By REID TUCKER
What started last year as a triple-header for charity between boys and girls teams from Paxton and Rocky Bayou grew into a three-day, 14-team invitational classic for 2011, and with that increased scope came a marked increase in funds raised for cancer research.
Last year’s Cats Against Cancer charity games raised $1,400 in a single night. This year, Cats Against Cancer was, predictably, even more of a resounding success, as a combination of admissions, t-shirt sales and donations resulted in a gross profit of more than $7,000. What’s more, the event featured teams from around the state and a few from as far away as Kentucky and Tennessee, which meant those in attendance were in for some interesting hoops action.
That combination of good basketball and a good cause is what Paxton girls head coach Steve Williams, who conceptualized and organized the whole event, had in mind all along. He was pleased with the turnout for the games, which were played pretty much all day long and into the night from Dec. 19-21. However, for Williams, who lost his mother to ovarian cancer in 2006 and whose wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer earlier this year, the main purpose of the classic is to battle the disease.
“I thought the games were great as far as being competitive and entertaining games,” Williams said. “We always look for what we think are good matchups in terms of the games, but if we can raise one more dollar for cancer research to beat this disease, that is our main objective.”
Cats Against Cancer raises money for several charities, among them St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Walton County branch of the American Cancer Society, and the oncology department of Pensacola’s Baptist Hospital, which also sponsored the event.
The fundraiser’s success also depended on assistance from Paxton’s administrators, staff and teachers, Williams said. He was quick to heap praise on cross country coach Laurie Gilbert for manning the event’s hospitality room, feeding between 150 and 200 players and coaches a day, Becky Wilkerson for handling faxes, printing and communications, student resource officers from the various schools for providing security, and Principal Beth Tucker and Assistant Principal Mitch Jackson. Other school employees volunteered to sell tickets and students, players among them, worked all three days in the concession stands and cleaned up trash in the concession stands.
“Our students have an appreciation for what the reason we had the classic is,” Williams said. “The other coaches have been super, the officials donated money and the support that our administrators and faculty show such a great cause was wonderful. They were willing to take three days out of their Christmas break and be up here from 7 in the morning until 10 at night. I couldn’t be any more blessed and I’m thankful for what everyone did.”
The basketball action at the three-day fundraiser was no slouch either, with several local schools’ boys and girls team going up against opponents from as near as Pensacola to as far away as Kentucky. Walton, Freeport, Paxton, Laurel Hill had boys’ and girls’ squads competing, while Niceville sent just its girls’ team.
Walton County’s teams gave a good account of themselves in the round-robin format classic, though, perhaps fittingly, only Paxton’s girls went undefeated.
On Monday, Paxton’s boys fell 70-63 to Beth Haven, of Kentucky, though the Lady Cats got revenge and defeated Beth Haven’s girls by an overwhelming 58-12 margin. Alyssa Dupree Scored 13 points, while Quinn Williams and Emily Murray each added 11. Later that day, Freeport’s boys defeated Laurel Hill 79-60 and the Lady Bulldogs won a huge upset over Niceville at 41-37, with Mary Kate Myrick putting up 21 points with three 3-pointers to her credit.
Tuesday saw Beth Haven’s boys take a 63-59 victory against Freeport after Collin Myrick made a clutch 3 to send the game into overtime. Myrick and team mate Gabe Moore scored 39 points of the team’s total between them. The Walton Lady Braves fell by ten points to Colombia Central, with the Tennessee team posting a 61-51 final score. The Lady Bulldogs also got a 48-19 win over Beth Haven’s girls’ team, while Walton’s boys, led by Ken Randolph’s 20 points, dropped just two behind Tallahassee’s North Florida Christian, who took the win at 65-63….
Read the full story in the Dec. 29, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.