published Friday, December 7th, 2012

Hoops for Hope benefit lives on at new site at Signal Mountain

This weekend's Hoops for Hope high school basketball benefit for the MaryEllen Locher Foundation Scholarship Fund has its third home in four years. But thanks to Signal Mountain, at least it still has one.

Signal Mountain boys' coach Steve Redman was coaching Red Bank's girls when he came up with the idea for Hoops for Hope. It was moved from Red Bank to Baylor where it was held the last two seasons, but Baylor dropped its involvement this year in favor of further developing its Hits for Hope breast-cancer awareness softball fundraiser in the spring.

"We kind of jumped on it and wanted to keep it going," said Signal Mountain girls' coach Jason Hill, whose team will play Arts & Sciences on Saturday at 4 p.m. "We're happy to be part of it."

The first tipoff of the pink basketball Saturday will be at 1 when Sequatchie County takes on Red Bank. Chattanooga Christian plays Soddy-Daisy at 2:30. Action concludes with GPS facing Notre Dame at 5:30.

Leigh Sanders and Lois Whitmire are co-chairpersons of this year's event. Their daughters, freshman Aryn Sanders and junior Marie Whitmire, play basketball at Signal Mountain.

Billenda Nabors coordinated Hoops for Hope when it was at Baylor. Nabors offered the organizers at Signal Mountain an outline of sorts of how things were done there.

"It was a very nice handoff," Sanders said. "This is all done by parental involvement, and it's a very big undertaking. We started planning for this last March."

Last season Hoops for Hope increased from two games, which was the format the first two years, to six games. With this being Signal Mountain's first season as host, planners decided four would be more manageable than six.

The first Hoops for Hope included a boys' game. Should Signal Mountain remain the host school, future plans include alternating games between girls and boys.

"This year we already filled our schedule before we knew it was coming here," Redman said. "We're looking at being involved next year."

Between games Saturday there will be other forms of entertainment, including performances by cheer squads and dance troops. Festivities begin at 12:30 with a program by the Thrasher Elementary School chorus.

Signal Mountain freshman basketball player Lydia Bledsoe designed the black T-shirts with pink depictions for this year's event. Sanders said 950 of the 975 that were printed and donated have been sold.

The remaining shirts will be for sale for $10 at the gate Saturday, and anyone wearing one of the shirts will be admitted. A minimum $5 donation is required for admittance for others.

MaryEllen Locher Foundation scholarships are presented to students of breast-cancer patients, whether living or deceased. Enough money was raised at each of the first two Hoops for Hope events to provide one scholarship each for two local students.

Luke Ziegler, a Middle Tennessee State student and son of Arts & Sciences girls' basketball coach Lee Ziegler, and Zach McKelvey, who was a senior at Baylor last school year, were awarded scholarships at last year's event.

"Being our first year we hoped we would be able to do one scholarship," Sanders said, "but based on what we've raised and what we think we'll have, it looks like we're going to be able to do two."

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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