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Students shoot hoops during February Madness

Junior Shane Mahoney goes for a layup during the first round of February Madness. The tournament took place over the week of February 24th and included students from all grades.

By Reese Wang, Design Editor

Watching the enthusiasm of the Pioneer Pit at boys’ basketball games, Conestoga security guard Matthew Konopka became inspired to create a tournament that could include all students. 

“(The) kids were so invested. I wanted to give some of the kids, like the average student, a chance to play against some of the basketball players,” Konopka said.

This year, Konopka organized February Madness, a basketball tournament open to all students regardless of grade level or ability. Inspired by the college basketball tournament March Madness, the tournament took place between the winter and spring sports seasons. Thirty-four students were drafted into six teams, and each team played two rounds to determine the champion. 

Konopka first tried to run the tournament last school year, but was unable to due to a conflict with spring sports tryouts.

The boys’ basketball team’s early exit from playoffs as well as good weather for spring tryouts allowed the gym to open over the week of Feb. 24, giving Konopka the time he needed to run the tournament. The week before, Konopka hung up fliers and verbally encouraged students to join the tournament. Junior and varsity boys basketball player Jeremiah Miller saw the fliers and decided to sign up for the tournament.

“I really just wanted to have fun again with my friends playing basketball. The season ended shorter than we wanted, but this gave me another chance to have a little bit more fun with my guys,” Miller said.

Students who don’t play on the school team, such as junior Drew Lamonica, signed up for fun. 

“I joined (the tournament) because I like to play basketball. I just love the sport. I thought it’d be fun to play some hoops with some people from the school,” Lamonica said. 

Shooting hoops: Junior Shane Mahoney goes for a layup during the first round of February Madness. The tournament took place over the week of February 24th and included students from all grades.

During the first round, teams played for 15-minute halves and stopped the clock each time the whistle blew. Each game took over an hour, so Konopka decided to shorten each half to 10 minutes each and to not stop the clock during the second round. Between the first and second rounds, Konopka also decided to change the games from full-court to half-court to allow everyone to touch the ball.

Konopka originally hoped to have around 160 students sign up in order to form 16 teams of 10 students each, playing single-elimination style to determine the top two student teams. The championship game would be a nighttime fundraising event, with the top student team facing off against faculty teams from Conestoga and the middle schools and elementary schools. 

“I had a chance to play in a few (student-faculty games) at the middle school when I worked and coached there for a few years, and those are some of my fondest memories from working in the school district,” Konopka said. “I see students out in the city once in a while that I played against in these games, and we always bring these up in our conversations because they were always extremely close and competitive games.”

Due to lower than anticipated student participation and the high cost of renting the gym, Konopka decided not to hold a student-faculty basketball fundraising night, instead allowing the top two teams to decide on a time to play the championship. As of now, there is not a set date for the final game. 

Konopka plans on running February Madness again next year. His goal is to increase student participation.

“I think we’ll try it again, and we’ll promote it earlier, try to get more kids involved, talk to more teachers, have them mention it to their students,” Konopka said.

Reese Wang can be reached at [email protected].

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