The AYAA Lakers may have lost the championship game by 21 points, but the messages they received throughout the past week could make themwinners in the game of life.
The Annapolis Youth Athletic Association's Second Annual Mills/Snowden Annapolis Youth Athletic Association Basketball Tournament wound up its 56-team, three age-group division event Saturday night at Truxtun Park, topping off a week of hoops and positive drug and cultural-awareness programs.
"I think the tournament was a success simply because it brought the different communities throughout the area together, and it gave a lot of the kids in the Annapolis area a chance to play against kids from places other than Annapolis," said Valorie Cooper, who served as tournament coordinator along with AYAA commissioner Leslie Stanton and WANN-radio announcer Roger Reed.
The tourney, which included 11-, 13- and 16-and-under teams from Prince George's, Charles, Montgomery and Baltimore counties, as well as Baltimore City and Annapolis, was conducted at seven different outdoor sites (Truxtun, St. John's College, Key School, Newtowne 20, the Robinwood, Eastport and O'Berry Court recreation centers). Tuesday rain-outs were moved inside the Annapolis High, Bates Middle and St. John's gymnasiums.
"It's because of this tournament, the kids around the city have some good courts toplay on," said Reed. "All of the neighborhood courts were fixed up just for this week, and now it'll serve more than its original purpose."
The opening rounds up to the semifinal games were contested Monday through Thursday with Friday night serving as Education/Entertainment night.
Heading up the festivities were dance artists Maria Broom, ventriloquist Willie Brown, Baltimore City Youth Diversion director Earl El-Amin and the Singing Shepards gospel music group.
"Everyone who participated Friday night did a wonderful job," said Cooper. "Maria gave the kids cultural and geography lessons through dance, and Earl gave an outstanding presentation on guiding young black men in the right direction. He stressed education in his speech and warned them about the hazards of placing sports over education."
Washington metro-area teams came away with all three titles Saturday, as the Lakers were downed, 39-18, by the Washington Hospital Center All-Stars in the 11-and under game. The Slam-Jammers of Oxon Hill (Prince George's County) won the 13-and-under championship, as a Baltimore Neighborhood Basketball League (BNBL) all-star team failed to show up for the 8 p.m. matchup, while the Jaguars, a Largo-based Amatuer Athletic Union squad tripped the Cloverdale (Baltimore City) All-Stars in the 16-and-under finals, 37-32.
Annapolis fell victim to an early full-court press by their taller opponents (the nation's third-ranked AAU team in that age division) falling behind, 10-0, in the game's opening minutes.
"I think they just confused us (with the press)," said Laker guard Jamarcie Jones. "We didn't run our plays the way weresupposed to, either."
"We weren't playing good defense," said swingman A.J. Mason.
"And we weren't cutting off the baseline either," chimed in teammates Stan Womack and David Holland. Damon Moulden led Annapolis with eight points, while game MVP Charlie Jones paced thewinners with eight.
"We just wanted to emphasize to the kids thisweek that no one was a loser," Reed said. "This was all about building their self-esteem and exposing them to some good basketball."