Tapping Ryan Floch’s jersey one last time

Head shot of Ryan Floch
Photo from 2001 as a BBCC Viking.

For 14 years coach Mark Poth has draped a basketball jersey over a chair, and his Vikings players have tapped the “40” jersey as they were introduced for the Ryan Floch Memorial Games. The chair and jersey stay next to Poth until the handshakes at the end of the game.

The 15th and final Ryan Floch Memorial Basketball Games will be played Jan. 2, 2016 at Big Bend Community College. The women play the BBCC Alumni team at 2 p.m., and the men play against the Alumni team at 4 p.m.

“Things run their course, and the family thinks it is time,” said BBCC Athletic Director Preston Wilks.

Ryan Floch’s adopted little sister will demonstrate her wheelchair basketball skills that night with the team ParaSport Spokane. There will be a wheelchair basketball demonstration during halftime of the women’s game, and a short wheelchair game during halftime of the men’s game.

“We are doing the wheelchair games because Ryan and Drew’s little sister is on the team,” said Preston Wilks, BBCC Athletic Director. “It is great to know his little sister will play in the last Floch memorial game.”

The games have been played since shortly after Ryan and Drew Floch died with their grandfather and cousin in a fishing accident on the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 2001.

The brothers and their parents—Clay and Jewel–touched many lives in their hometown of Odessa and at BBCC. Ryan was a basketball standout at Odessa High School who played for BBCC from 1999 to 2001. Drew was attending BBCC on an academic scholarship.

The tragedy created a bond between the college and the Odessa community. The BBCC Vikings played Floch games on Odessa High School’s court five times over the years. Odessa girls’ and boys’ teams played in BBCC’s “big gym” the remaining years. (Not having a college 3-point line made it a problem for a college team to play a game in Odessa’s gym, noted Poth.)

The teams gave up gate receipts and incurred extra travel costs for the games. Admission is by donation to the Ryan Floch Memorial Scholarship (for men’s basketball players from small high schools in eastern Washington). Odessa businesses and individuals donated to the scholarship fund each year.

Clay and Jewel Floch took a journey of faith in 2009 when they traveled to China to become coordinators of an orphanage for disabled children. They returned in 2013 having adopted two little girls—Elizabeth and Ruby. Elizabeth plays wheelchair basketball.

Elizabeth has “Vikings stuff” in her bedroom, and she is competitive, just like big brother Ryan, according to Jewel Floch.

“We want our Odessa and Big Bend families to know we are so grateful for all the support we have received through the years,” Jewel said.

It has been 15 years since Odessa and the BBCC family first grieved together at a funeral in Odessa’s gym.  The Floch brothers’ classmates and teammates are now in their 30’s. Odessa and Harrington have consolidated their sports programs, so the Tigers are now the Titans.

But the memory of the Floch brothers has been handed down and preserved. In 2012, Reid Jackson of Moses Lake dedicated his Eagle Project—a basalt column entry sign to the BBCC campus—to the Floch brothers, even though Reid was too young to have known them.

Jackson heard the story from his mother, BBCC Director of Student Programs Kim Jackson, and was inspired to dedicate the project in their memory. Coach Poth donated the bronze plaque.

The basalt columns are a fitting tribute because the Floch boys hunted for rattlesnakes in the basalt around Odessa and Wilson Creek, according to their parents

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