You would think that a school rivalry that is more than three decades old would drive a wedge between respective alumni groups, but it did just the opposite this weekend.
On Friday night, Martin Luther King High School and Germantown High School alumni associations went toe-to-toe in the alumni-and-staff basketball game. It was the first time for an event that the sides plan turn into an annual happening in Northwest Philadelphia.
Designed as a fundraising event, proceeds went to both schools’ athletic departments to help pay for new mascot gear, uniforms, scholarships, supplies and student class trips. Approximately 250 people attended.
United in the stands
As the Golden Cougars and Bears played on the court, alumni sat in a mixed sea of purple, gold, green and white. They completely ignored the balloons set up to designate by-school seating areas.
Spectators varied in age and race; badges worn by Germantown alumni spanned back to the graduating class of 1959.
Terri Lyons, MLK spokesperson and member of the Class of 1979, said their aim was boosting current students’ morale to give them hope for the future.
“Because of the plight of the public school in general, and Martin Luther King High School in particular, we wanted to try to bring the students some of the spirit that we had when we were in school,” said Lyons, who pointed out many members of the 1979 basketball team amid generations from both sides.
Mascots, score-keepers ham it up
Those in the stands sat back as the Bear and Cougar mascots occasionally made hand gestures toward the other. It was their way of professing faith that their side would prevail. At one point, they engaged in a friendly head-lock fight in order to playfully rile the audience up.
Besides the occasional chants and the buzz of Martin Luther King High School Alumni’s ThunderStix, the game was pretty calm until a second half which saw score-keeping errors and clock readjustments.
Rasheim Wright, a member of MLK’s Class of 1999 who most recently played professional basketball overseas, said the clock situation was frustrating (it was left running when it should have been stopped) but relished the chance to once again play where it all started for him.
Wright, who was making his first post-graduation return trip, said he is looking forward to next year’s game. So is Malik Boyd, the former state representative candidate and member of the GHS Class of 1995.
Boyd said the game was mostly about unifying the community amid school-district, and other, chaos.
“It allows an opportunity for camaraderie to happen, which is a huge gap that has been missing in our community in general,” said Boyd. “Games that require some level of dialogue interaction do that and that is really the underlying principle: Bringing older generations with the younger generation and representing our school.”
With just nine seconds on the clock, chants rang out as opposing sides screamed “Gtown” and “Cougars” The Germantown Bears won the game 94-91. Or did they?
“The score did get kind of messed up. I think we really did win, but that’s OK,” said Angela Stewart, MLK Class of 1989. “We will get them next time and see them in the winter time at the King-Germantown football game.”
Next year’s game will be held at Germantown High.