Share This Page

Western Pa. church hoops league celebrates 30 years of competition, camaraderie

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
The teams from Grace Baptist Chuch (white jerseys) and New Covenant Church, both in Monroeville, play in the Big Parkway East Men’s Church Basketball League pray before their game at Beulah Presbyterian Church in Churchill, Monday.

The Big Parkway East Men's Church Basketball League is marking its 30th year and has grown in size with teams from across Western Pennsylvania.

The league had eight teams from the east suburbs in 1985, the year it was founded.

Now, there are 12 teams with members from Allegheny and surrounding counties.

All teams will compete in a single-elimination tournament set to begin on Saturday at the Beulah Presbyterian Church gymnasium in Churchill.

The top seed, Crossroads (12-1), is favored to win its third consecutive title. The church has locations in North Fayette, Bridgeville, Cranberry and East Liberty.

“We have more teams, plus better-quality players,” said longtime commissioner Greg Spalding, noting many players have high school or small college experience.

“There's a lot of good competition,” said Ben Mahtani, 27, one of the league's top scorers (26.2 points per game on average) playing for New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroeville.

Before games, members of all teams are required to say a prayer and read a devotional message.

“It's a good Christian league,” said Jeriah McMillan, 31, a player and coach for Friendship Community Church in West Oakland.

Players said the pre-game reflection encourages sportsmanship.

“In the heat of competition, sometimes you use words you should not use,” said Friendship Community's Quinzale Taylor, 30. “By following simple rules, you learn not to use profanity.”

“I've helped out in leagues where games were not finished because players were arguing,” said Demetrius Grimsley, 37, a player-coach for Allegheny Center Alliance Church in the North Side. “In this league, you develop a lot of good friendships.”

Lew McCracken, a player-coach for the Diocese of Greensburg, likes the league's stability.

“Teams have stayed around,” said McCracken, 43. “They don't change from year to year.”

McCracken's son, Gage, also plays. “I used to keep score (for) games as a kid and have been wanting to play in them,” said Gage McCracken, 16, who finds the league competitive and fun.

Adam Holy, coach of the Crossroads team, likes the league's camaraderie. “You make good connections and get good exercise,” he said. “We've had success because of teamwork and good communication.”

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.