Columbia hoops rivalry renewed ‘For Love of Community’

Pictured are Bryan and the late Emily Webb of Columbia with their six children: Samuel, Isaac, Olivia, Audrey, Josiah and Levi. (submitted photo)

What was once a heated Columbia hoops rivalry will reignite once again for a very special cause later this month.

The Columbia Middle School and Immaculate Conception Catholic School boys and girls eighth grade basketball teams will play each other Friday night, Oct. 26 at Columbia High School. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.

The two teams have not faced each other on the court in more than 25 years.

Proceeds from T-shirts being sold and other fundraisers taking place as part of the game will benefit the family of Emily Webb, the local mother of six who died in a crash on Route 3 in Columbia earlier this year.

T-shirts are $12 each and may be purchased by contacting the CMS or ICS offices at 281-4993 or 281-5353, respectively.

“With this being my final year of coaching, I thought this would be the right way to bring back the rivalry,” longtime CMS boys basketball coach Jon Wehrenberg said. “We are calling the event ‘For Love of Community.’ I’m very excited to be a part of it.”

ICS principal Mike Kish said the first basketball game between ICS and CMS was a benefit to support Columbia joining the Belleville Area College service area taxing district.

CMS won that first game by five points. ICS won the next five games and the game took place each year until 1991.

“After that it was discontinued due to competitive conflicts,” said Kish, who served as head basketball coach for ICS for seven years.

“At the time, the Columbia Junior High only had seventh and eighth grade playing,” Kish remembers. “We started at fifth grade, so we had an advantage.

“Games were very intense then,” Kish added. “Kids played seasonal sports and there was no select. School sports were priority.”

As for the Oct. 26 game, Kish is thrilled his school is a part of it.

“Columbia takes care of its own and also steps up for needs well beyond our local area,” Kish said. “Immaculate Conception School is proud to join with Columbia Middle School in this joint effort to help out the Webb family while having some fun on the court.”

Bryan Webb, husband of the late Emily Webb and father of the six children who were injured in the Feb. 27 crash, said he was “surprised and humbled” when  Wehrenberg called about the idea of this game.

“When Jon explained that these two teams hadn’t played each other in decades, I agreed with him that this was a great time to bring back an old friendly rivalry in support of a great community,” Bryan said. “I pray that this can be a charity rivalry that continues on for years and continues to support other families in our community.”

Bryan said funds collected as part of this game will help pay for future physical, occupational and speech therapy for Olivia and Levi, who were the most seriously injured of his children.

“Once insurance runs out, therapy costs accumulate quickly,” he said.

Bryan is hoping to purchase an adaptive tricycle for Olivia, who will probably never have the right side strength and mobility necessary to keep herself on a regular bicycle.

Bicycling is a fun family activity that has been hard for the Webbs to do since the crash.

“Now that Olivia will have a trike, I’ve decided to purchase new bikes for each of my kids. As you can imagine, with six kids, doing anything gets expensive,” Bryan explained. “So we have always purchased used bikes that needed constant repair. Purchasing new bikes will allow us to spend more time together riding, and especially taking long rides when we go camping, which is a highlight for all of us.”

Bryan also thanked the community for its outpouring of support since the crash.

“I’ve said many times that if this tragedy had happened in a larger community in St. Louis, we probably would not have had the same level of support, care and prayers as we have received from our local communities,” he said. “Thank you to all who have loved on our family so well.”

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