BREWSTER —Stoic was the expression on Gene Schindewolf's face for most of the four quarters his Manchester boys basketball team played Tuesday night at Fairless.
There were the occasional outbursts when a pass went awry, or when a defensive assignment was missed. However, for the most part, the 34-year Panther mentor's demeanor was like most of the previous 845 games he's coached.
It was only once the final buzzer sounded on his team's 52-37 win over the Falcons — Schindewolf's 500th career win as a coach — that it became obvious this night was different than most of the others.
Schindewolf was immediately hugged by assistant coaches A.J. Hite - a former player - and Josh Chadima. After going through the post-game handshake line and receiving the game ball from Fairless High School principal Larry Chambliss, he found his wife Kathy in the stands, while acknowledging the applause from both the Manchester and Fairless fans remaining.
Then, just as he did after career win No. 1 over Smithville while at Dalton in 1980, Schindewolf followed his team to the locker room for a post-game talk.
"It means the Lord's been good to me," said Schindewolf, who is now 500-346 in 39 years at Manchester (1985-present) and Dalton (1980-85). "Obviously, I've been blessed with an unbelievable wife; really, really good assistants and really, really players. You just don't do this without help. The Lord's blessed me, and sometime I don't deserve it. But that's what it means."
The milestone had been building for some time, especially after getting win No. 499 a week earlier in a home victory over Northwest. Manchester, which improved to 8-10 overall and 4-6 in the PAC-7, suffered a setback to CVCA in its first try at getting the milestone for its coach.
The second time, though, wasn't going to be a miss for the Panthers.
"We've been looking forward to this all season," Manchester forward Cam Adkins said. "We knew it was close the whole season, so we were just happy for him. He's always been there for us, so it's good to have him being such a good role model."
Adkins was there when the Panthers needed him the most as well. The senior scored nine fourth-quarter points, which helped Manchester break open a 31-31 deadlock after three.
Five of those points came as part of a 15-3 Panther run to start the quarter to open up a 46-34 lead with 3:33 remaining. Ethan Wright also had five of his 10 points during that burst, including the layup off of a steal to provide Manchester with the 12-point cushion.
"We just had to finish our shots in the paint, really," Adkins said of the message from the coaches during the quarter break. "It was more about just settling down and get the ball down the court so we could finish inside. That's all the message was."
Manchester's finish belied a fast start by Fairless, which falls to 7-11 overall and 2-8 in the PAC-7. Coming off their second win of the season over rival Tuslaw, the Falcons came out flying, using an 11-2 run to take a 17-8 lead after one quarter.
The problem for Fairless, however, was that it would managed just one basket over an almost 12-minute stretch. The Falcons would take a 20-15 lead on Conner Durant's basket with 6:11 remaining in the second quarter, but would not score again until Kyle Hunter's conventional 3-point play with 4:23 remaining in the third quarter.
Yet, despite that drought, Hunter's play made it a 26-23 Manchester lead. Jack Laney's 3-point basket on the subsequent possession would tie the game at 26-26, one of two ties over the final 3:35 of the third.
"Honestly, I think if we could've played a complete game, and not lose our minds, we could've beaten Manchester," Fairless acting head coach Steve Sauls said. "So when we would get back to playing like we can, we would catch back up. Then, we would lose our minds and get behind. Eventually, it got to the point where we lost our minds completely and they just ran us off the floor in the fourth quarter."
Which helped Manchester run their head coach's career win total up to the magical number of 500.