Washington Township High School students participate in their own March Madness tournament

Freshman and sophomores at Washington Township High School play in a basketball tournament for bragging rights

A member of the sophmore class goes up against a police officer for the tipoff at the ‘March Madness’ basketball tournament at Washington Township High School. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

Millions of people annually have their own March Madness traditions. Whether it’s a work pool, filling out a bracket for credit in your math class or submitting one online with the hope of hitting the grand prize, March has become synonymous with basketball.

Washington Township High School is no exception. On March 29, the school kept its 20-year tradition alive by holding the annual March Madness basketball game for the freshman and sophomore classes boost the healthy competition between them.

“We try to up the spirit of each class, the freshmen and sophomores, so we put on the event to continue the township pride we have here,” event coordinator and advisor of the freshman class Kim Griffiths said.

What makes the tournament unique is it isn’t just one team of freshmen vs. one team of sophomores. Within each class were eight teams that played four-minute segments of games with a running score. When the clock hit zero, the sophomores were deemed the winner, 41-38.

“I like this event because I feel like it marks the freshman and sophomore year,” Griffiths said. “Especially because I’m the freshman advisor, I want them to have memories outside the classroom. I like to mark their year just like the powder puff does for juniors and seniors.”

Building and maintaining the connection to the school is of the utmost importance for co-coordinator Amanda Hamer.

“It’s a fun way for kids to end the week and get involved in a little bit of the March Madness,” Hamer said. “There’s some buzz about brackets and teams so it’s nice to get them in their own game where they can be involved in the school and feel connected.”

Griffiths echoed Hamer’s statement.

“Every year should be marked,” she said. “As a freshman advisor and teacher, I want them to come in and feel like they’re a part of the school. To do this now, it gets them excited as they continue their four years here.”

For the second year in a row, the Washington Township Police Department was a part of the festivities. The police participated in some of the mini-games between the two classes.

“That was awesome that we got them,” Griffiths said. “They’re already a big part of our school district anyway. It’s fun to see them in a different setting, playing against them in basketball. It opens the relationship between our students and them inside and outside the school. It builds and keeps the respect for the students and police officers.”

For Police Chief Pat Gurcsik, having his officers play in the tournament was a no-brainer, he said it fit perfectly with his department’s mission statement, which includes a lot of community outreach and community caretaking.

“It was good to be present there, having our school resource officers participating in the games,” Gurcsik said. “The students get to see the officers in a different light, as human beings.”

Once the game ended, there was one more challenge for each team – taking turns playing against the teachers and faculty.

“We definitely like that the faculty took the time to play our students to finish the game in an exciting way because all students want to play against the faculty,” Griffiths said.

While the sophomores walked away victorious, the event was not about winners and losers, more so about the memories made that will last a lifetime.

“It’s really a marker for freshmen and sophomores to have an event here during the school year that’s solely for them,” Hamer said. “It’s just a nice event for the underclassmen to get involved and feel connected to the school.”

“I want to thank the administration, the teachers that are on board,” Griffiths added. “I know it’s a busy day, but it helps the students enjoy this memory. It takes the whole school to make this happen.”