Last updated: April 02. 2014 11:44PM - 1046 Views
By Vince Koza

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I’m embarrassed.

Here I am a sports guy, and I had never been to a Lima Express pro basketball game until this past Sunday.

I had talked about it on the radio all year long, but had not ventured over to Lima Central Catholic High School even once to watch it in person, until Sunday.

I have been missing out on some great entertainment.

And I think there are a lot of others in our area that could say the same thing.

I remember in the early 1980s when we were fortunate to have the Ohio Mixers in our town.

Remember them?

The Mixers were a team that played in the Continental Basketball Association — at the time, the developmental league of the NBA.

The Mixers played their home games at the old Lima Senior High School on Pierce Street.

Remember when they had the San Diego Chicken mascot come to one of the games?

The place was rockin’.

There were several games where the place was nearly filled to capacity.

In their first year, the Mixers were averaging around 1,800 fans a game.

I remember players like Kevin Figaro, who I thought should have been in the NBA at the time.

He was that good.

I remember others like Dwight Anderson, John Pinone, Dino Gregory, Billy Ray Bates and Wes Mathews.

Was there a bigger character than Marvin “Bad News” Barnes?

Some of these guys had a taste of the NBA.

Others were star players in college.

Remember when Lima’s own John McCullough returned home to play with the Mixers?

It was big time basketball, I thought.

I attended nearly every home game as a fan, or taping highlights for WLIO-TV.

But the Mixers were barely here for two years.

The Lima area didn’t realize what we had then, and the support began to dwindle, and the team was forced to find new ownership and move to Cincinnati.

I remember being sad that we lost the Mixers.

That was great entertainment.

We didn’t have pro basketball in Lima again until the past couple of years when the Lima Explosion emerged. They were members of the American Basketball Association, but certainly not the same caliber of a league that once featured Dr. J. — Julius Erving.

The Explosion had a couple of different home sites. Games were supposed to start at one time, and teams showed up late. There were rumors of financial problems, coaches and players not getting paid.

I never made it to a game, and the Explosion ownership decided to leave town.

Now we have the Lima Express owned by Lewis Shine.

Shine had a tough act to follow, trying to convince people that it would be different than what was previously here.

There are always a lot of doubters in our world, people that would rather dwell on the negative instead of the positive.

Shine is a positive guy.

The Express joined a better league — the Premier Basketball League.

They recruited players not just from our area, but internationally.

I had heard the quality of basketball was better, and the home games were entertaining for the fans.

But I still hadn’t been to an Express game — until this past Sunday.

Man was I impressed.

The Express’ two best players were injured.

They had lost five games in a row.

The team they were playing — the Erie Hurricane — had only one win all season.

Yet the basketball quality was good.

Both teams played hard from start to finish.

Yes, they passed the ball and played defense, too.

The Express have a young man in Bryant Austin who played in the NBA’s developmental league last season.

He’s really good.

They have local products like former Lima Senior standout Willie Tisdale and ex-Columbus Grove and Ohio Northern star Kyle Meyer.

And those guys can play, too.

I remember covering both players in high school. Willie Tisdale was fun to watch as a Spartan in the early 2000s — just a little guy at 5 feet 8 inches. But he could shoot it from anywhere.

And that hasn’t changed 11 years later against players much taller than him.

We enjoyed our first Lima Express pro basketball game.

Credit Lewis Shine for putting together a quality product for us to be entertained, here in our area.

And we will go back to watch the Lima Express.

Unfortunately, their last game of the season is Sunday.

A 3 p.m. matchup against Lake Michigan.

My suggestion is that you try to make it to LCC on Sunday.

And if you can’t make it then, think about next year and going to a game or two.

I think you will enjoy the experience.

It would be nice to continue to have entertainment like the Express for several years to come.

But they need our support.

Remember the Mixers!

You can comment to Vince Koza at koza@cmgroup.co.

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