Police and first responders laced ’em up and hit the hardwood for the inaugural “Hoops 4 Hope” 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament at Concordia University.
While athletic contests like this are not unusual with first responders, but the recent tournament staged by the Raise Foundation came with a twist.
“This wasn’t intended to raise money, but just to honor these folks,” said Eldon Baber, Executive Director at the Raise Foundation, which is a child abuse prevention nonprofit organization. The event drew 16 teams from across Orange County.
“This is all about just saying “thank you” and recognizing the work they do. We’re not going to raise money off the badge,” Baber said.
Teams from various countywide agencies participated, as well as teams from the Westminster, Tustin, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Fullerton, and Fountain Valley police departments.
The teams were divided into four pools each containing four teams. The teams played half-court games to 21 points or a time limit. The winners of each pool then faced off in the playoffs. When the calamity had calmed, a team of firefighters — Los Bomberos — prevailed over an OC Sheriff’s team — Share the Sugar — in the title game.
Westminster was in a great position to advance to the playoffs, but lost two players to injuries.
Teammates Commander Scott Gump and Officer Engelberto Delgado finished their game playing 2-on-3. Westminster had a comfortable lead and hung on for a 21-10 victory.Westminster was able to pick up an extra player for their third game — Andrew Suen, a board member for the Raise Foundation. However, they fell short against the OC Sheriff’s Department finalist.
For the players, it was fun to get out and engage in friendly competition. When Gump was approached with the idea, especially without the requirement of having to go out and drum up donations, his response was, “let’s do it.”
The Tustin Police Department was represented by Detective Charlie Carter, Sgt. Robert Nelson, and Officer Travis Wilson. The three play together on an Adult League team in Garden Grove, which Carter said won the league title this year. When there is a sports event or charity, Nelson can be counted on to hop in. “I grew up playing sports,” he said. “Whenever there’s competition involved, I’m probably the most competitive guy in the department.”
The Tustin squad sure looked the part of a contender for the title, all the way down to the reversible jerseys with their names on the backs.
“I expect to win the championship,” Nelson said after Tustin cruised to an easy victory over Fountain Valley in the first round. Unfortunately for Tustin, its outside shooting faltered and the team lost its final two games. Other than Westminster, all of the OC agencies struggled.
“After we sat down, we got really tired,” Carter said.
Irvine, which posted a 1-2 record, was only able to round up two officers and one, Jake Taylor, came straight to the tournament after working the night shift.
However, they were helped along after recruiting three, “Explorers,” who coincidentally played for Portola High School.
At the end of the day, the event fulfilled its main purpose.
“The last couple of years have not been a lot of fun,” Baber said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We thought, let’s throw a party and play some ball.”