Communities of Barron, Ladysmith come together for special hoops game

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LADYSMITH, Wis. (WEAU) -- Carter Closs spent Friday thinking about his uncle and first cousin – James and Jayme Closs.

“He liked his high school football and basketball. He let you know he was the best one out there every day and he never failed to do that,” Carter Closs said to WEAU 13 News, about his uncle. "Otherwise, he was an outgoing guy. Never mean to anybody.

Of his first cousin: “Jayme was very shy, I thought. She was, I thought, the not-talkative one. My family is very talkative and she's always kind of the one that didn't talk much.”

These were the memories Carter Closs – the Ladysmith junior point guard – had sitting inside the gym Friday, ahead of a touching tribute to these members of his family.

The prep sports rivalry between Barron and Ladysmith can be intense, and Friday's girls basketball showdown was no exception.

"I have to tell you, it's a friendly rivalry ... but, any time our girls hit the court, they want to win," Diane Tremblay, the superintendent for the Barron Area School District, said to WEAU 13 News on Friday.

However, amidst the Barron maroon and Ladysmith purple, there was plenty of green – a sign of hope that Jayme Closs, the Barron teen who disappeared Oct. 15th, is still alive.

"It's a very close-knit community that really cares about what happens to everyone in the community,” Paul Uhren, administrator for the Ladysmith School District, said to WEAU 13 News on Friday. “When we found about what happened over a month ago, it shocked the community."

That's why Uhren and the Heart O' North Conference decided to have each team playing Friday night – and their fan bases – wear and display green.

"We have a strong bond with Ladysmith. It's a great community. So is Barron,” Tremblay said. “To be honest with you, all of the area schools – especially in this scenario that we're going through right now, they've been amazing. These gestures have been helping our community sustain that hope ... and, we feel like they're with us and behind us.”

The distance between the hardwood gym floors at Ladysmith and Barron High School is slightly less than 40 miles, but since the events of Oct. 15th, that distance has been made much smaller.

A look on the Ladysmith gymnasium's walls shows a list of three boys basketball teams which finished as a state finalist. This included the 1980-1981 squad which finished with a 22-3 record and listed James and Jeff Closs – Carter Closs’s uncle and father.

"I just try to take the best from everything and make it the best that I could possibly can,” Carter Closs said, during a moment of reflection. “Try to do everything for my team that I can.”

Friday’s matchup between the Golden Bears and Lumberjills came with green balloons strewn around the gym and both teams wearing neon green shoelaces. Uhren said money collected during the night's 50-50 raffle would go to a fund for Jayme – if, and when, she returns alive.

The game came also on the 47th day since James and jhis wife, Denise, were killed in their Barron home and Jayme was last seen.

"When we go to bed at night and we haven't got that phone call that we hope for – that Jayme's coming home – you feel disappointment,” Tremblay said. “But, when we wake up the next morning, and you have that renewed hope that we have all the faith in our authorities – local, state and federal. They're doing a beautiful job. They're not going to quit.”

It seemed neither girls basketball squad wanted to quit, either. Friday’s matchup needed two overtime periods to decide a winner – Ladysmith over Barron, 42-37.

Carter Closs was also there in the crowd, complete with the name “Jayme” and a heart inscribed on the sides of his sneakers – containers of his soles, but also carrying a message within his soul.

"Just faith and hope and stuff,” Carter Closs said. “You always got to be positive and hope the best happens.”