A Harlem Wizards player signs the shirt of a young fan. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe
BOSTON -- It's not every day that you see a team celebrate defeat, but when the Harlem Wizards beat a team of local Catholic school staff members and alumni 93 to 79 during a March 31 basketball game at Emmanuel College in Boston, both teams, and a large number of children from the audience, took to the basketball court to dance as the game ended.
While this may have been a familiar scenario for the Harlem Wizards, a show basketball team that helps organizations across the country fundraise with its games, it was likely not something the Saints, a team consisting of staff and alumni from Emmanuel College, Cathedral High School in Boston's South End, and Mission Grammar School in Roxbury, were used to.
"It was like being like a rock star, being on the court, because everybody was cheering for you, everybody was willing to help you out," said Aliece Dutson, principal of Mission Grammar, a Catholic school that serves pre-k to sixth grade students.
Sponsored by the Mission Grammar Board Committee for Fundraising and Special Events and the Mission Grammar Leadership Team, the game served as a fundraiser for Mission Grammar School, raising about $11,000, an amount that Dutson said exceeded her expectations.
However, she noted, the night was really about the children who attended the game, many of whom are students at Mission Grammar.
"I can definitely say more than three-quarters of our school showed up, which was fantastic," she said.
Children were heavily incorporated into the game itself, with the Wizards frequently calling them to the court to dance, participate in short activities in attempts to win prizes, or to try their hands at shooting.
The Mission Grammar step team even performed during the half-time show.
"(The kids) had so much fun, it was a great night out for them and their families," said Angelina Rogers, a student of Emmanuel College who volunteered at the event.
She said she had a good time, and even though the Saints lost, she was surprised by how many points they managed to score.
"They put up a good fight against (the Wizards) -- I mean, I didn't think we were going to get any baskets," Rogers said, laughing.
Saints team member Mark Harrington, who works in Emmanuel's Office of Development and Alumni Relations and serves on the Mission Grammar School board, said that Emmanuel has a history of supporting both Mission Grammar and Cathedral High.
"To open the doors of Emmanuel to urban youth is a huge thing for us," he said.
He described the event as a "a huge partnership of Catholic schools, coming together for one night of fun."