40 years of basketball, fellowship

Annual youth basketball tournament held over two weekends in January

By Jessica Brodie

Thirty-eight teams of youth from churches across South Carolina gathered in January to compete in the 40th annual South Carolina United Methodist Basketball Tournament.

The teams comprised middle and high school boys and girls from 12 different churches. The tournament was held Jan. 20-22 in Greenville (host church Buncombe Street United Methodist Church), with the championship games played in Columbia Jan. 28 as part of the conference’s youth Revolution weekend.

“This was the 40th year, and so we decided to try something different and try to celebrate the basketball tournament at Revolution,” said Chris Lynch, youth ministries congregational specialist and one of the organizers of the tournament, who noted the experiment went well.

All champions and runners-up were recognized at the Saturday evening session of Revolution, which brought extra attention to the tournament.

  • In the Junior Boys division, the champion was Lyttleton Street UMC, Camden, who defeated Simpsonville UMC, Simpsonville.
  • In the Junior Girls division, the champion was Buncombe Street UMC 2, Greenville, who defeated Buncombe Street UMC 1, Greenville.
  • In the Senior Boys division, the champion was Epworth UMC, Columbia, who defeated Buncombe Street UMC, Greenville.
  • And in the Senior Girls division, the champion was Buncombe Street UMC, Greenville, who defeated Mount Horeb UMC, Lexington.

One of the highlights of the tournament was the annual presentation of the Mitch Milford Trophy, given for the best spirit of sportsmanship. This year’s Milford award went to the Inman UMC senior boys, from Inman.

“We felt like they exhibited exactly what the purpose of the event is,” Lynch said. “There’s a competitive element to it, but we’re trying to shift the focus to more about building community and fellowship within the church among the youth and also the concept of outreach, using basketball to reach people in the community and bring them to the church.”

Going along with that concept of fellowship and outreach was the addition this year of a Friday night pizza party. Lynch said organizers realized they had a lot of time for competition but not enough time for relaxed fellowship, and the party was a welcome change.

The tournament also included a time for worship. On Sunday of the first tournament weekend, Buncombe Street UMC hosted a worship service for tournament players and their families. The Rev. Justin Gilreath, associate pastor, preached, and a collection raised more than $1,800 for the Bob Fowler Fund at Epworth Children’s Home, a fund to help Epworth with athletics and to pay for teams, upkeep, additions and equipment.

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