CHUCK Grimes, a former 15-year director of the Elementary Basketball League, knew that some people weren’t so happy that a league aimed at developing skills culminated in a pressure-filled tournament that leads to the “Super Saturday” final four.
“There were folks who didn’t like the league because of its competitive nature,” Grimes said. “But those people were quiet on Wednesdays (during the regular season) when the gyms were packed.”
Once again, the league is conducting a tournament that will attract a large number of basketball fans in the community to Columbus North High School.
They will watch fifth- and sixth-graders, both boys and girls, vie for a title Saturday. The boys championship game begins at 6 p.m., and the girls title contest follows at 7:30.
“I think it is a great thing for the kids,” said Parkside coach Bob Moats, whose boys team lost 40-38 in overtime last year to Southside in the title game. “This is a goal and an opportunity for the kids. It’s a healthy thing for the kids and the community.”
Although Moats’ team lost the intense final game, he said it was an experience that will help the players.
“You learn to win with dignity and lose with dignity,” Moats said. “You have to appreciate the effort that you put into it. We focus on the lessons. If the other team puts the ball into that orange orb more than you did, that’s OK.
“We think it’s important that these kids go through that experience. The focus of this tournament is on the players and the cheerleaders. It’s been a good experience. I have former players who still talk about the games they had.”
Dennis Pierce, who took over this year as Super Saturday tournament director, said he was introduced to the tournament last year when his son, Zach, participated as a fifth-grader.
“It’s a bigger deal than I thought,” Pierce said. “I remember walking into the gym at 8 a.m. on Saturday of the tournament, the crowd already was there. By the time the cheerleading part of Super Saturday was held, I would say there were 450 to 600 people there. One entire side of the gymnasium was filled. I was amazed.
“There was maybe 1,000 people at the championship games for boys and girls. I was shocked.”
Pierce said he will enjoy the excitement of this week’s action.
“As we well know, Indiana and basketball are synonymous,” he said. “Our fans know a lot about basketball and how it should be played. They have the passion.
“And it’s a big deal for the kids to play on a high school court.”
This year, academic awards have been added. Pierce said that the awards will go to players and cheerleaders who not only do well in class but who think of others and prove to be a good student and teammate.
“An award will go to one male basketball player and one female basketball player and one cheerleader from each school,” he said. “That’s 33 awards in all. It will be a sixth-grade-only award.”
Pierce said he took over a tournament that doesn’t need a lot of changes.
“I get the sense that it can’t grow anymore,” he said. “People like the format the way it is.”
Grimes said that the tournament, now in its 27th season, once was bigger.
He said people in Indiana just seem to have other interests today.
“It used to be the place to be on Super Saturday,” he said.
“I can tell you in 2000 that it had been televised by the local cable network. They had done that several years.
“The guys who played in the (championship) game that year included Stevie Brown (now a N.Y. Giants’ defensive back) and Evan Umphress (who played basketball at Franklin College) for Rockcreek and A.J. Edds (Colts linebacker on injured reserve) and Garrett Mocas (Purdue basketball) played for Southside.”
Grimes, who coached Southside, noted that his team won that one.
“But Super Saturday still is pretty big in this town,” Grimes said.
Moats, who has been a head coach since 2004, said the Super Saturday championship games remain the best ticket in town. He wouldn’t be surprised if the tournament does get bigger.
“Every year it gets bigger,” he said. “Everyone comes, the parents, friends, aunts, uncles, past players and their families. We have kids who played in this tournament come back to help us out.
“As long as the kids continue to own it and treasure it, this tournament will be fine.”