Basketball for toys
Ernest Hassell, HHC Regiment (The Old Guard), goes for a basket during a game against Fort Meade during the Operation Santa Holiday Toy Drive basketball tournament in the fitness center on JBM-HH Dec. 3. Each of the players had to bring a toy to enter the tournament.

He dodges to the left, pivots to the right, avoids the opposing team's defense, shoots and scores. This was the scene that patrons walking into the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Fitness Centers on Fort Myer and Fort McNair would have seen.

From Dec 2-4, the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation hosted a men's and women's basketball tournament as part of Operation Santa Toy Drive.

The toy drive was a three-part event including the tournament, a 5K run and a senior fitness challenge. All toys are donated to the Army Community Service Toy Basket Program that give military children toys for the holidays.

"The goal was to provide the teams a good preseason competition prior to the season beginning," said Brandie DeRemer, the sports director at the fitness center. She added that it also allowed DFMWR a chance to help out the community by providing toys to military Families in need.

The pounding of basketballs could be heard from the court as each of the 16 tournament teams from New York, Maryland, North Carolina and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area practiced before each of their games.

Players yelling to each other, and the squeaks of shoes sliding and turning on the hardwood floors echoed throughout the fitness centers as the games went on from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 2, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 3 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 4. More than once it felt as if time had stopped as players waited to see if the ball would sink into a basket.

Although the cheers from the sidelines could be heard throughout the games, there were a few moments when everything went silent as a player went down with an injury.

There were eight teams for each tournament which were split into two pools, "A" and "B." The championship games pitted the top team from each pool against each other.

In the men's championship, a close competition came into play as each team had dominated the three games in their pool leading up the championship.

Getting ahead in the end, however, JBM-HH was able to pull ahead of Fort Drum to win 67-62.

"It was a total team effort. The guys played good connectively and stepped it up on defense," said coach Marcus Hall. "From start to finish you couldn't really tell who was going to prevail."

The women's championship saw the same kind of competition heading into the finals as each of the winning teams had also won all three of its games prior to the championship game. However, the game wasn't quite as close, as Fort Belvoir was able to pull ahead of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center-Bethesda, winning 72-57.

The runners-up were awarded a plaque while the winning teams not only received a team plaque but also individual awards.

"It's actually a good tournament for the kids, but also allows us to get ready for Washington Area Military Athletic Conference season," said Hall. He added that the team usually attends about one tournament a month such as the Martin Luther King Tournament in January or the Capital Classic Tournament in February.

Although the JBM-HH females team didn't advance to the finals, they still prospered from the experience. Coach Edward Gaines, a retired Army sergeant major working in the Pentagon, explained that this is his first year coaching for JBM-HH and all the girls are new as well -- only two have played together previously.

"This was a good opportunity for the women to see what the competition level is going to be like in the WAMAC," said Gaines. He also added that the players enjoyed bringing in the toys.

Held once a year, the Operation Santa Toy Drive has on average brought in more than 500 toys for military children said Brandon Lamberson, sports specialist at the fitness center.

Page last updated Tue December 13th, 2011 at 10:59