Castaic Middle School students crowded into the gym for a lunchtime basketball game Friday.
This wasn’t any ordinary game, but an annual tradition for eighth-grade students and local law enforcement to claim bragging rights for another year.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies and detectives, as well as officers from California Highway Patrol, took on the enthusiastic team of boys with the hopes of taking back the crown they had lost the previous year.
Although it was all fun and games, it was also an opportunity for students to see a different side of law enforcement and begin to create a healthy relationship between the two, according to CMS Principal Bob Brauneisen.
“There is so much negativity towards law enforcement that this is one of those things that I hope can help change that,” Brauneisen said.
Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Rooney agreed, and said he thought, “How cool it would be for kids and cops to hang out, have fun. You can see how well kids adapt to law enforcement when they realize you’re a person — a mom, dad, brother, sister.”
The gym was packed as the whistle was blown, with students on the team boasting that the whole school had decided to attend their game.
And though the game only lasted 16 minutes, it was heated from tip-off. The students had first possession, but deputies quickly set the tone for the rest of the game as they stole the ball and made the opening bucket.
“It was harder and felt a little different because they’re a little bigger, older, and a lot stronger,” said student Josh Mailander.
Throughout the game, Detective Roland Delamaza was playfully pulling at the shirt of the players he was defending, and said he likes to mess around with them.
“We want them to know we’re just having a good time and want them to be comfortable around us,” Delamaza said.
At halftime deputies were up by one, but students made a valiant effort and were able to tie the game at 8-8.
“The crowd definitely brought them to life,” said John Simons, who has been coaching basketball at the school for 20 years.
By the second half, the crowd even began to cheer for the law enforcement, which unfortunately for the student team only motivated the deputies more, and the game ended with an 18-8 win for law enforcement.
“To have an opportunity to come out and do something positive, have them see another side of us and that we are normal people who like to have a good time, too — it was just a fun time,” said CHP Officer Damarius Akins.
Although students weren’t successful this year, Simons is predicting a win next year.