Ashmont alumni tournament bittersweet

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There is a sign hangs in the halls of Ashmont Secondary School that contains the words of the school’s slogan – Once a Falcon, always a Falcon. This motto rung true over the weekend as Ashmont hosted its triennial Ashmont Alumni Basketball Tournament.

This year’s tournament celebrated 53 years of basketball tradition in Ashmont, and players from as far back as the inaugural 1964-1967 team were present and honoured. And though the weather turned sour late in the week, that didn’t stop Ashmont alumni from coming out and hitting the court.

“This is a huge tournament and a big deal for us. It’s one of the biggest tournaments of its kind around here, and after all the snow and the bad roads this weekend, we’ve still had a great turnout,&” said Bobbie Jeffrey, an Ashmont basketball alumna and co-organizer of this year’s tournament.

“It’s also a really good fundraiser for the school, and all of the money that we receive goes directly back to the Ashmont athletics program,&” she explained.

Six women’s teams and eight men’s teams battled for Ashmont alumni supremacy and basketball bragging rights.

Teams from 2005-2008 and 2009-2013 played in the women’s final, which came right down to the wire. The 2005-2008 team came away with a victory by a difference of a single basket, with 45-43 being the final score.

The current high school boys’ team played against the 2002-2007 men. Many of the 2002-2007 players were part of the 2004 team that won silver at provincials that year.

“It’s really awesome to get part of that team back together and relive our so-called glory days,&” said Kenny Wenger. “I can’t believe it’s been almost 15 years. Fifteen years and five kids later, here we are.&”

“Yeah, here we are, bigger and better than before, with the emphasis on bigger,&” joked fellow player Tyson Newby. Both Newby and Wenger were part of the 2004 basketball team that went to provincials.

However, the size of the 2002-20007 alumni team proved to be a key factor in the game against the high school team. The high school boys are talented and played hard, but were no match for the bulk and strength of their elder competitors, who won the final game by a spread of more than 20 points.

“The score doesn’t really matter,&” said Wenger. “It’s just awesome to play ball together again.&”

As the tournament drew to a close, mixed emotions were present on the faces of all the present alumni. For over 50 years, Ashmont’s basketball traditions have been kept alive in the gyms of the school, but this tournament marks the last of its kind before the new Ashmont School is complete.

“Knowing that we’ll probably never be able to play in this gym again, I think that’s enough of a reason by itself to come play,&” said Steven Jeffrey, another member of the 2002-2007 team.

“Yeah, it’s very bittersweet,&” said recent Ashmont coach and tournament organizer Lyndon Suntjens.

“For so many of the people here who played ball for Ashmont, this was their home. This is what they lived and breathed, and this is where they grew. It’s undeniably exciting for the new school to almost be done, but for every single person here, this weekend has been more about reliving memories and paying respect to a huge part of all of our lives.&”

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