Parents and friends gathered Saturday to watch the final Boys & Girls Club basketball tournament.

The club offers basketball and other after-school intramural activities to middle school students in Harker Heights, Killeen and Copperas Cove. More than 250 players from nine schools make up 20 teams in the league. Eighth-graders are in the A Division, sixth-graders are in the B Division, and seventh-graders can join either division.

“Sixth-graders can’t be on their school teams and that leaves out a great number of children who would like to play,” said Tiana Marratta, administrator of Army Youth Programs in Your Neighborhoods.

Coaches, who are Boys & Girls Club staff members and volunteers, teach the kids good team attitudes and how to work together. The program is not merely skill-based: every child is guaranteed a chance to play in each game.

“This is a wonderful way to teach discipline and teamwork to our kids,” said Rashida Williams, mother of Manor Middle School player Malyk Williams.

Lashonda Saddler, whose son Marco Saddler plays on the Nolan Middle School team, said she likes the program because it teaches children to be focused.

“It keeps them out of trouble, and they put down video games to play basketball,” she said.

The basketball program is also a good way for children to interact with kids from other schools, said Edmund Napier, coach of the Manor Middle School Rams.

“This program benefits our communities,” Napier said.

Nolan Middle School took first place in the A Division on Saturday, and Liberty Hill Middle School took second. The B Division saw Liberty Hill win first place and Nolan take second.

For more information about Boys & Girls Club programs, call Marratta at (254) 699-5808.

Herald/Sandra Duffy Oliver

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