AIKEN—It wasn’t even March, but basketball madness had its grip on our diocesan schools.
A total of 43 teams, from about 14 schools and churches, made the trip to Aiken to play in the annual Diocese of Charleston Youth Basketball Tournament.
Laurie Ulmer, tournament director, said she’s been involved with the program for 15 years and it was the most successful one she’s seen. She credits the success to a change in formatting.
Instead of one champion in each age division, they created Olympic-style gold, silver and bronze categories.
Schools that had never won at the tournament went home with trophies this year. No one was happier than the players, followed by the coaches and school community.
One of the proudest schools was Blessed Sacrament of Charleston, which had teams in all four championship games, said Maureen Runey, athletic director.
“They were ecstatic,” Runey said of the players. “They worked very hard this entire season to get where they were.”
State champs for the diocese are Blessed Sacrament senior girls, St. Andrew senior boys, Blessed Sacrament junior girls, and Christ Our King-Stella Maris junior boys.
Molly Halasz, principal of St. Andrew School in Myrtle Beach, said as soon as she heard her team had made the championship, she jumped in her car and drove to Aiken to cheer them on.
“It was a long ride for an hour-long game, but it was worth it when they won,” she said.
St. Andrew’s boys beat Blessed Sacrament 34-25. Halasz said it was extremely tight in the first half, with the lead going back and forth, but the Crusaders came out strong after halftime.
Mount Pleasant’s Christ Our King-Stella Maris junior boys also beat a Blessed Sacrament team to win the state title.
Sam Stith, the boys’ coach, praised his team as a group of amazing players with a lot of determination, and credits them with tough defense to earn a 30-17 victory.
“They were pretty pumped up,” he said. “They thought it was really cool to play on the USC-Aiken [college basketball] court.”
The girls from Blessed Sacrament had better luck and both teams came home state champions.
Runey said her senior girls have been playing together for three years and have compiled an amazing record of 74-2 in that time. Their only two losses, ironically, were at two previous diocesan state tournaments, so this win was particularly sweet for them.
The tournament has been held annually for 42 years and rotates between Aiken, Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Charleston, Ulmer said. Greenville will host next year on Feb. 22-24, 2013.
Visit www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=9478 for more information and team photos.
The winners are: Senior boys: Gold — St. Andrew Myrtle Beach, 35-24 over Blessed Sacrament; Silver — St. Mary Greenville, 39-25 over St. Mary Aiken; Bronze — Charleston Catholic, 36-28 over Our Lady of the Rosary Greenville.
Senior girls: Gold — Blessed Sacrament, 25-14 over Christ our King-Stella Maris; Silver — St. Mary Greenville, 39-16 over St. Francis Hilton Head; Bronze — Blessed Sacrament, 19-18 over Our Lady of the Rosary.
Junior boys: Gold— Christ Our King-Stella Maris, 30-17 over Blessed Sacrament Silver — St. Joseph Columbia, 23-22 over St. Mary Aiken
Junior girls: Gold— Blessed Sacrament, 26-15 over Christ our King-Stella Maris Silver — St. Joseph Columbia, 22-10 over St. Mary Aiken
*The junior division didn’t have enough teams for bronze awards.