In a battle of fast-paced athleticism, sportsmanship and school spirit, three Summit Academy high schools came together in Middletown Dec. 9 for the Second Annual Southern Regional Basketball Tournament.
The tournament began a year ago when the Middletown Samurais, Dayton White Tigers and Columbus Dragons met to play in Middletown’s spacious gymnasium last fall. That was followed by a March Madness tournament last spring.
To help pay for the transportation costs of the participating schools, Middletown ran a food concession and split the proceeds three ways. That type of cooperation sets the tone for the tournament, according to Middletown coach Mary Elliott. She praised the sportsmanship displayed on the court and in the stands.
“One of the players on the other team had fallen down,” Ms. Elliott said. “Three of our students stopped what they were doing, went back and helped that student off the floor when there was still a live ball.”
Middletown Director Beth Varley said she was particularly proud of her students. “Our kids were not upset that they didn’t win everything,” Varley said. “They took it all in stride. And after the game, other kids went to the coach and said they want to sign up and play in the spring.”
“We have kids that come from several different counties, so we didn’t have a way to get together after school,” Middletown Coach Elliott said. “One of the things that kids have consistently asked for is sports opportunities.”
Dayton White Tiger Coach Sean Burkhardt said his program doesn’t operate like a traditional varsity team. “We don’t cut anybody,” he said. “We take everybody we can. That’s why here in Dayton we have 22 kids on the team.”
Burkhardt is assisted by coaches Jaclyn Tipton, Mike Moore, Donovan Hahn and Todd Bonenberger. “With our program, it is really cool seeing a kid who may have trouble with dribbling or shooting, maybe their strength is rebounding or some other facet of the game. We tell them not everybody can be a scorer – people who pass the ball can be just as valuable as everybody else.”
Even more important is the concept of being a team. “Once they are on the basketball team, they are a team, on and off the court,” Mr. Burkhardt said.
Sportsmanship is paramount. “We don’t rub it in when we win and we don’t get too upset when we lose,” Mr. Burkhardt said. We treat it what it is – a sport that we’re there to play and get in shape and have fun and develop that team friendship. In terms of sportsmanship, that’s really number one for us.”
In addition to bringing students to cheer on the team, Dayton has a complete squad of cheerleaders, under the direction of advisor Kendra Burkhardt. As the schools develop their sports teams, Mrs. Burkhardt said she looks forward to other schools developing spirit squads.
Columbus coach Anthony Joseph said his 14 players had only three practices before the tournament. Math teacher Ryan Kennedy provided valuable help as an assistant coach. With no gymnasium in the school, Mr. Joseph said, the team walked to a nearby YMCA to practice. But even that didn’t dampen the team’s enthusiasm.
“All the kids were excited,” Mr. Joseph said. “It was great for school spirit. I was really pleased with the kids, how it instilled teamwork. The kids worked really hard in practice and it showed during actual game play.”
The entire student body traveled to the tournament with the team. Mr. Joseph said he hopes to make the tournament an annual event for the Dragons.
“We’re definitely interested in the years to come.” Mr. Joseph said. “The kids really liked it and that’s the important thing.”