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Mepham honors basketball great

Joseph Metzger’s number retired before a packed house

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Merokean Tammy McLoughlin recently pulled a fast one on her father, Joseph Metzger III, and he couldn’t have been happier — or prouder.

McLoughlin told her dad that he had to –– he just had to –– come with her to watch the Jan. 29 Mepham-Calhoun junior-varsity girls’ basketball game at Mepham. His granddaughter, 5-foot-10 Bailey McLoughlin, was, after all, playing in the game. He couldn’t pass up an opportunity to watch Bailey, a star on the Calhoun Colts squad, play at Mepham, his beloved alma mater.

The thing was, the evening had less to do with Bailey, and more to do with her 6-foot-6 grandfather.

At halftime, Mepham Principal Michael Harrington stepped onto the court to make an announcement: For the first time in Mepham history, a boys’ basketball number would be retired that night. Metzger didn’t think anything of it. He sat in the bleachers with his wife, Joyce; his son, Douglas, and his wife, Mary Ann; Tammy and her husband, Brian McLoughlin; their son, Austin, who is Bailey’s twin; and Douglas Mills, a longtime family friend.

“We were all sitting in the stands,” recalled Metzger, 75. “It’s rare we can all get together on the same night. Everybody was there. I just thought it was a Mepham-Calhoun thing. I didn’t suspect anything.”

Little did Metzger, a lifelong Merrick resident, know that it was his number that was being retired. As Harrington spoke, he unveiled a Mepham jersey sealed in Plexiglas. “There I saw uniform No. 5,” Metzger said.

It was the same number he wore at Mepham from 1952 to 1956, when he tore up the school’s basketball court, shattering one scoring record after another, leading his team to the Nassau County championship as a junior –– Mepham’s only county basketball title –– and leading all of Nassau County in scoring as a senior, with 19.87 point per game, edging out George Bird of Freeport, who had 19.84 points.

Harrington explained that Metzger was honored as part of Mepham’s yearlong 75th anniversary celebration. “He is someone who has stayed very involved in the Bellmore-Merrick community,” Harrington said. “He’s very involved in the Mepham Alumni Association. He’s just a tremendous man.”

Basketball days

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