By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The fast-paced basketball game played inside Atmore Christian School’s gym Sunday night, December 8, was more than a showdown between two teams determined to claim bragging rights.
The hard-fought contest, between a group of Atmore police officers and firemen and a team of street-ballers from West Park, provided plenty of excitement for the several dozen fans who witnessed it. But there were two underlying aspects of the game that were more important.
“It was a way of our officers being out in the community, without uniforms and badges on,” explained Police Chief Chuck Brooks. “Plus, it was a fundraiser. We used to do this a long time ago with the (Escambia County) sheriff’s office. But a good time was had by all; our officers really enjoyed themselves.”
No tickets were sold at the door. Instead, the fundraising aspect came in monetary donations voluntarily made by spectators who wanted to support Change of Mind Ministries.
“The Conoco Ballers (whose name came from West Park’s former name, Conoco Park) are out there playing all the time, so I asked them if they would be willing to play,” said Betty Cox, a police dispatcher who also directs the ministry. “I just asked the policemen and firemen one day if they would play, and they said they would. I really appreciate both teams agreeing to do this.”
The relatively small amount of donations — about $120, Cox said — will be used to augment the toys received from the recent Atmore Fire Department toy drive. Cox holds a special Christmas party each year (this year’s will be on December 21) during which toys are handed out to young attendees.
The game itself was conducted at break-neck speed, with three-pointers raining down and rough-and-tumble action inside the paint. Yet few fouls were called, and there was no grumbling between the players.
“It was street ball inside,” Cox said of the contest, won in the final minutes by the public safety team, 51-45. “It was beautiful.”
Shaneal Schifano, sister-in-law, of APD officer Guy Martin, agreed, saying, “it was a pretty good game.”
AFD Capt. Daniel Love said the police-fire team “played pretty good for a bunch of old men” and said of the opponent, “I think they underestimated us.”
The winning side included police officers Gordon Brooks, Cody Norton, Logan Weber and Martin, as well as firefighters A.J. Beachy, Jesse Boone, Eugene Edwards and Love.
The Conoco Ballers consisted of T.J. Knott, James People, Deno Lee, Xavier Lemon, Malik Brown, Nicholas Davis and Brice Montgomery.
“Both teams went all out,” Cox said.
As the sweat-drenched players congratulated each other and began to depart the gym, AFD Lt. Wayne Kelley said he and other on-duty firefighters were prepared for the worst.
“We didn’t bring the oxygen tanks in, but we’ve got them out in the truck,” he laughed.