The Kutztown Optimist Club hosted teams from around Berks County at the Kutztown Middle School for the John Silan Tournament Basketball Tournament on Dec. 8. You might think this is a story about a basketball tournament, but it is really a story about an amazing community.

The Club never attempted to host a basketball tournament but felt if we just put our backs into it, we could do it.

We invited the best teams in Berks 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, and, of course, Kutztown as the host team.

The Optimist Club dug into their treasury and paid for the medals for the top teams and for two referees for every game and bought a new scoreboard for the Elementary Program.

The Silan Family purchases basketballs, pays the league fees and the regular season referees to honor their father’s passion by continually supporting the Kutztown Boys & Girls basketball teams.

When you have an early season tournament, someone has to rush out and silk screen the jerseys and then number 115 uniforms. Well Graphics on the Go lived up to its name. Garret Miller, the eternal Optimist, delivered right on time and the jerseys show how our community supports our children.

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 camaraderie with their teammates that will last a life time.

Other teams envy Kutztown’s gym time and 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 also lower that risk.

And to help us attract teams, the merchants on Main Street and on Constitution offered special deals to anyone in the Tournament, including Sorrelli Fine Jewelry, Renninger’s Market, and Country Meadows. Main Street was booming into the evening with the restaurants packed.

And that was just the Boys Tournament. The Silan Family is also sponsoring the Girls Girl’s Tournament (Dec. 15) in the Greenwich and Kutztown Elementary Gyms.

You have to have special marking on the half-court floors for tournaments. Well, again a savior stepped up. Steve O’Neil spent his whole evening taping off the courts because he loves Kutztown and he will do anything for our young sports teams.

So what started out as an article about a Basketball Tournament really turned out to be about the wonderful people of Kutztown, about the parents, coaches and school administrators and a whole group of Optimists who make Kutztown the little town that could!

The day started with Optimist Don Sechler, who played for John Silan both at Kutztown and later in college at Delaware Valley College, performed the honorary Tip Off to mark the opening of the Tournament. Kutztown’s Colton Mathias represented Kutztown in the jump circle against Brandywine.

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. For Mifflin’s Youth Team to score 165 points in four games tells you this will be a team to watch this season.

When the Tournament was over the Kutztown players and their coaches, and their mothers stayed and made the gym spotless. They respected their home courts. They know the citizens of Kutztown supported their tournament and they honored your commitment. It is the people of Kutztown that make it wonderful.

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