March Madness was on display at the Middle School on St. Patrick’s Day when students faced off against Forest Park police officers on the basketball court. The game was the brainchild of seventh-graders Treasure Brown and Oxavionne Bryant. 

“We did it to create peace with the police and build relationships in the community,” Brown said. Bryant is the 6-foot center for Middle School’s conference-winning basketball team. 

“Our season was over,” he said, “so we decided to play the police in a basketball game.”

“We got all of the teachers and students involved,” Brown added. Tyler Vanderbilt started things off by singing the national anthem. During the game, students sold popcorn to purchase books for kids in foster care. Others organized games during timeouts, like Hungry Hippos, a human wheelbarrow race, and a Hula Hoop contest. The dance troupe performed at halftime and the band played throughout the game.

Not only did every student participate but school board members and District 91 officials were in the stands watching. Brown and Bryant personally invited Supt. Lou Cavallo and his staff to attend. They also gave a personal invitations to the police. Eight officers played, wearing navy blue shirts, bearing their names and numbers and a green four-leaf clover.

The middle-schoolers rotated their line-up. In the first quarter, students who had won a raffle competed against the police. In the second quarter, high honor roll students took the floor. The third quarter featured students who had helped with the project. For the final quarter, players who had been chosen by a student survey hooped it up with the officers.

Bryant was a member of the “all-star squad” who kept it close. The game was actually tied at the end of regulation but the police won it in overtime with a three-pointer. Bryant described the police officers as being “tall and buff” with one towering over him at 6-6. The police were great sports, going into the stands during timeouts to introduce themselves to the spectators. 

Seventh-grade teachers Ed Bagley and Dan Staser helped organize the event. 

“It was a great success,” Bagley said. “The students met their goal of establishing a good relationship with the police department.” 

Bryant would agree but still thinks he was fouled on a lay-up attempt. 

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.