Nobody wants to relive that night nearly 25 years ago.
Nobody wants to remember the details of how a carload of teenagers returning from a Cleveland Cavaliers game went off the road, killing two star high school basketball players and paralyzing two others.
Nobody’s trying to renew the grief that enveloped a heartbroken community.
Instead, when Cuyahoga Falls High School basketball alumni take on the current Black Tigers varsity squad in a memorial fundraising game Friday, it will be a celebration of life.
The life of Lance Hackim, No. 12, a 16-year-old sophomore.
The life of Kevin Humble, No. 23, a 17-year-old junior.
“It feels like we’ve been mourning the loss for 25 years,” said Scott Davis, event co-organizer and a member of that 1987-88 team. “There was never a real celebration of their lives. That’s what I want this to be.”
The special affair — named the “12-23 Classic” to reflect Lance’s and Kevin’s numbers — will be a “happy/sad occasion” for the father of Lance Hackim, who said he has been in touch with former players and students who are coming into town from a dozen states where they have settled, including California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri and North Carolina.
“There will be a lot of tears,” Linc Hackim said. “These are people who haven’t seen each other in maybe 20 years or more. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see all those students and friends, but it will be bittersweet because of the memory of the accident.”
The event will begin at the Cuyahoga Falls High School gymnasium at 6 p.m. Admission is $5.
The benefit is, literally, a dream come true for Scott Davis.
One night last February after falling asleep, he saw himself playing in an alumni/varsity game, raising money for the Humble-Hackim Athletic Scholarship Fund.
The fund indeed exists. It has dispensed two $1,000 scholarships each year for 25 years.
The fantasy part of his dream was the charity basketball game. It never had been held.
“I woke up and called teammates of mine to run the idea past them,” Davis said. “It really made a lot of sense to us.”
It’s impossible to understand just how much sense without knowing what was lost.
The accident happened Feb. 1, 1988.
Erik Metzger, 17, was driving four of his teammates home from the game at the Richfield Coliseum when he failed to heed a stop sign where Stine Road ends at Riverview Road in Peninsula. The car crossed a field and plunged 230 feet down a ravine, landing on its top.
Humble and Hackim were killed. Injuries sustained by William Scelza, 17, and Marc Fugarino, 17, have kept them both in wheelchairs.
Scott was in a second car with other students that had gotten separated from Metzger’s vehicle.
“We went off a different exit and got lost,” he said.
When they learned the fate of their friends, the news was beyond devastating. Most of them had known each other since adolescence, playing baseball together as 11-year-olds.
“Seventy percent of our baseball team was on that basketball team,” Davis said. “That whole group had been together for a long time.”
Kevin Humble was a “phenomenal” player and person, Davis said.
“He was the all-American student-athlete. There was no question he would be the best player on the court or the baseball field or the football field. He was probably the best athlete I’ve ever met,” Davis said.
Outside of sports, Humble maintained a straight-A average and was popular and personable. “He was my best friend,” Davis said.
Lance Hackim had transferred to Cuyahoga Falls from Stow that year.
“He and I played the same position [shooting guard] and I was wondering if he was going to take my place,” Davis said. “As soon as I saw him play the first day, I saw he was better than me. He was a natural athlete and had a great jump shot.”
But it never turned into a rivalry.
“We just pushed each other. I was never a threat for that position because of how good he was. Through all that, Lance and I became really good friends. We hung out a lot. He was a perfect fit for the team.”
Both boys also had deep family ties in the school and community.
Kevin’s dad, Bill Humble, was a class principal and football coach.
Lance’s dad, Linc Hackim, was a math teacher and baseball coach.
Judy Ray, the Cuyahoga Falls High School activity secretary, is one of only two current school employees who worked at the school in 1988.
“All of us who lived through it, well, you don’t ever want to live through that,” she said. “Not a February goes by that I don’t think about it.”
She noted a showcase in the school’s lobby that displays the game shirts and embossed photos of Kevin and Lance, but suspects it’s the scholarships that make them known to the current student body.
“It’s brought up a lot at the end of the year, when seniors are looking into scholarships,” she said.
Ray said she has heard a lot of excitement from people in the community and has counted at least 274 alumni planning to attend, “and that’s not even counting their families. We’re going to fill the gym like we used to.”
As an added attraction, the event will introduce the district’s middle school, freshman and junior varsity teams to the crowd.
“One of our goals is to get the community involved and excited about the basketball program,” she said.
Linc Hackim said he has been deeply touched that his son’s former teammates came up with the idea of the benefit.
“It’s extra special in the fact that 25 years have passed and they still remember the situation,” Hackim said.
“I just wish they would have done this after 10 years. These guys are in their 40s,” Hackim said of the alumni. “I hope no one gets hurt.”