GREENSBORO — A victory Tuesday against Western Guilford gave the impression that the Parkland boys basketball team had gotten back to business.
But the disappointment players, coaches and parents experienced in a fiasco last weekend at Tom Muse Gymnasium still lingered.
"This is our senior night," a Parkland player commented repeatedly as he passed Esosa Igbinigie while heading to the visitor locker room after the 86-48 win against the Hornets.
Igbinigie and Cornel Brown are the two seniors on the Mustangs' roster.
In a way, Tuesday's win was a rebound just four days out after Parkland's nonconference game against Trinity Wheatmore — its actual senior night — was cut short.
According to the Courier-Tribune of Asheboro, Wheatmore forfeited the game with 7:17 remaining in the second quarter as Parkland led 17-5. Brandon Thalasinos, an associate coach taking the place of Wheatmore head coach David Spell that night, told the Courier-Tribune after the game that Parkland was an "unsafe environment."
Game footage provided by the Parkland, videos posted to social media and statements from school officials cast doubt on Thalasinos' story, which led to an apology from the Randolph County School System.
For Brown, Saturday's game marked his first time as a starter for the Mustangs. The 5-foot-8 point guard transferred from Reynolds at the beginning of the year.
His parents, Cornella and Ronald Sr., were both in attendance. Just before tipoff, the couple walked their son down the baseline as his name was announced in a brief ceremony.
"Having my dad there at my first basketball game since my ninth-grade year — he works so much, so he doesn't get to come too often, so I was real excited and I got my opportunity to play in front of my parents — being together," Brown said as he stood outside the locker room at Western Guilford. "Honestly, I just don't think the game should've been cut short and taken away from us with (Igbinigie and Brown) being the only two seniors on the basketball team."
It was also Brown's first season on a varsity roster. He was set to try out for the Reynolds' team last year as a junior, but he broke his nose just before tryouts.
At senior night, his mother sat near the exit — her usual spot at home and away games she attends.
That was the case Tuesday at Western Guilford as well. It was the Hornets' senior night, and she watched as parents escorted their kids through the same hallway where Brown stood after the game. They walked out in front of a cheering home crowd, high-fiving teammates on the bench as an announcer called their names.
It struck a nerve.
"I'm sitting there saddened while I'm clapping and cheering. I didn't know those students, but (I was) letting them hear some appreciation for their accomplishments," Cornella, a 1981 graduate of Parkland, said Thursday. "All the while, my heart was aching because my son didn't get to complete his night, when it came to his senior night."
Igbinigie thought he needed one last quality performance at home against Wheatmore. The Mustangs lost 58-47 to the Warriors on Dec. 4 in Trinity. He scored five points early, as Parkland went on to lead 17-5 before the forfeit occurred.
Igbinigie, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and whose family is from England and Nigeria, was having a strong showing in front of a group of relatives. In particular, an aunt visiting from London was in attendance along with his parents, Theodore and Atohan, and several friends.
Igbinigie was grateful to the bystanders at the game that later disputed Thalasinos' story.
"I honestly think we (as a team) handled it well," said Igbinigie, who previously went to Paisley Magnet School with Brown. "I want to give some thanks to the parents and fans of Parkland because they really stuck their necks out for us.
"I know a lot of my friends, who were at the game, they were asking for videos (of the forfeit) to post on Twitter so that they could try and spread the word and explain what was going on."
Recalling the incident, Coach Travis Holcomb-Faye of Parkland thought his players' handling of circumstances showed maturity.
"I have a group of strong young men, and I'm confident in them that they will be successful," Holcomb-Faye said Tuesday. "I'm proud of them for the way they handled themselves, and the way the took the criticisms, and the way they handled the lies and the blasphemy.
"It's a life lesson for them ... And it won't be the last time they face it."