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Students challenge cops in basketball fund-raiser

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Officers from the 113th Precinct squared off against teenagers from two Queens high schools in two friendly but highly competitive basketball games Friday night to raise college scholarship money for students in the area.

The Baisley Park Community League hosted the fourth-annual event at August Martin High School in South Jamaica.

“These are the same kids we meet on the street,” said Deputy Inspector William Morris, the 113th Precinct’s commanding officer. “It is a nice opportunity for us to meet them here and for the kids to meet cops.”

Community Affairs Officer Jeanetta Williams agreed that the event is a great way for teens and cops to build a relationship.

The student players are part of the Beacon 231 advantage program for crime prevention in Springfield Gardens.

Rob Rodriguez, a student at Campus Magnet HS in Cambria Heights, was named most valuable player for the male students’ team, which gave the policemen a run for their money but still lost 75-70. Officer John Hayes was named MVP of the winning team.

“It’s a program from around my way,” Rodriguez said. “Older adults gave back to us and I want to give back to our youth by being a positive role model.”

His classmate, Raynard Harrell, said “it teaches us to come together and play as one.”

According to the program director, Vernice Grant, about 10 students will receive scholarships as a result of the basketball game and other events held by the Baisley Park Community League this year.

The young men cheered for their female counterparts, whose fierce competition with the women of the 113th Precinct took the game into overtime with the police eventually winning 90-87.

High school student Ebony Williams and Police Officer Gizell Luke were named most valuable players for their teams.

Ed Williams, who works in August Martin’s Physical Education Department and helped organize the event, said he saw a lot of enthusiasm from the students.

“Some people say young black youth don’t like cops, but that’s not true,” said Elliott Epperson, an August Martin student. “I ain’t scared to play them. I enjoy it.”

His teammate and classmate, Jay Thompson, agreed. “It’s a great experience to see how they play, to play against older men,” Thompson said.

A pep band from IS 59 in Springfield Gardens kept the capacity crowd revved up during the close contests. Seventh, eighth and a few sixth graders played in the band, directed by Pamela Smith.

“This event is community-oriented,” Smith said. “The kids like basketball and they get to see police in a positive light.”

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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