DeKALB – It came down to the wire Monday in a friendly matchup between DeKalb police and firefighters and teachers and staff from DeKalb School District 428 schools competing in the annual Guns and Hoses Basketball Game.
The annual charity event made its return to Huntley Middle School in DeKalb as a fun way to bring the community together to collect toy donations for children and families in need.
Pat Finnigan, DeKalb County’s Toys for Tots coordinator, said the basketball game does a great job of drawing people in year after year.
“I think it’s just honestly the sense of the community and then the Christmas spirit,” Finnigan said. “It just brings people out. It’s just a great thing to see.”
“It felt good because that meant a lot of toys being donated. That’s the way I look at it. The more people we can draw is the best.”— Andrew Sperry
Andrew Sperry, team captain for DeKalb School District 428 faculty, said the rivalry remains firmly intact between both sides.
“It’s the competitiveness, I guess, of it all,” Sperry said. “It brings in a lot of people. I feel like the more we get into it, the more they get into, the more fans we get. So, it’s just a good way for us to keep the community involved, too.”
Ray Hernandez, team captain for Guns and Hoses, agreed.
“We got competitive players on both sides,” Hernandez said. “The crowd gets into it and everything. We like to see a good outcome. So, it’s back and forth. In that sense, it’s a good rivalry.”
The game-time action was kept close from end to end, with the final score coming undecided until about the same time as the final buzzer sounded.
Hernandez said the key to keeping the team together when the going got tough was playing off the crowd’s energy, as well as his teammates on the sideline.
“We know each other well,” Hernandez said. “We’re a really close bunch. When we get on the sideline, we tell each other, ‘You got to dig. You got to give a little more effort.’ That helps a lot. People were helping. People come together. They play hard. They give it their all for those closing seconds.”
Sperry said his team had a lot of “young, fresh legs” to integrate into the play schemes this year.
“We got a lot of new faces on our team,” Sperry said. “That was really cool to see. … It was passed down to me to organize for D-428, so I’m glad that we have plenty of people to keep it going.”
The final score was 46-43 by the game’s end, with Guns and Hoses sealing the victory over DeKalb School District 428 faculty.
Landen Gladney, a member of Guns and Hoses, said it felt great all around knowing that he was able to shoot the game-winning shot in a charity basketball game meant for a good cause.
“It felt good,” Gladney said. “We had a plan going into it, and he had executed [the pass] perfectly.”
Hernandez said he was satisfied with the outcome of the game.
“We had to get it back,” Hernandez said. “We lost last year. So, this was our year to do it again. We came back and got the ‘W’.
Things may not have worked out in Sperry and his team’s favor, but he said he is content with what the event accomplished overall.
“It felt good because that meant a lot of toys being donated,” Sperry said. “That’s the way I look at it. The more people we can draw is the best.”
Finnigan said he would consider the event a success.
“I would say we had a pretty solid turnout,” Finnigan said. “It’s everything we expected. Just keep striving for better next year.”