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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Benjamin Russell graduate Terrell Owens is defended by Coosa grad Adalius Thomas (44) during the Alex City vs. Central Coosa alumni basketball game Saturday.

Just like the current high school teams do twice a year, Central Coosa and Alexander City’s alumni teams fought tooth and nail Saturday in Montgomery during the third annual alumni game. They both left it all out on the court. One team lost and one team won.

But when all was said and done, the former Cougar and Wildcat men came together for a team photo where they mingled together as one.

“Absolutely when the game gets going, you want to go,” Coosa graduate Adalius Thomas said. “You want to play; you want to win; you want to compete. That’s just the testosterone gets going and it kinda takes over, but when the game is over, we laugh and talk trash about it. That’s what we did again this year.”

Thomas was clearly in his element Saturday at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the campus of Alabama State University. Thomas is one of the few big-name graduates who have attended all three years, but it was obvious he was having the time of his life. During the women’s game, Thomas shouted and cheered from the stands and even poked at the referees.

After he got to watch his alma mater pull away from Alex City and earn a 38-31 victory, Thomas led the Coosa Cougars onto the court for the men’s game.

It looked like Alex City might earn a split as it took off in the first quarter, leading 22-12. But the Cougars started to battle back. The uncle-nephew duo of Jamario Moon and Xavier Moon, both of whom are professional basketball players, started to take over the game.

“I never thought I’d be still playing and still playing with my nephew on the same court,” Jamario Moon said. “We didn’t have the best first half. In the second half, we said, ‘This is what we do for a living.’ We needed to get the rebound, push it and get out. We came out in the third quarter and jumped on them and they couldn’t fight back.”

Although the Moon duo had a number of highlight-worthy dunks and helped the Cougars break out as much as a 17-point lead, Alex City nearly did fight back.

After getting the deficit to single figures, Terrell Owens hit a pair of clutch free throws and Scottie Vines added a 3-pointer to cut Coosa’s lead to just 73-69 with four minutes to play. But that was as close as the Benjamin Russell graduates ever got in an 85-76 loss.

“We chipped away, chipped away,” Owens said. “That’s what happens in an alumni game though. A lot of guys don’t play throughout the course of the year, but they want to try to step out on the court and make something happen like they did some 15 or 20 years ago. It just doesn’t happen that way.

“Regardless of the win or loss, my main objective is to inspire, motivate and encourage a lot of people. Obviously it’s a rivalry. We all wanted to win. But my main objective was really to come out and inspire and motivate a lot of the kids.”

That message was constant from all the former players and a special guest, NFL great Randy Moss. Moss and Owens were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame together last year, and when Owens asked Moss to join him at Saturday’s event, Moss immediately agreed.

“My story is well documented of how I started from the bottom and worked my way up,” said Moss, who joined Owens, Thomas and the Moons for an autograph session after the game. “I think a lot of these people from small-town communities, to be able to feel, to be able to touch, to be able to mingle with professional athletes ­— I didn’t get that growing up. So it was more of just being able to give back and not always financially wanting something in return.”

For the guys on the court, although it was a chance to don their old high school jerseys again, there also was the

overwhelming feeling of doing something good for the community.

“I think the whole thing with it for me is giving back,” Jamario Moon said. “Anytime we’re giving back to the community, whether it’s in a jersey or just playing skins, it’s always great. But at the same time, to put on this Coosa Central jersey and beat up on Benjamin Russell like the old days is always great. It gets the blood flowing.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.