Friendship Tournament Brings Out the Best
The sound of referee whistles filled the Walla Walla University gym Feb. 5–7 as teams from 12 Adventist academies participated in the 2009 Friendship Basketball Tournament.
Twelve Northwest schools participated, including three from Oregon Conference: Auburn Adventist Academy, Cascade Christian Academy, Columbia Adventist Academy, Gem State Academy, Lake City Junior Academy, Livingstone Adventist Academy, Milo Adventist Academy, Mount Ellis Academy, Puget Sound Adventist Academy, Skagit Adventist Academy, Upper Columbia Academy and Walla Walla Valley Academy.
Columbia Adventist Academy from Battle Ground, Wash., won this year's Boys' Championship, while Auburn Adventist Academy captured the Girls' Championship.
But the tournament is far more than competition. During the weekend's Sabbath hours, student athletes sang, prayed and worshipped together with the WWU community, regardless of who "won" or "lost" games.
Tim Windemuth, WWU athletic director, says, "The purpose is in the name. For three days magic happens, games are played and friends are made. It is a privilege for the university to host the tournament."
Marina Jorgenson, Columbia Adventist Academy senior, agrees: "There is competition during the games, but there is also a Christian spirit that encourages prayer before games, positive attitudes on the court, and friendship between the players, the fans and sometimes even the referees."
The emphasis on hard work and "doing your best" attracts students who excel in other areas beyond the basketball court. The character of these teams goes well beyond high academics and wins or losses. Milo Academy's boys' varsity team, with nine of its 11 players on the honor roll, provides two life-changing examples—Doug Barahona and Matt Fillman.
An early season Friday evening vesper program touched Barahona deeply and set the stage for his decision for Christ, encircled by teachers, classmates and teammates.
Then there was Fillman, who severely sprained his ankle just prior to this year's Friendship Tournament. As a senior, it would be his last chance to play in the tournament. So, once more the team gathered around a member, this time kneeling in a circle, praying for a miracle from God. And Fillman played in all four games with his team, thanking God for His intervention.
These experiences are echoed in academies across the Northwest, as the Friendship Tournament looks toward its next event in 2010.