The Rocketeer

Lowellville’s Eighth Annual Have-A-Heart Basketball Tournament

The tournament used banners made by cheerleaders from previous years.

The tournament used banners made by cheerleaders from previous years.

The tournament used banners made by cheerleaders from previous years.

Zackary Oliver and Nathan Williams

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Saturday, April 1st, marked the eighth annual Have-A-Heart, 3-on-3, Basketball Tournament at Lowellville schools, with over 50 teams of adults and students from the community competing to win their respective brackets. With no admission fee, community members were able to enjoy the games including a Chinese Auction and concessions. All proceeds from the tournament went towards the Ella Rose Solak Memorial Scholarship, both to honor the late Ella Rose and to aid a graduating senior’s education. Registration for the tournament began around 8:00 a.m., the games began at 9:00 a.m., and the tournament ended near 4:00 p.m. 

The tournament raised money primarily through the cost to register a team of three or four ($60 per team), through the Chinese auction of donated items, and through its 25 sponsors. Some funds went towards costs such as referees for the games or concessions for guests. Luckily, the tournament did receive help from numerous students and faculty members who volunteered.

The 19+ Male bracket was the largest at the tournament with 22 teams

To keep track of 54 teams, all with unique names, the staff of the tournament prepared a wall of brackets to reference, updating with scores after every game. Each bracket was separated by age or grade. The largest bracket was the 19+ male teams category with 22 teams competing. There was also a list of rules on the same wall, detailing each game a maximum of 18 minutes long and a maximum 15 points. The games were hosted in the school’s two gyms, with a quarter of the rooms for each ongoing game.

One of the students playing in the tournament was Devin Wright, a senior at Lowellville. Devin has played basketball since 7th grade and participated in the tournament since 8th grade. This year he was on the team “Frogs” with Alex Mamula and Jon Chiclowe, going on to win the 9th-12th grade bracket. When asked what he enjoys most about the tournament, Devin  stated, “I really enjoyed playing basketball with my friends and supporting the cause.” He and his team faced off against six other teams to win their bracket.

Devin Wright (left) faces off in the Frogs’ second game

The tournament’s staff had a lot of work to do in setting up and tearing down before and after the tournament. “We set up a lot of things the night before,” explained Gina Solak, mother of Ella Rose, at the tournament. “We set up the concession tables, the Chinese auction, and had to get the teams organized. This morning I helped with team registration, while my brother planned and updated the brackets throughout the day.” Mrs. Solak also said she enjoyed most seeing so much of the community coming together and supporting the tournament.

Among the students who volunteered as staff was senior Tyler Stellmar. In this first year of his working the tournament, Stellmar did a few things throughout the day, such as scorekeeping and choosing the music to play for the games from the mezzanine. When asked what he enjoyed most at the event, he replied that he liked seeing everyone there having a good time. He also said some of the games were very entertaining. “I’ll probably go to the tournament next year because it was so fun.” Other workers like Stellmar, all wearing shirts made for the staff, routinely kept score or sometimes refereed.

Two teams of younger students compete in the small gymnasium.

With eight years under its belt, the first Have-A-Heart tournament was hosted in the spring of 2010. The tournament’s namesake, Ella Rose Solak was born July 14, 2008, with hypoplastic right heart syndrome, and after numerous surgeries over several months, Ella’s relatives at Lowellville decided to start the tournament as a service learning project and to raise funds for hospital bills. Sadly, before the tournament was scheduled, Ella Rose passed away at 20 months old on March 23, 2010. However, the tournament still carries her name in honor of the memory of Ella Rose Solak.

Just like the previous year, the Ella Rose Solak Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a graduating student bound for college. For now, so soon after the tournament itself, the deserving senior has yet to be selected.


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Lowellville’s Eighth Annual Have-A-Heart Basketball Tournament