The Kutztown Optimist Club hosted the John Silan Invitational Basketball Tournaments at Kutztown Middle School, with the boys tournament being held Dec. 8 and the girls tournament on Dec. 15.

You might think this is a story about two basketball tournaments, but it is really a story about an amazing community.

The best teams in Berks County were invited to play. We wanted to honor a great man and a great coach. The tournament’s namesake, John Silan took Kutztown through some great seasons and in 1950, 1951 and 1959 he took his team to the State Championships and won. It was an amazing time for Kutztown basketball so the name John Silan was again magic in Berks County and the teams signed up for the 60th Anniversary Celebration.

Conrad Weiser, Governor Mifflin, Northwestern Lehigh, Exeter, and Brandywine Heights brought two teams to the boys tournament. Conrad Weiser, Exeter, Twin Valley, Schuylkill Valley, Muhlenburg and Reading teams signed up for the girls tournament.

The Silan Family supports our Youth Program. The Silan’s buy the basketballs, pay the league fees, the regular season referees. They honor their father’s passion by continually supporting the Kutztown Boys & Girls basketball teams. The Silan Family sponsored both of these tournaments and based on the reactions of our visitors, they were impressed with the organization and the quality of play.

This tournament is about how a community comes together to support their youth, about how the parents, coaches and school administrators and Kutztown Optimists made Kutztown the little town that could. A look at the tournament jerseys shows how our community supports our children. To help us attract teams, the merchants on Main Street and on Constitution offered special deals to anyone entering the tournament. Main Street was booming all afternoon and all evening. The restaurants were packed.

The Boys Tournament started with Optimist Don Sechler, who had played for John Silan at Kutztown, performed the honorary Tip Off to mark the opening of the Tournament. Kutztown’s Colton Mathias represented Kutztown in the jump circle against Brandywine. Don revered his great coach. And was happy to open the day with the tip off.

The two Exeter teams were well coached and their team advanced to the final against Governor Mifflin. The Exeter Team #2 was 3-0, as was Governor Mifflin going into the final. Governor Mifflin won the Championship against the Exeter team. The score was 45 to 26 and both coaches played their whole rosters which is what a tournament like this is about.

The Girls had their own ceremonial tip off and our honored guest was the Reading Girls Team. Kourtney Dietrich won the tap for Kutztown.

The Reading Girls won the Championship against Conrad Wesier. Reading and Conrad Weiser championship bracket is a traditional rivalry; and, the Girls were fun to watch as they are so skilled for only being in 6th Grade. The final score was 32-11 in favor of Reading. Each team had their star players but Reading was strong at every level.

The Kutztown Girls enjoyed seeing the ball handling skills, and especially the type of defense the top level teams bring to a tournament. It was especially rewarding to see the players from each team share ideas on improving skill levels.

While the Kutztown teams compete in their Boys and Girls Tournaments, the teams performed well against talented teams. The coaches who attended the tournament felt this was a nice season opening event and all requested that Kutztown continue the tradition of the John Silan Tournament in future years. The unlimited supply of Christmas cookies and the hospitality of Kutztown’s Main Street made this a worthwhile event.

Kutztown is the only program that allows all the kids to join and play at no cost to the families. That means that all kids, boys and girls have a whole winter of fun and exercise, coaching and mentoring and develop a camaraderie with their teammates that will last a life time.

For use of Kutztown’s gym we thank Superintendent Dr. George Fiore, Athletic Director Ed Yapsuga and Melissa Nolte for making the schedule work so our youth are pursuing healthy activities. This works in concert with the goals of Kutztown Strong which works year after year to try to keep our youth drug and alcohol free; and, the experts say keeping your students in healthy lifestyle activities and you will lower that risk.

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