• PIL basketball events spotlight social justice, young women’s empowerment

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     Benson girls basketball

    Benson's Ajae Yoakum prepares to shoot a free throw in the 2019 Class 6A championship game. (Photo by Mike Tokito)

    The Portland Interscholastic League will stage two major basketball events in the next two months that will celebrate a sport that the league excels in, but also ideals that are so important to our students and athletes.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational: The fourth annual showcase will be held at the University of Portland’s Chiles Center on Monday, Jan. 20, on the holiday that celebrates the civil rights icon.

    Seven games will be played, including four featuring a PIL team. The defending state champion Benson girls, the Grant girls and the Benson and Grant boys teams will play non-league games.

    The event will also feature two recognitions, including the winners of a student essay contest. The contest is open to any high school senior who attends a Portland school or lives within Portland city limits. The theme for the essay is, “Continuing the dream: moving toward unity, justice and peace.”

    The top three places will receive scholarship money to defray college expenses, with the first-place entrant getting $1,000, second place $750, and third place $500. See the contest flyer for details on how to enter and potential essay prompts.

    Last year, Grant’s Amaya Aldridge, who played on the Generals girls basketball team, won first place for her entry, “A Letter to my Little Sister.” Read the essay.

    The event also will include the first PIL Foundation Commitment to Social Justice Award. Nominations are being accepted for the honor, which will recognize an individual (adult or student) or organization in the Portland area who serves as an example to others through a commitment to racial equity and social justice beyond the scope of one’s professional responsibilities.

    Nominations will be taken until Jan. 5. For more information, see the award criteria and nominating process.

    Pacific Office Automation Holiday Classic: The event, which enters its third year, continues to grow into a pre-eminent girls basketball holiday tournament. This year’s event has expanded to 32 teams competing in four brackets at two gyms, at Franklin and Grant high schools, Dec. 27-29.

    The event will include six PIL teams in Cleveland and Wilson, which will compete in the “Lewis” bracket at Grant; Franklin and Roosevelt, in the “Clark” bracket at Grant; Benson, in the “Diamond” bracket at Franklin; and Grant, in the “Platinum” bracket at Franklin.

    The event also includes 20 other teams from around Oregon, four from Washington, one from Tennessee and one from Hawaii. See the tournament website for teams, brackets, game times and ticket information.

    In addition to elite high school basketball, the event promotes the Young Women’s Empowerment Program that helps athletes learn how sports can be a bridge to the future. It will include speeches and panel discussions involving successful women professionals.

    See a video of last year’s empowerment event.