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Time runs out as firefighters net hoop win
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Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion jokingly calls out to the referee for a call. The chief played for the firefighters. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Tim Kemptner stepped up to the free throw line, eyed the basket, and dribbled the ball.

It was more of a reflex than a legitimate basketball action, but it helped the former Manteca High basketball standout – and Manteca Police Department Chaplain – focus on the task at hand.

Down by three points with just over 26 seconds left on the clock, Kemptner netted the first bucket, took the time during a timeout with his team – a variety of employees from the Manteca Police Department – and pushed his second shot slightly to the right of the rim.

A rebound gave them another chance, but the Manteca Fire Department would hold on to a 71-69 lead for a victory Wednesday in the annual game benfiting Sober Grad at Sierra High School.

While the game – which got competitive and aggressive in the final moments – was a chance for both teams to get out on the court and battle for bragging rights, it was also a chance for them to raise money for an event aimed at keeping kids safe on the night of their graduation and raise awareness about teen drinking and driving during the senior spring season.

Fire Department MVP Wes Chamberlain said he’d rather sleep through his shift on graduation night.

“It’s great to get back out on the court and have some fun and promote what has become a friendly rivalry between us. It was a great game tonight,” said Chamberlain – also a Manteca High standout who finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds. “Hopefully this game will help give the kids something fun to do on graduation night.

“Getting those calls is the worst thing about this job, and anything we can do to prevent them we’ll do.”

Kemptner – who wrapped up the MVP trophy for the police with a 27 point performance – easily had the most impressive performance of the night.

To beat the buzzer in the third period he took a rebound that was going away from him and began his shot without even looking back towards the basket – sinking the bucket with a second to spare and revving the engine on everybody in the gym that was there to watch it.

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, he was quick to brush off credit for a performance that even left Sierra High starter Justin Patton – a ringer who had to stand in when a crew of firefighters had to leave on a call – stunned.

“Being a youth pastor for 10 years I really like getting out there and working with the kids,” said Kemptner who is assigned to work in local schools as a chaplain. “It’s fun to get out and do something for the community, and it’s pretty easy when it involves basketball because I love basketball.”

It would be easy to point out a variety of fun things that made this game the best $5 you could have spent. For starters the cause is second to none and could very easily end up saving somebody’s life the night that Sierra’s seniors walk across the graduation podium.

There were Ray Thomas’ blinding Converse All-Stars that he actually changed out in favor of an equally eye-catching pair of Lakers-themed Nikes. He ended up going back to the Converse. There was Gregg Beall in his Boston Red Sox hat that I could have sworn would have allowed him to erupt for 145. No such luck, although he did take some shots to the hole that were pretty impressive.

Then there was Fire – I mean Police – Chief Nick Obligacion who donned a red jersey and played with the firefighters for all 48 minutes. While his officers gave him a hard time and announcer Jim Carter was equally rough, the move did show the kind of teamwork that a quality leader would show in a situation like that – stepping up and helping out when it’s needed.

But what stood out for me was Kemptner – who grew up across the street from me and graduated high school when I was only 10 years old. I would watch him shoot a hundred free throws in a row with his toe behind an eight-inch-long line painted in his driveway, and stared in awe at how the net jumped when the ball ripped through without hitting the rim. And his statistics were staggering.

So watching somebody that I looked up to as a kid still mixing it up was a treat.

The fact that it was to benefit an organization at my alma mater only added icing to the cake.

And knowing that the gym filled with parents, friends and even students will go towards a cause that might help Wes Chamberlain get his eight hours of sleep – in this case – was a blessing.

Don’t forget to set your alarm.