The sophomore team, the “Oppa Stoppas” poses for a group picture after a big win. Photo: Harrison Leusink

Outside its usual religious services, Peachtree Road United Methodist Church has a long-standing tradition of setting up an annual winter high school basketball league. This league is filled with teams from local Atlanta schools, composed of players who are looking for a fun, entertaining environment without the stress and long hours of high school basketball. This enjoyable, casual environment allows players to participate, after a series of games against other teams, in a playoff game among all grades. The end of the winter season comes with a crowned champion to the winner of this game. 

Recently, two Pace Academy teams faced off against each other. These teams included the PRUMC “Troops Lovers,” captained by junior Porter Kendall, and the PRUMC “Potato Farmers,” captained by junior Niall Lehane. Kendall, the Troop’s rebound specialist enjoys watching the NBA, and claims to mirror the professionals’ skills in his games: “The Pistons are a lock.” This inspiration is apparent, as shown through his 17 rebounds and singular layup against the “Potato Farmers.” On the opposing side, junior Benjamin Schrager said: “Everybody wants recipes, but all they do is make cooks: we only make chefs here.” Schrager’s philosophy provides him and his team, the “Potato Farmers,” with a motive to play for something bigger than themselves. 

After layup lines and stretching, the “Potato Farmers” and “Troops,” were ready to compete, after the traditional prayer prior to each game. Both teams joined, bowed their heads, and listened as junior Simon Gerber led them in a heartfelt prayer. Each team started off strong and the score remained close. However, junior Charlie Fleming and junior Niko Karetsos of the “Troops” began to heat up, taking over the game, and both finishing with 20 points and a handful of assists and rebounds at the buzzer. In a thrilling comeback, junior Lucas Klopp of the “Potato Farmers” responded by dropping 17 points with 7 assists, and helping juniors Ben Leach and Forest Pollard score 7 points each. However, the Troops out battled their enemies, and with help from Conner Phelan and Jack Janko’s combined 23 points and Nick Klein’s defensive pressure, this team ran away with the game and won by 20. 

However, this league is bigger than wins and losses, it is an entertaining way for high schoolers who enjoy the game of basketball to play in a formal setting without any pressure from schools, coaches or parents. Alex Karamanolis the leader of the senior team, the “Cheezie Weezies,” says, “The key to success is 6AM practices with Mr. Ballard on Friday mornings,” explaining how he moved his talents from the Pace basketball program to the PRUMC league. In its essence, this league is a great way to continue playing basketball in high school if AAU or high school teams are too demanding, and you still enjoy the sport.

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