By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – Effingham County High School boys’ basketball coach Jake Darling jokes about the ownership of the recently completed Recreational Gymnasium at the Clarence E. Morgan Central Recreation Complex.
âClarence (Morgan) will tell everyone I think this is my gym,â Darling said with a laugh. âI wish it was. “
Certainly, Darling and the Rebels are among the major tenants of the gym. And they hosted a 12-team round robin basketball tournament on June 23-24 – the first high school event in the gym since it opened last October.
“This is what this facility is for,” said Morgan, the county’s director of recreational sports. “The more events there are, the more it is used, the more I like it.”
The tournament attracted mainly local teams and gave players the chance to participate in several matches. The coaches had the chance to assess the talent.
In two days, 36 matches were played at the recreation center.
ECHS hosted a junior college camp with 27 other high school games.
The games were played in the style of the recreational league – a one-hour time slot for each contest with clocks running to keep the action moving.
The gymnasium had two full-court games (separated by a curtain) at the same time.
âThis facility was perfect for what we needed,â said Darling. âHaving four varsity teams playing at the same time allows us to involve more teams, which means more competition. “
The $ 4.5 million facility, built with bonds that were repaid with a one-cent local special-purpose option sales tax (SPLOST), was a needed addition for local basketball. During the season, Darling began using the recreational gymnasium for extracurricular practices.
Morgan said sharing the gymnasium was part of an ongoing special relationship with high schools in the county. In the past, local high schools have helped organize large recreational events.
âWe probably have the best relationship with our South East high schools,â Morgan said.
Darling sees the reciprocal connection.
âThe kids are starting to play basketball in the recreational leagues and eventually we will feed on all the kids in the recreation department and they will play for Effingham County or South Effingham,â Darling said.
Last week, it was again high schools’ turn to use the gymnasium. And there is something to be said about having a home advantage. The ECHS and SEHS college basketball teams each played eight games.
âIt feels good not having to get on a school bus and travel somewhere to play. It was right down the street, âsaid SEHS freshman coach Rico Campbell, whose team played in summer leagues at Savannah High and Savannah Country Day. âWe enjoy playing (summer games at the recreational gymnasium). It’s a great facility and we had good crowds from the community to support us. Something like this helps us grow.