Elks coach Givens honored by Panthers in return to Perryville


By Jordan Schatz jschatz@cecilwhig.com                                                                                                                      January 21, 2018

PERRYVILLE — Elkton head coach Charlie Givens Sr. struggled to doze off the night before his return to Perryville on Friday, the high school that he guided to more than 400 wins over four-plus decades.

“I just wanted us to come down there and play a good basketball game. Matter-of-fact, I didn’t even sleep last night. I kept waking up because of the fact I was coming back,” said Givens, who left this past off-season for a vacant head coaching position at his hometown high school. “I guess emotions make you think about what you’re going to be doing during the day. I didn’t even eat food today. I didn’t eat anything still thinking about the fact I was coming here.

“I was really surprised. You don’t surprise me often. I just thank everyone for acknowledging me for the years I’ve given them, and the [former] players who showed up. It was great.”

With program alumni in attendance Friday, the Panthers honored their former coach with a moving pre-game ceremony. Perryville athletic director George Rash revealed Givens’ achievements over the loudspeaker as the school gifted the long-time coach a plaque on behalf of the boys’ basketball program and Perryville community and a personalized basketball detailing his 41 years of service and 407 wins with the program.

Givens then walked out to midcourt for a photo with returning Perryville basketball players.

“Actually, we had like a dozen [additional former players] who came in after [the ceremony]. A lot of people came up to him afterwards and said ‘hi’ to him. I had people emailing me from all over the place telling me to say ‘hi’ and they wish they could be here to see him,” said Rash, who noted that former players as far away as Hawaii and Iowa wrote to pay their respects. “You saw people from the 1980s here. It was pretty impressive that they came.”

Among the returning players in attendance included Dominic Gugliotta, who earned All-County boys’ basketball honors as a senior last winter, and Brian Matthews, who was named All-County as a senior in 2013.

Both players lingered after the game to meet with former teammates and speak one-on-one with Givens.

“I was just thinking … I don’t even know if he knows where to go during halftime [because he had to return to the visitor’s locker room],” Gugliotta joked. “He’s just a really great coach. I really enjoyed playing for him. He’s one-of-a-kind. He comes off as hard on you, and he’s tough on you, but I really enjoyed playing for him. It meant a lot to come back and watch him. He’s a fantastic coach. It’s cool to sit back and watch what you went through for four years.”

Matthews went on to sign with University of Towson to play football.

“I just wanted to come back and give a little support for the team. Perryville’s an alumni school, I’ve always appreciated the program, I have much love for the program, so it’s always good to come back,” Matthews said. “It’s definitely nice to see coach Givens get the honor he rightfully deserves. He’s dedicated a lot to the program and Cecil County, in general. It’s nice for him to honored and respected for that, and I’m just glad to be here as support.”

Givens began coaching at Perryville in 1970, spending every year with the Panthers except for a short retirement in the late 2000s. He coached the Panthers to the 1992 state championship game and won his 400th-career contest in the regular-season finale of the 2015-16 campaign.

He was the leader of the program in 1977, when the current Perryville High School was built. He witnessed the construction of the current basketball court.

“It’s a legacy that Charlie leaves. Like I said before, I just hope he continues to coach. I wish there was more players here [that played for him]. There was probably about 40 players of his here during the game,” said Perryville first-year head basketball coach Chris Johnson, who allowed his own players who performed under Givens to join the alumni at midcourt. “They all love him, they all respect him, and they should.”

Behind a strong start, Elkton opened up to a commanding lead and held on for an 83-50 Susquehanna Division victory over the host Panthers.

Dah’Mear Triplett finished with 17 points, including 12 points from beyond the arc, and Raiquon Estep chipped in 14 points, while Ryan Thompson contributed 10 points off the bench for the Elks, who 17-0 with 1:44 remaining in the first quarter. Elkton then took a 41-14 advantage into halftime.

“This is [Givens’] home school, so we just wanted to put on for him. Let them know that they not only love him here, but we love him here, too. We appreciate him coming over and helping us out as we lost our coach. Praise to him,” Thompson said. “[The ceremony] was really respectful. It gave us a boost of energy.”

It was a different Panthers team exiting the break. Aided by four 3-pointers, Perryville outscored Elkton 24-21 in the third quarter and proceeded to keep pace with the Elks in the final frame.

Billy Boyer finished with 19 points, Timmy Clark added 11 points and Tyesean Stevenson netted eight points for the Panthers.

“Just go out and play basketball. Stop thinking about the people in the stands, the whole hoopla about the game,” Johnson said of his halftime message to his team. “We came out with some nerves, we really did, and I think it showed. We played slow and skittish. Not scared. I just think we were nervous. I told them ‘what defines you is how you responded to this situation.’ So we made some adjustments on offense to attack their team a little better. I think the kids know they can play with them.”