March Madness basketball cannot simply be contained within 31 days. Just as the NCAA men’s national championship basketball tournament spills into April, Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Child and Youth Services hosted a season-finale jamboree April 6.
Historically known as Little March Madness, the JBLM Hoops for Military Kids event took place within Parent Central Services’ gymnasium. Seven teams played in a round-robin format with 20-minute games.
The clock was running, and no scores were kept. That didn’t stop the kids from pulling out their best basketball moves, nor did it stop the coaches giving orders on the court or the parents cheering as they would at a high school or college game.
The teams represented Cascade and Lewis North School Age Centers, where some of the kids haven’t had a chance to play in games during CYS’ basketball season. JBLM’s version of March Madness was the lone set of games this season for some kids.
“They love the competition,” said Harold Blackwell, who was coaching a team of third through fifth-graders from Lewis North. “When we come down here, it’s a chance for them to display their skills in front of others.”
Captain Keith Marshall of Regional Health Command-Pacific enjoyed seeing what his son Tre, 9, could do in an exhibition game after his first year of JBLM basketball.
“His dribbling has gotten better, and he’s using the backboard like he’s supposed to (when shooting),” Marshall said.
Most importantly, kids got to practice their fundamentals while working together as a team.
“No matter where you go in life, you’ll always be part of some kind of team,” said Cynthia Williams-Patnoe, JBLM CYS sports director.
The seven teams were each assigned to a college basketball team, which included 2018 Final Four teams Villanova University, the University of Michigan and Loyola University Chicago.
“It’s all about the kids having fun,” said Gloria Billups, Lewis North School Age Center director. “They’re going to be talking about this the rest of the year.”
There were even cheerleaders from the Lewis North School Age Center performing cheer and dance routines. The girls began rehearsing and practicing in February with the basketball jamboree marked on their calendars.
Coach Mabinty “Mistee” Koroma said it has been a good way for her younger cheerleaders to step out of their shyness.
“It’s just giving them the opportunity to experience the event and show (the families) what they’ve got,” Koroma said.
The event also had a special emcee in Alex Montgomery, who is signed with the Chicago Sky of the Women’s National Basketball Association. She’s also a girls basketball coach at Steilacoom High School, where a parent of a player asked Montgomery to contribute to the JBLM event.
A Tacoma native, Montgomery had no hesitation accepting the invite. She spoke with the children and also acted as an announcer when games were going.
“I love working with kids and being a positive role model,” Montgomery said. “(The kids) looking up to me, the questions they have, it’s me giving back to the community.”