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Late night basketball league continues to shine

Photos by Alphonso Abbott Jr.

Late night basketball league continues to shine
August 10
05:00 2017

The Late Night Basketball League at the 14th Street Community Center has been a staple in the community for nearly three decades.  From its predecessors, the Big Apple league and the Barn Burner league, the Late Night league continues to allow adults to showcase their skills on the court for the people of the city.

Louis Lowery Jr., assistant supervisor of 14th Street, said he is honoring this season’s league to the late Hansel Hentz, who he says was instrumental in developing basketball at the community center.  Lowery says that Hentz helped keep the league organized throughout his time working at the center.

“I wanted to dedicate this league to honor him [Hentz] for everything he has done for the city of Winston-Salem and the Recreation and Parks Department,” Lowery said.  “I think he started back in the ’70s, so he was around for a long time doing a lot of good things for the kids and the community.”

Lowery said former Recreation And Parks Department employee Bill English started the Big Apple league because it was a playground style of basketball that was played at Skyland Recreation Center and 14th Street.

According to Lowery, he himself played in many of the summer leagues during his time in college.  He says he can remember when the Big Apple and the Barn Burner leagues were being played and the enormous crowds they drew each game.

“All of the local talent had teams in these leagues, and it was big in the community,” he went on to say.  “14th Street seemed to be the place to house the summer leagues.  If the games weren’t played outdoors they were generally at 14th Street.”

In the latter part of the ’70s and early part of the ’80s, many of the recreation centers stayed open until midnight, giving the centers ample time to play their summer league games there.  Lowery says they wanted to hold their league games at night to get some of the young men off the streets and in the gym playing basketball.

Robert Little was the director of 14th Street during the time the Late Night league started up in the early 1980s.  The league ran prosperously for over two decades until 10 years ago, when it somewhat died out due to other leagues popping up in the area.  The league went away but a few years back, Lowery said he “couldn’t let it die like this” and brought it back.

Lowery said when he brought the league back, the gym was packed to capacity and beyond with people having to stand along the walls because there was no seating available. 

“It was nothing like those games because the history is still rich in this league,” he said.  “The name Late Night and the crowds you see are very unique.”

For Lowery, the importance of bringing the league back was because it was “a good thing,” he says.  He says the environment reminded him of big time high school basketball.  He also credits the fans of the league for helping to bring it back because they continuously called the center asking for the league to come back.

This year the league had 10 total teams.  They are currently in the semi-final round of the playoffs.  The playoff games are being played at the Hanes Hosiery Community Center to allow for a bigger crowd to come in and watch.

In the first semi-final game taking place on Thursday, Nothing Easy took on No Idea for a chance to play in the championship game.  The game was a back and forth tug of war all day long.  Whenever one team tried to run away with the game, their opponents would fight back with a run of their own.  In the end, Nothing Easy was too tough to handle, winning the game 70-63.

The second game between the Block Boyz and Winston Truth was very similar to the first, with the score being tight the whole way.  Both teams were lighting it up from outside the arc, hoisting up three-point shots at every turn.  Winston Truth hung on to a hard-fought win and will play Nothing Easy in the championship game.

Lowery says he hopes this league can continue to positively impact the community by giving the young men who are playing and watching the game something constructive to do.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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