By Steven Gadzinski
After playing ten undefeated games this past season, the Washington Gardner Middle School seventh grade boys’ basketball team now has a new goal.
The team’s coach, Pablo Lerma, is trying to take the team, as well as the eighth grade team, to two upcoming open tournaments, the first at Jackson Community College Feb. 6-7 and the second at Coldwater Community Schools in March. These tournaments are open to any school team, regardless of their seasonal performance.
“He’s very excited that (the students) all kept their grades up and went undefeated, usually playing with only five players in each game,” said Tracy Lerma, wife of Pablo Lerma and and mother of a player on the eighth grade team. Pablo Lerma could not be reached for comment.
Roughly 60 teams from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are expected at the Jackson tournament. Teams are first put in brackets for round-robin on the first day. Semifinal and final games are played on the second day.
“Each team is guaranteed three games, and sportsmanship is stressed throughout the day,” said Richard Smith, one of the tournament organizers. “It’s a great event.”
But finding the money for both teams to attend the tournament is an issue—the total cost will be between $400 and $500, according to Lerma. The money will be used to pay for entry fees for both teams, as well as to make undefeated shirts for the seventh grade team.
“Our school does not have the funds to help support us for tournaments or shirts to show the boys were undefeated, so we have to earn it,” Lerma said.
To raise money, the teams are holding several bottle can drives. At press time, enough money had been made to attend the Jackson tournament.
Though Kevin Kissinger, Albion junior and alumnus of Washington Gardner Middle School, has long since graduated from Washington Gardner Middle School, he is still glad to hear good news from his former school.
“I’m always really happy when the Albion Wildcats are doing well,” Kissinger said.