FINKSBURG — This started as a story about a basketball game.
The contest, between the Red and Green teams in the Sandymount rec basketball program's Junior Division (for third through fifth grades) was Saturday morning at Sandymount Elementary, with the divisional championship on theline.
But Saturday's visit to the school also turned up several other newsworthy things in addition to the game, which Green won, 27-22, to capture the crown.
First were worries that the league will have noplace to play next January because renovations to the school will make the gym unavailable.
"It's got us all concerned," said Mark Dawson, who coached the winning Green team. "It would be discouraging if we can't find another place to play."
League officials agree their program will be hurt, at least temporarily, if it is shut down until Sandymount is reopened.
League commissioner Tom Grimm said a one-year shutdown would result in some children leaving the Sandymount program to play elsewhere.
This, he said, would drop participationto prehaps 80 or so when the league resumes instead of the 140 third- through eighth-graders who played this year.
"The league wouldn't come right back to the way it is now," he said.
But, he added, "The way this area is growing, in two to three years, it would come back."
But those dark clouds on the horizon didn't seem to bother the lively crowd of about 50 who sat on the stage cheering their young gladiators Saturday morning.
Red needed to win this final game of the season to tie Green for first.
The two would have then been declared co-champs for the year, because the league has no tie-breakersor postseason play.
Red coach Claude Stull said the prospect of snaring at least a piece of the title weighed on the minds of his youngsters.
"They had a little bit of nerves," he said.
And they were more than a little bit cold from the field, as Green shot to a quick 12-4 lead in the first quarter.
Red was even colder in the second quarter, going 1-for-18 from the floor.
But Green couldn't capitalize, and led only 15-10 at halftime, with Drew Tolson and Adam Forrester leading the scoring.
Red then closed to 15-14 early in the third quarter as Nick Meekins and Randy Stull hit buckets.
But with four different players scoring, Green immediately went on a 10-2 tear to go up 25-16 at quarter's end.
"They just got hot, and we couldn't keep up with them," Stull said.
Dawson attributed his team'ssuccess to a strategy change.
"They slowed it down in the (early)third quarter and our momentum was lost," he said. "But we came backwith a faster pace, and everything started falling for us."
The final quarter saw Red outscore Green, 6-2, but by then, the game was out of reach.
Dawson said he was surprised at this year's performance, because nine of his 12 players had never played the game before.
But he credited them for learning quickly.
"I read some books on how to coach, tried to teach them the fundamentals and the right attitude, and left it up to them," he said.
Judging from the results, that's all that was needed.
Dawson also gave credit to his league-leading scorer, center Jeffrey Landow, and guard Tolson, whose quickness and ball-hawking helped spark Green's 9-3 championship season.
But he wasn't the only Dawson to bask in victory's afterglow this weekend.
In another interesting sidelight to the Sandymount story,Dawson's father John coached the Gold team, which won the Senior Division for sixth- through eighth-graders.
Gold was 11-0 before losing its final game of the year, 58-55, to the Black team, which was coached by commissioner Grimm.
Unlike his son, John Dawson had already started celebrating when his team clinched the weekend before.
"He had a lot bigger struggle winning it than I did," the senior Dawson said.
John Dawson credited his team's ability to absorb and execute numerous defensive and offensive plays as a big reason for its success.
"It was a matter of application by each member of the team. We had some involved plays, but they could do them," he said.
Like his son, John Dawson also had a league-leading scorer -- Brandon Katz, who averaged almost 16 points per game.
Katz and fellow front-liner Peter Neuberger supplied much of Gold's scoring punch this year.
This father-son participation is not unusual in a league where youngsters who have played often return and take their place alongside of their fathers as volunteer coaches or referees.
The elder Dawson is already looking ahead.
"I'm looking forward to next year," he said.
Hopefully, there will be one.