High-flying action on the hardwood


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

In a true testament to youth-led organizing, Heritage High School recently hosted an action packed, exhibition game between local law enforcement and the school’s boys basketball team. 

Fresh off a deep playoff run that yielded impressive Ws in Districts, Tri-Districts and Regionals, senior forward Damon Pablo wanted to keep the team’s momentum and positive vibes going. His insistence led to the creation of a friendly game that brought tribal teenagers, police officers, and community together at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium.

“I first got this idea after hearing about the Heroes and Hoops event held back in December at Marysville Getchell, which had police officers and fire fighters from Marysville playing against one other to benefit Toys 4 Tots,” explained 18-year-old Damon. “A requirement as a Heritage student is to come with three projects a year, and it’s often said we should try to create projects based on things we like to do. One of the main things I like to do is play basketball, and I know our community likes to come out and cheer us on when we play, so, yeah, that’s where the inspiration came from.”

With the assistance of TPD Officer Mike Carrington, Damon coordinated a friendly game of basketball between Tulalip’s local crime fighters and his fellow high school teammates on their home floor. Friends and family of both teams sat in the bleachers and were treated to an exciting back and forth game that was just the right amount of competitive.

Team TPD played to their strengths, which was having the height and weight advantage of actual grown man bodies. They were intentional about getting the ball into the post and attacking the glass for offensive rebounds that would lead to put back opportunities. They also had the services of Officer Phil Powers who is well versed in the art of sharpshooting from behind the 3-point arc. Team TPD jumped out to a 9-0 lead that they stretched to 14-3 midway through the opening quarter.

The Hawks would storm back behind a 3-point barrage, led by freshmen phenom Amare Hatch. He was impossible to miss while wearing a festive pair of Easter bunny ears and routinely splashing jump shots over one, two, and sometimes three defenders. His scoring prowess helped his teenager team take the lead, 30-26. However, it would be short lived as Team TPD finished the half on a 7-0 run to regain the lead, 33-28, at halftime. 

“It’s my first time ever playing in a game like this and, to be honest, it’s really fun. I’m enjoying splashing threes over the cops,” shared freshman guard Amare during intermission. “I’m wearing the bunny ears for the little kids in the stands. Every time I make a shot and turn towards the fan section, I can see kids cheering and smiling. Seeing their smiles makes me enjoy life a lot more.”

In the 2nd half, the high-flying Hawks executed their brand of rez ball to near perfection. Running and gunning, forcing steals, and showing off their seemingly endless supply of energy. For their effort, they held their largest lead of the game, 57-43, with only five minutes of game action left.

Down by 14 points, Team TPD refused to call it quits. Instead, to the delight of fans who desired a buzzer-beating finish, they went on a heroic 16-3 run to get within just a single point with only 50 seconds remaining.

With the pressure mounting and possession of the ball, the Hawks ran the shot clock all the way to ensure make or miss their opponents would have minimal time to pull off the comeback. When Damon’s 3-pointer rimmed out, Team TPD secured one final possession with only seconds to go. They looked to get a transition bucket, but the Hawks defense got back, seamlessly triple-teamed the police ballhandler, and forced a super contested shot that nearly went in. 

The Hawks collected the defensive rebounder and the final buzzer sounded. They reveled in a hard fought 60-59 W that resulted in one last standing applause from their adoring fans as they exchanged high-fives with Team TPD.

“In so many ways, these positive interactions with the youth are beneficial to our shared Tulalip community,” said Chief of Police Chris Sutter after the game. “Building trust for effective community policing starts with our officers being seen as humans, not just an officer with a badge. Today, the kids and community witnessed a friendly game of basketball that got the competitive juices flowing, but at all times was respectful and lighthearted. 

“We definitely would like to see more events like this where our officers can connect and engage with the youth over shared interests. These types of events also serve as the best way to inspire and empower the next generation to pursue careers in law enforcement,” added Chief Sutter. 

The late Francy J. Sheldon, for whom the Heritage court is named, would agree wholeheartedly with Chief Sutter’s perceptive. A well-known advocate for everything athletics, Francy excelled at sports as a young man before passing on his decades of experience through coaching. Later in life, Francy proudly answered the call to serve his community as Chief of Police; something that he spoke of proudly to the next generation that he continued to coach well into his twilight years.