March 28, 2013 | by Kevin Majoros
Basketball showdown
sports, basketball, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Tyler Grigsby)

Just a few days before the March Madness NCAA Tournament kicked off nationwide, the D.C. Sentinels cooked up a little madness of their own.

The playoffs and championships of the inaugural Washington D.C. Gay Basketball League were held on March 14 at St. Albans School. Team NOMA, sponsored by K&C Productions, claimed the league’s first title.

The D.C. Sentinels, whose members have been playing pick-up games and representing D.C. in tournaments since 1984, had long hoped to create a league for the local LGBT sports community.

“It has always been a plan of the D.C. Sentinels to start a league,” says Tim Francis, Chair of the D.C. Sentinels. “We were just waiting for the right timing.”

The “right timing” came about when Jeffrey Richardson, former director of the Mayor’s GLBT Affairs office, arranged a meeting with the Sentinels and Jason Wilson, associate athletics director/facilities of George Washington University.

The Charles E. Smith Center at the University had two hours available on Thursday nights and the planning began along with Sam Williams from the University for the League to run for eight weeks from January to March.

The two-hour opening at the Charles E. Smith Center meant that the League capacity would be 80 players on 10 teams. The League slots filled up immediately with many players from the current D.C. Sentinel’s roster of 40 joining in.

“We had some great crossover from other LGBT sports such as softball, kickball and flag football,” Francis says.

The D.C. Sentinels are members of the National Gay Basketball Association and the League ran five-on-five basketball play under modified rules from the national association.

Following the conclusion of the League, the Sentinels returned to their regular schedule of pick-up games. Thursday and Saturday games are held at Turkey Thicket with occasional play at Westland Middle School.

Coming up on April 20-21, the Sentinels will travel to Chicago for the Coady Roundball Classic which will feature roughly 35 LGBT basketball teams from across the United States.  The Sentinels will be sending three squads.

On July 19-20, the Sentinels will play host to a tournament here in Washington. Details of the event will be announced in the next month.

As for the League, plans are already being made for the next season to run this summer from June to August at George Washington University.

“No one wants to be inside on the weekends in the summer,” Francis says. “We will once again be looking for the League to run on Thursday nights.”

I was a spectator at the League championships on March 14 at St. Albans School. There was encouraging cheers from teammates, players fouling out (that’s six fouls), confrontations with referees and great action from all the players. I was thoroughly entertained.

March Madness has nothing on them.

The D.C. Sentinels can be found at teamdcbasketball.org. The League can be found on Facebook under Washington D.C. Gay Basketball League.

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