Sixty-three teams, over 100 games, hundreds of players and countless basketball moments to last a lifetime.
This year marks the biggest Abbotsford Police City Basketball tournament ever, with the annual event returning to school basketball courts starting on Dec. 7 and concluding on championship Saturday on Dec. 10.
“We’re essentially running seven individual tournaments,” said tournament board member Matt Thiessen.
Grade 8 girls, Grade 8 boys, Grade 9 boys, junior boys, junior girls, senior girls and senior boys players all hit the hardwood to battle for city bragging rights. 2016 also marks the first-ever time that the Grade 9 girls division is represented.
“Hopefully in the future we can get more interest and more teams,” he said. “It’s something we’re really excited about as aboard.”
Thiessen, who coaches the MEI Eagles senior boys team, said the tournament is the unofficial kickoff to high school basketball in Abbotsford. The importance of starting the season off with success is huge, but the tournament also about coming together and enjoying the sport.
“It’s huge bragging rights for the season,” he said. “It’s really the kickoff. I coached the Eagles junior boys the last two years, winning it two years ago and losing in the final last year. We lost to Mouat in the final and anytime we got to play them again last year it was almost like it was a chance for our redemption. It’s such a big thing for the kids.”
He said the tournament has been around for decades, but has really become a big community event in the seven years that the Abbotsford Police Department has sponsored it. Teams are ranked by polling local coaches, but Thiessen pointed out that to win this tournament a team must have incredible depth.
“We have a very unique rule in this tournament that each team must get every player into the the game in the first half,” he said. “One of the goals of the tournament is to get kids who don’t normally play the chance to play. So you have to win but you have to get everyone in. It really comes down to who is deeper. That rule was brought in by the APD because one of their goals was to get as many students involved in the tournament as possible.”
It’s not just students on the court that see the event as an opportunity, as just like past years the MEI Screaming Eagles marching band will be back to rock the house on Championship Saturday at Columbia Bible College.
Also returning this year is the Abbotsford Skipping Sensations, who are scheduled to entertain fans on Championship Saturday with their jaw-dropping routines.
More students will get the chance to participate in the event by taking pictures of the games. Thiessen said a number of school photography classes will be there to document games.
“Any class that participates by taking photos will receive a pizza party with the APD,” he said. “It’s going to be good to have more students participating in the tournament. That is our goal.”
The event also gives Grade 12 students the chance to earn a number of scholarships. Four of the more notable ones include the Dr. Paul Tinsley memorial, the Cst. John Goyer memorial, Chris Mohan memorial and the Ed Schellenberg memorial. The Fraser Valley Referee’s Association also offers up a well-established scholarship.
Thiessen said that, as long as students apply, one student from every Grade 12 team receives a $500 scholarship from the event.
Champions at the 2015 event included: Yale Lions (senior boys and senior girls), Mouat Hawks (junior boys and Grade 9boys), Bateman Timberwolves (junior girls), Abbotsford Middle (Grade 8 boys) and Fraser (Grade 8 girls).
It all kicks off on Wednesday, with senior boys and girls at UFV, junior boys at Mouat and Abby Senior, junior girls at Bateman, Grade 9 boys at Hansen, Grade 8 boys at MEI and Grade 8 girls at Abbotsford Christian School.
Championship Saturday sees all the final games occur at CBC, running from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
APD proud to continue tradition of involvement with city tournament
For the Abbotsford Police Department being involved in the unofficial kick-off to the basketball season is a no-brainer.
The past seven years the APD has been heavily involved in the Abbotsford Police City basketball tournament, helping to transform it into one of the signature sporting events on the calendar in Abbotsford.
Const. Ian MacDonald, the APD’s public information officer, said it’s all about creating opportunities for local youth to feel more connected to the community.
“We’ve always been inclined to encourage kids to make good choices, whether that’s through physical activity or artistic endeavours,” he said. “And a lot of the APD members have backgrounds that include athletics so it’s been a natural fit.”
MacDonald said anything that benefits the community can also benefit the APD and its members.
“One of the reasons we got involved and stay involved with the tournament is that we’re part of this community,” he said. “As a police force, the vast majority of our members live in Abbotsford. Many of them have children in schools in Abbotsford, and so many participants in the tournament over the years have been sons and daughters of our officers or civilian employees. It’s a way to give back in terms of sponsorship and lending our name, and also a way to participate in an important community event.”
Officers have a big presence in the tournament, helping to hand out awards and volunteering in a number of ways to help the tournament run smoothly. MacDonald said many officers will be in uniform, but others will likely be in the stands cheering on the competitors. He said the the APD Foundation, which was formed in 2005, is a key part of the event’s organizing committee and has helped ensure the tournament succeeds.
MacDonald said a highlight every year is scanning the crowd on Championship Saturday and seeing the support from all over Abbotsford, even those with no children on the court.
“There is nothing better than looking into the stands and seeing a huge cross section of people,” he said. “We often see people say that they don’t like seeing kids involved in gangs and drugs but people showing up in the stands and cheering on kids for making good decisions is the best feedback we can give to young people.
It’s always heartening when you talk to someone and they don’t have a kid on the court but they want to be there to support the event, enjoy the calibre of basketball and want to be there for a big community event. To me, that is the best thing to see.”
The tournament runs from Wednesday to Saturday at school gyms all across Abbotsford. Championship Saturday runs all day at Columbia Bible College. For more on the event, visit abbypdbasketball.com.