Youth basketball tournament provides hoops of fun

AIKEN  The Knights of Columbus hosted the annual youth basketball tournament March 10-11. More than 600 athletes from 51 teams competed in the statewide event. Along with the players, coaches and families brought the total number of participants to over 1,000.

Teams competed in four divisions: senior (under age 15) and junior (under age 13) boys divisions and senior and junior girls divisions. Preliminary games took place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday at eight facilities throughout Aiken. Championship games were held at the H. Odell Weeks Center on Sunday afternoon. Consolation games were played that morning.

In the senior boys championship game, Blessed Sacrament, Charleston, matched up against St. Andrew’s of Myrtle Beach. The Charleston team edged out the Grand Strand team by one point, 43 to 42. The most valuable player award went to Michael McQueeney of Blessed Sacrament, and the sportsmanship award was given to St. Andrew’s.

Christ Our King, Mount Pleasant, beat Charleston Catholic in the senior girls championship game. The MVP award went to Laura Marquardt from Christ Our King. The North Augusta team from Our Lady of Peace received the sportsmanship award.

The junior boys championship showcased St. Joseph, Columbia, against Christ Our King. St. Joseph’s swiftly won the title. R.C. Washington of the Columbia school won the MVP award. The sportsmanship award was given to St. Mary’s in Greenville II.

Blessed Sacrament won over St. Mary’s in the junior girls finals. The MVP was Alexis Lowery of Blessed Sacrament, and St. Joseph’s, Charleston, received the sportsmanship award.

Consolation division winners were the junior boys of Christ Our King over St. Mary’s of Greenville IV; the senior girls from Divine Redeemer, Hanahan, over Our Lady of Peace; the junior boys from Charleston Catholic over Divine Redeemer; and the junior girls from St. Joseph’s, Columbia, over St. Joseph’s, Charleston.

Saturday night a Mass was held at the University of South Carolina-Aiken gym. Msgr. Thomas Evatt, pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians Church and celebrant for the liturgy, received a basketball from Terell Vaird of Blessed Sacrament during the Presentation of the Gifts. Later that night, a dance was held for the players.

The basketball tournament began in the early ’70s and rotated annually between Charleston, Columbia and Greenville. Aiken first hosted the tournament in 1998. Two years ago, when organizers were searching for a new sponsor, the State Council of the Knights of Columbus volunteered.

The Aiken organizing committee has been meeting since last June to plan the event. The committee, under the leadership of Chairman Jimmy Angelos, is comprised of the Msgr. George Lewis Smith Council 3684 of the Knights and St. Mary Help of Christians Parish.

Charles G. Richitelli, state deputy of the Knights, said, “This tournament is one of the largest Catholic youth events in the state. We are proud to sponsor the event. [It] exemplifies the key goals of our order, which are to serve our church, our community, our family and our youth.”

Teams from churches and schools that competed included St. Mary Help of Christians, Aiken; Blessed Sacrament, Charleston Catholic, Nativity, and St. Joseph’s from Charleston; St. Joseph’s in Columbia; Divine Redeemer School in Hanahan; Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Mary’s from Greenville; Christ Our King/Stella Maris School in Mount Pleasant; and Summerville Catholic School in Summerville.