The games are played for fun.
But that’s not to say that members of the Manteca Fire Department and the Manteca Police Department don’t get their competitive juices flowing during this friendly rivalry of hoops.
In the annual basketball game benefiting Sierra High’s Sober Graduation, police avenged last year’s loss Monday with a 48-42 overtime victory.
“They beat us because I missed my free throws,” said police chaplain Tim Kemptner, who opened the three-minute extra session by draining a 3-pointer.
But it was the firefighters who thought they had a buzzer-beating win in regulation. Down 40-38 with the clock winding down, Wes Chamberlain intercepted a pass at the top of the key and swished a straight-away bucket as time expired.
“I thought it was a ‘3’ and we had won it,” he said.
Officials, however, ruled that Chamberlain’s foot toed the line.
Firefighters controlled the game early on behind the play of Sterrie McLeod, Franco Torrice, and Andre Guzman, who had a game-high 12 points.
A point guard out of Satellite Beach High in Florida, Guzman displayed some of the ball skills that harkened back to his playing days at the University of Denver, an NCAA Division II powerhouse.
“I look forward to playing in these games,” he said. “It’s fun playing against the police – they’re a great group of guys.”
According to Sober Grad president Lucy Machado, both teams had two weeks to prepare for the game with four scheduled practices at the SHS gymnasium.
“The game is for a good cause and everything will be go towards this year’s SHS Sober Graduation party (at John’s Incredible Pizza in Modesto),” she said.
The firefighters opened the game by taking an early 15-10 on treys by Chamberlain and Guzman. Police answered back with a pair of Josh Sweeten free throws and Kemptner’s 3.
Firefighters responded with Guzman and Traig Smith buckets from beyond the arc. McLeod, who drove towards the basket, cashed in on Guzman’s over-the-shoulder pass.
Down 23-17 at the break, police, who trailed as much as seven early in the second half, chipped away at the lead. Jason Downs, Jason Hensley and Jason Massey contributed with baskets and Randy Chiek delivered on a 3.
Down the stretch, police went on a 10-3 run while taking 40-38 lead. Firefighters saw a missed opportunity nearly go out of bound only to have the ball swatted back into play by police. Chamberlain got to the loose ball and hit the clutch basket at the buzzer.
In the extra session, police iced the game behind 3s by Kemptner and Chiek, who also hit both of his free throws.
A 1992 graduate of Manteca High, Kemptner played hoops for the Buffaloes. “That was a long time ago – I still play (basketball) in the city leagues,” he said.