SUNNYSIDE When the opportunity to lace up their retro-style, Chuck Taylor high tops in support of the Sunnyside High School Boys Basketball summer program and to celebrate the start of the 2018-19 season, old school varsity Grizzly players showed just how much hardwood spirit remains in their soulful sneakers.
“Ties in the basketball program with our alumni... We want them to be involved with our group of kids while helping us to strengthen the Grizzly bond,” SHS Head Coach Bruce Siebol said. “This is a great evening for all of us.”
Two-years ago, Siebol, who was in his first year as SHS varsity boys coach, initiated the idea of an alumni game and tapped SHS JV Coach Adam Ramos to coordinate the fundraising event, which would strengthen a winning bond between past and present players.
Ramos, a former SHS class of 2008 varsity hoops player, reached out to a bunch of his friends and past basketball players.
He sounded the nostalgic hardwood whistle that harkened with a glory days’ shrill that hometown athletes heard — an alumni game was promptly created.
That inaugural game attracted 36 players, making it clear that Sunnyside basketball had positively impacted the lives of these former players and inspired them to get back to the Grizzly Den and “hoop-it-up” for a good cause.
“They brought back their old practice jerseys, the ones that could still fit into them,” Ramos joked. “It’s definitely a very fun event!”
The second annual alumni varsity fundraiser at SHS gym, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, raised almost $1,000, and proceeds went toward the Grizzlies summer basketball program and tournament play.
“A big part of our basketball is the summer program… We normally charge money to participate… for a lot of our younger kids, especially the ones in eighth grade coming into ninth grade and ninth going into tenth, they don’t have the funds for it,” Ramos said.
Player entry fees, admission, donations and in-kind contributions from the charitable driven, day after Thanksgiving, holiday tradition, double-header, as well as the purchase of new or previously worn practice apparel, were also collected.
“It provides our kids an opportunity to interact with successful alumni players that care still about this program and kind of gets them to buy into our program, while at the same time builds social networks for life after basketball,” Ramos explained.
The first game featured participants that graduated within 10 years. They wore either red or black shirts and most of them wore a classic practice or game jersey to indicate their team.
Each game consisted of two, 20-minute halves as players had the chance to demonstrate their spirited basketball skills, while catching up with old friends.
Class of 2018 teammate Izzy Zavala, 18, said he planned to start Columbia Basin College in June. He sat on the sidelines during halftime alongside Nic Ervin, 19, who works at Walmart.
Both agreed that the game brought back fond memories and felt, “Just like old times!” Their team led 32-23 at the break.
Taking a breather on the bench next to them was Taran Perez, Class of 2017 and Marine Corps Lance Corporal, stationed at 29 Palms in Southern California, who has made it a point to play in both alumni games.
“I came home to spend Thanksgiving with my family and play in the alumni game,” LCpl. Perez exclaimed. “I enjoy being out here on the court and playing ball with the guys. It’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I leave tomorrow morning at 3 a.m. to head back.”
The headliner game was for alumni who graduated more than 10-years ago and was a contest between the Class of 2003 and 2008 players.
Alex Gomez, Class of 2003 and four-year varsity player, led the veteran red team to a 38-29 halftime lead. He sat on the sideline and was catching his breath while he exchanged high-fives with teammates.
“This is a good time… we’re up on the younger guys, and that makes it even more fun,” Gomez proclaimed as he continued to breath hard.
“I’m wearing my practice jersey that I never turned back in. This is a fundraising event, and I hope they don’t fine me too much,” Gomez voiced as he laughed and kept loose.
When the ending buzzer sounded in both games, where the final score was decided by 6 and 5 points each, the focus of attention was on celebrating the moment with a yearbook smile as teams and players posed for pictures with one another.
“We don’t even remember the score, we’re just having too much fun,” Ramos acknowledged. “It’s a great experience, and I think it’s positive for our community. The bigger the event gets, the better it is for our kids, and the more fun it becomes.”
Donations for the summer basketball and tournament play are strongly encouraged and still being accepted, contact SHS ASB office at 509-837-2601.
Former varsity basketball players who would like to be a part of the Grizzlies’ all-star benefit and Sunnyside holiday tradition, are encouraged to register early and can email Ramos at email@example.com.