The sound of referee whistles filled the Walla Walla University gym Feb. 5–7 as teams from 12 Adventist academies participated in the Friendship Basketball Tournament.
Marina Jorgenson, a senior player from Columbia Adventist Academy, remarks while "there is competition during the games, there is also a Christian spirit that encourages prayer before games, positive attitudes on the court and friendship between players, the fans and sometimes even the referees."
Examples of this friendship included interaction between athletes and Jeff Deming (PJ), Milo's youth pastor, who also serves as the girls' basketball coach. Monty Buell, WWVA coach and Big Lake Basketball Camp coach, gave Jorgenson a high five after he watched her play, and Auburn player Cambria Mensink shared hugs and talked about playing together next year at WWU.
Tim Windemuth, WWU athletic director, says, "I believe 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."
WWU does reap the benefit of a recruiting opportunity from the weekend as noted by Jennifer Jorgenson, now a WWU sophomore, "I remember playing in the championship game two years ago and it was visits to the campus that convinced me to attend here."
The WWU tournament values the celebration of Sabbath and did not schedule games Friday night or Saturday until after sunset. Student athletes sang and prayed and worshipped together with the WWU community, regardless of who "won" or "lost" games.
"This tournament isn't just for the players. There are parents and even grandparents who make the trip. Everyone feels young again, remembering their own academy days, seeing old friends, and closing the generation gap. It's family bonding time," says Jorgenson's grandparents Lyndon and Bette Rogers. There are certainly no signs of a generation gap during WWU Friendship Tournament!
The 2009 Boys' Championship game was won by Columbia Adventist Academy, while the Girls' Championship game was won by Auburn Adventist Academy.
The participating schools were: Auburn Adventist Academy, Cascade Christian Academy, Columbia Adventist Academy, Gem State Academy, Lake City, Livingstone Adventist Academy, Milo Adventist Academy, Mount Ellis Academy, Puget Sound Adventist Academy, Skagit Adventist Academy, Upper Columbia Academy, and Walla Walla Valley Academy.