Shining moments take center court at State Basketball Tournament

posted Sun, Apr 3, 2016 by Jon Buzby

The Wilmington Wizards and MOT Tigers were two of 32 teams competing at the 2016 State Basketball Tournament. (photo by Ruth Coughlan)


NEWARK — There were swishes, bank shots and 3-pointers. There were rebounds, steals and blocks. There were high-scoring games, defensive battles, and a double-overtime thriller.

But what won’t show up in the box scores is the competitive fire demonstrated over the weekend at the SODE State Basketball Tournament by more than 450 athletes and Unified partners as 32 teams battled in round-robin tournaments for the right to call themselves champions.

The games, refereed by volunteer officials from IAABO Board 11, were played on both courts in the main arena and the East and West gyms of the Bob Carpenter Center, giving the players an opportunity to compete on the grandest basketball stage in the First State.

“I really like it,” said Andrew Chevannes, a member of the Kent Wild Kats. “I made a layup and almost made a 3-pointer. It just missed. It hit off the backboard.”

Fellow Wild Kat Lenny Petro made comparisons to the Delaware Field House, where the tournament was held for years.

“I like how the court doesn’t have a track around it like in the old days,” Petro said. “And I like the wood floors better than the ones at the field house which felt like rubber.”

The annual event — sponsored by Farmers Insurance, which provided more than half of the 100-plus volunteers on hand throughout the weekend — attracted hundreds of families to the UD athletic complex, where they witnessed the culmination of months of hard work leading up to the grand finale.

“It really is gratifying to watch our teams demonstrate how hard they’ve worked and all that they’ve learned since the beginning of the season when we got together as a team at our first practice,” reflected a smiling Chris Popp, who serves as MOT basketball director and whose son, Brendan, competes for the Tigers. “Regardless of the medal each team won, every player improved individually and all of our teams got better from start to finish and it was great to see the teamwork this weekend. That’s really all you can ask for as a coach.”

In addition to the full-court games, an individual skills competition and young athletes (children ages 2 – 7) demonstration also took place.

“It’s nice they have something for all ability levels and all ages,” Popp added.

One of the highlights of the tournament is the awarding of the Dick Nolan Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to a team that demonstrated the values of sportsmanship advocated for by the late Dick Nolan, a parent, SODE board member and avid basketball fan.

“Of course Dick always rooted for his daughter’s team,” his wife, Mary Ann Nolan, recalled. “But what he cheered for even more was when the players on both teams played a clean game and, whether they won or lost, had smiles on their faces as they shook hands after the final buzzer sounded.”

The 2016 recipient of the Dick Nolan Sportsmanship Award was the Wilmington Wizards Steelers. Each player received a plaque recognizing the achievement and a placard with the Steelers name engraved on it will be added to the trophy, which is displayed in the Bob Carpenter Center lobby throughout the tournament.

The trophy presentation was the perfect finale for a weekend filled with not just one shining moment … but many.