Council of Churches basketball league ready for 77th season

Nov. 3—FAIRMONT — While football and soccer are still going strong, basketball season is also fast approaching — a time the Greater Fairmont Council of Churches knows very well.

The Greater Fairmont Council of Churches basketball league is approaching its 77th season, making it the longest running basketball league in Marion County outside of official high school play.

The league is expecting 11 “senior” teams, for children in grades 9-12, and two “junior” teams, for grades 5-8, this year, league official Reverend James Saunders said. .

“The goal of the league this year, as always, is to provide a place for boys and girls in middle school and high school to play basketball where they haven’t or can’t play in their school league.” , says Saunders.

“Either they haven’t made the team or they weren’t interested in playing until recently, and we’re giving them the opportunity to play.”

Games are played at the Barnes Learning Center in Bellview on Saturdays and Sundays. The league ends in March with a double elimination tournament to crown a champion.

A league meeting was held last Sunday evening, where various logistical and custodial issues were discussed, including officiating duties, which will be handled by seven WVSSAC certified referees.

“All of our officials, there are seven of us, we’re all West Virginia high school certified,” Saunders said. “That’s one of our requirements now. We’re a little more lax than we would be in a high school game – maybe we’re not as strict about letting a kid walk in or get our hands on it.

“We try to teach the children.”

Saunders was league manager for 28 years and returned to take on some managerial duties about 10 years ago, although the Reverend Dr Allan Copenhaver is currently manager.

This year, the league – although still run by the Council of Churches – will have select teams sponsored by local businesses, such as Gwynn Tire Service, Mason Jar BBQ and Botanica of West Virginia.

The league’s commitment to the wider community represents what Saunders sees as a league of value to young people of a wide variety of ages and skill levels – a value that goes beyond the improved jump shots.

“We all know kids need to be active and they need to do something organized,” Saunders said. “All of our coaches are doing a great job teaching these kids values, teaching them to respect officials, to respect the game, and that’s so important.

“It takes the kids away from the streets – they play on Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes they play two games in one day. Often the kids stay and watch the other games, so I think it’s very helpful that we provide that avenue for them.”

The league welcomed several players who would go on to play in college and beyond, such as Rashod Kent and current WVU assistant basketball coach Ron Everhart.

In the past, the league had over 20 senior teams and 20 junior teams, and three years ago before the onset of the COVID pandemic, the league had 18 junior teams.

This year, the league expects 11 senior teams and two junior teams.

As the league endures its 77th season, Saunders – a youth pastor at Trinity Assembly Church for 14 years and a pastor at Everlasting Covenant for 17 years – spoke of some shrinkage the league has seen recently.

“I think it’s sad, I see a lack of participating teams, and I’m afraid that churches are losing children, that they are not involved in the church at this time,” he said. he declares. “For me, as a pastor, you want to see as many people involved as possible.”

Participation in teams is not exclusive to parishioners of the church of each respective team. The league’s first games traditionally begin on the first Saturday of the year, but with the first Saturday of 2023 falling on January 1, the league will kick off its 77th season on January 8.

Contact Nick Henthorn at 304-367-2548, on Twitter @nfhenthorn_135 or by email at [email protected]

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