Ben Rihn ’22
On May 8, Mercersburg Academy will host the nineteenth annual Lauren Grady basketball tournament, which, as the name would suggest, commemorates Lauren Grady, daughter of math teacher David Grady, in her battle against cancer. In preparation for the first tournament since the outset of the pandemic, members of000 the community are excitedly concocting their respective dream teams to play in honor of Lauren.
Faculty members Matt and Julia Maurer ’90 first established the tournament after being inspired by Lauren’s courageous fight. Julie Maurer, associate head of school for school life, said, “We wanted to do something to help other children that would face the same struggles with cancer and also honor Lauren’s memory.” Since its inception, the tournament has generated over $40,000 in donations for the American Childhood Cancer Organization in addition to spreading Lauren’s influence across campus. Maurer continued, “I love that so many Mercersburg students and community members know who Lauren Grady is to this day, wear the t-shirts with her picture on them with fondness, and help raise money to support families fighting childhood cancer.” This year will be no different.
Emily Parsons, head of community engagement, is optimistic that this year’s tournament will run smoothly in its bracket format. “We’ll have a boys bracket and a girls bracket. Play is 3-on-3, but teams are made up of four members. We’re encouraging basketball players to play, but we want to spread them out among teams to keep things fair. Faculty are encouraged to play as well!” With such a broad range of personnel and skill sets, there’s no telling how varied the teams will be.
One such team combines the likes of one faculty member and three talented students who talk a big game, Duncan Besch ’22 is confident in his teammates Kyle Kim ’22, Evan Howley ’22, and history teacher Rich Heffron. Besch said, “One word: chemistry. Evan, Kyle, Mr. Heffron, and I came out of the womb knowing we would win this tournament. We can rebound, we can defend, we can shoot, and we will look great doing it. There really is no competition.” Howley, more humbly competitive than Besch, said, “There’s nothing better than being able to have fun and play for charity among your friends and teachers.”
Of course, the reigning 2019 champions, a team composed of faculty members Steve Fowler, JD Bennett, Kristen Pixler, and AJ Gray ’20, have a title to defend. Fowler said, “The Dream Team I was part of (obviously on par with the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team of the same name) was actually called “Two Turntables and a Microphone.” We’re going to have to reload that fourth roster spot since AJ had the audacity to graduate and move on rather than regrade a few times to stick around for our championship defense, but we’re confident that the opportunity to join the clearly superior squad will spark plenty of interest.”
Tongue-in-cheek trash talk aside, Fowler echoes Howley’s sentiments on the true value of the last Lauren Grady basketball tournament: “It was great to see faculty, faculty families, and students together for a good cause, and regardless of who won or lost any given game, sportsmanship and smiles were all around.”
Ultimately, this tournament gives the community a chance to go head-to-head for that good cause. Bennett, dean of curricular innovation and director of Springboard, put it best when he said, “I enjoy playing, but winning or losing is wholly secondary to being a part of the festival-like atmosphere, gathering for a good cause, and seeing the community at its best.”