Ben Olison and Vincent Ludd sat next to each other in the bleachers on the home side of the East High gym and watched the Blades boys basketball team take on Bakersfield High.
The two men, both in their 60s, were among several East basketball alumni back at their old stomping grounds Saturday to watch the game and take part in other festivities that were held as part of the school's 75th Anniversary celebration.
The day-long event, filled with memories and stories of the old days, ended on a sour note for the East faithful as the Drillers defeated the Blades 55-47 behind 15 points from Anthony Wright.
Fatai Eke had 21 points, 13 rebounds, and six blocked shots and Lamont Jones added 16 points for East, which trailed 33-32 before Latrelle Marchbanks scored on a driving layup with 1.3 seconds left in the third quarter to kick-start a 13-4 run by BHS.
As part of the pre-game festivities the school's old gymnasium, where the game was originally slated to be held but ended up not being used due to safety concerns, was filled with memorabilia and old newspaper clippings for alumni and other interested parties to peruse.
A luncheon was also held prior to the game.
"I think it was one of the best things that ever happened," Olison said of East's anniversary get-together. "It brings back memories and I get to see people I haven't seen for a long time."
Olison graduated from East in 1964 after playing four years of basketball at the school, which opened in 1938.
Both Olison and Ludd, who played two seasons for the Blades before graduating in 1967, were part of South Yosemite League Championship teams.
"It was great playing at East for a number of reasons," Ludd said. "I was under Ralph Krafve and we had some outstanding teams. Just the idea the being here was great because when I was a freshman I went to BHS. And didn't want to come to East but once I got here, I would never go back to BHS because East High was totally different kind of school."
The East boys basketball team won its first of 23 SYL titles in 1944. But the program, which also has seven section titles to its credit, hit its high water mark in 1994, winning the CIF Division II State Championship.
Saturday's game between BHS and East was the final tuneup for both teams before they begin league play (BHS in the SWYL and East in the SEYL) next week.
BHS (11-5) led by four at halftime and never trailed in beating the Blades for a fifth straight time.
"It's always nice to come into a hostile environment and get a win," BHS coach Greg Burt said. "That was good for us."
One of the keys for the Drillers in the victory was their ball-handling. BHS committed just 10 turnovers against East's man-to-man pressure defense.
"That's been an issue," Burt said. "We've been talking about it. We tell our kids all the time, 'turnovers are terminal.' We can't live by making too many of those. So they did a great job tonight."
Despite a distinct size disadvantage, BHS also held its own on the boards.
East (8-10) shot a higher percentage from the field 36.7 percent (18 of 49) compared to 33.3 percent (18 of 54), but lost the game at the free throw line where the Drillers sank 17 of 21 attempts while the Blades were 9 of 12.
"The kids played hard, fought hard," East coach Milt Henderson said. "I thought it was a good game. (BHS) came in and executed what they do real well. It didn't end up the way that we wanted but I'm proud of my kids."
Henderson, who played at East from 1969 to 1973 and has coached there for the past 20 years, has a special fondness for the school.
He played on four league championship teams, something he reminds his current players.
"It's kind of hard to put in words," Henderson said when asked to share his feelings about East. "I went to school here. My kids went to school here. This school is part of my heart. I have a lot god memories here. When I was in junior high school I remember coming here watching Freddie Boyd, Don Parrish, and a lot of those guys play, and always wanting to be here. Always wanting to play here and just be part of what goes on here."