedule was on Dec. 19. Because of the long semester break, the Jayhawks weren't scheduled to play again until Jan. 23 against Villa Maria College. That was a Saturday and then JCC was to have another home game on Sunday against Cuyahoga CC West.
However, on Wednesday of that week it was learned that Villa Maria was canceling the remainder of its season because of a lack of players. That meant JCC would have to wait another day to return to action.
That Sunday game with Cuyahoga West was scheduled for 2 p.m., and it was Super Bowl Sunday. JCC coach Nick Creola hoped to avoid a conflict with the big game, so he had sports information director Steve Prevesk contact Cuyahoga West to see if it would be willing to move the game to Saturday night. However, Cuyahoga West informed him it would not be able to play at all because of a lack of players.
Suddenly the entire weekend was a washout for the Jayhawks, so their first game of the second semester wouldn't be until Jan. 29 - 40 days after their last game.
Hoping to fill the void, Prevesk called numerous NJCAA Region 3 teams trying to schedule a game, but came up with nothing on such short notice. However, JCC assistant coach Lewis Mack mentioned that he knew some people involved with Estonia, the Canadian National Olympic basketball team, and suggested that Prevesk contact them.
Estonia had players with an average age of 28 and it had been playing a rather aggressive exhibition schedule against NCAA Division I teams. It suffered a three-point loss to Tulsa, which was ranked 10th in the nation, but the Canadian team, which had a 21-6 record, had defeated Duke, Southwestern Louisiana and St. Bonaventure. Prevesk doubted Estonia would want to play a junior college team, but gave it a shot.
The man in charge of the Estonia team said he was aware of the JCC program and said they would be happy to play the Jayhawks.
So the exhibition game was scheduled for Saturday night, Jan. 23, and Creola was very pleased, even though he knew his Jayhawks were taking on a team that competed equally with four-year Division I teams. He knew the odds of defeating the Canadian team were slim, but said, ''We just want to see how good we are. It will be a good experience for the players.''
And it wouldn't affect the team's record since it was an exhibition game.
The main thing was JCC finally had a game to play on that Saturday after nearly a month off. That's why you schedule an exhibition game in January!
But suddenly the Jayhawks had two games.
After all the work to set up the exhibition game with Estonia was finished, Cuyahoga West called back, said it had enough players and would be able to play on Saturday night. So JCC went from no games on the weekend to two and the Cuyahoga West game was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
JCC ended up winning both games. The Post-Journal didn't have a Sunday edition back then, so the report of both games was published in Monday's edition under the headline: ''Win That Doesn't Count Means The Most To JCC.''
That's because before cruising to a 105-70 win over Cuyahoga West, JCC edged Estonia, 70-68.
The Jayhawks didn't defeat the ''regular'' Estonia team. Because the game was arranged on such short notice, Estonia brought only eight players and missing were a 6-foot-11 center, a 6-9 forward and a couple of guards at 6-1 and 6-0.
JCC had only one player out. Its starting point guard, Tony Robinson, was sidelined with an injured Achilles tendon.
''We would like to come here again with a full squad,'' Estonia coach Harry Liiv said after the loss.
But he summed up everything with, ''No problem. It is a great place to play.''
That's because it was another packed house at the JCC athletic facility and the fans saw a great game.
The Jayhawks, playing their first game in 34 days, trailed 40-27 at halftime. They opened the second half with a press that led to a 23-7 run in the first 10 minutes for a 52-47 lead.
After that the lead seesawed until JCC scored six straight points for a 68-64 lead with 43 seconds left and they locked up the 70-68 win with the foul shooting of Bobby Franklin, who was filling in for Robinson.
Craig Talley led the Jayhawks with 23 points and nine rebounds while Carl Jeter had 17 points, Sam Winley 13 and Jon Lamar Johnson recorded 10 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals.
The Jayhawks had started that 1981-82 second semester with an impressive exhibition win and followed it with a regular-season victory. There were no more concerns about a lack of games because the following weekend they played three straight Region 3 games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the second semester was well under way.
JCC went on to repeat as the Region 3 champion and made a second straight trip to the NJCAA National Tournament at Hutchinson, Kans., where it finished seventh to complete a 33-3 season.
In 1982-83, the success continued as JCC was voted No. 1 on the final NJCAA poll at the end of the regular season. The Jayhawks won a third straight regional title and made a third straight trip to the nationals, where they finished fifth and came home with a 36-2 record.
It was quite a three-season stretch for the Jayhawks and a key to it might have been the exhibition win over Estonia in the middle.