ELIZABETH, NJ – The 23rd Annual Hoops to End Homelessness Basketball Classic provided an exciting afternoon-into-evening of basketball, Jan. 28, at the Dunn Sports Center on Pearl Street.
The event benefits the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, in particular its Operation Warm Heart Program, which is a winter shelter program for homeless and near homeless families. “Operation Warm Heart gets no federal funds, so we really need to raise money for that,” said the Coalition’s executive director Linda Tober-Flores.
The tournament pitted eight local teams against each other, Elizabeth Police Officers vs. Union County Sheriff Officers, Elizabeth Girls vs. Hillside Girls, St. Mary of the Assumption Boys vs. Newark Central Boys, and Elizabeth High School Boys vs. Plainfield Boys.
Tameka Dixon, former WNBA player from Westfield, added some celebrity bling. She tipped off the girls’ game. Dixon was selected in the first round of the 1997 WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. After nine years in L.A., she played for Houston Comets and the Indiana Fever. She has played on the same pro team as basketball legends Lisa Leslie, Daedra Charles and Penny Toler.
“It is a full community event involving the police, the Sheriff officers, local high schools, and the businesses that took an ad in the journal,” said Tober-Flores. “Everyone rallies together to make a difference in their community. It is wonderful. It doesn’t happen that often in a community, and it needs to be applauded when it does.”
Three out of the four games were nail-biters, see-sawing back and forth on the scoreboard. In the end, Elizabeth Police officers were victorious over the Sheriff’s officers, 49 to 46. Elizabeth’s Lady Minutemen lost to Hillside’s Lady Comets, 51-55. The most exciting finish was the boys’ games between Elizabeth and Plainfield. It was decided in overtime with a three-point basket at the buzzer that gave Plainfield the 55-56 win.
It was a different story between St. Mary’s Hilltoppers and Newark Central’s Blue Devils. The Hilltoppers took the lead early and held it throughout the game for a 78-49 finish.