Annual rivalry brings heat to the court
The San Quentin Warriors outscored the San Quentin Kings, 56-48, in the basketball program’s season opener. But the game was tighter than the eight-point margin of victory.
“No matter where you’re at, the court is common ground — where we can all come together as one,” said Kings veteran player Charles “Pookie” Sylvester, adding, “It felt good to be back on the court.”
Anthony “Tone” Evans, SQ Warriors coach, welcomed the new arrivals for the season opener, “This is what we do every year,” said Evans. “The program doesn’t normally look like this (due to the COVID outbreak). We would be playing the Golden State Warriors front office, but we will give you all a good game anyway.”
Jesse Ayers made his debut as play-by-play announcer with color commentator Quincy Hayes at his side.
“It feels satisfying, like a cool drink of water on a hot day,” said Ayers, who also contributes to San Quentin News. “With COVID, it’s like being in a desert and then finally making it to an oasis.”
The musician “Rafael” stunned the crowd with a moving rendition on violin of the National Anthem that had the feel of Jimi Hendrix’s iconic 1969 Woodstock performance.
About 100 prisoners lined courtside to cheer the good plays, heckle the bad ones and boo bad calls by the refs.
“The first half was great,” Jarrad M. Finklea said. “There was a lot of offense and lot of defense, but there was some unnecessary fouls. The people you expected to score did. A couple people surprised me.”
During halftime, referee Robert Lee and basketball General Manager Brain Asey talked about San Quentin’s self-help programs and educational opportunities.
Referee Jeff Brown challenged random people in the crowd. If they made a half-court basket, they’d win a soda. No one made the shot. (I was selected. The ball went over the backboard.)
“Next time, I’ll make it a little shorter,” Brown said.
The game was never in question as the Warriors led by up to 17 points in the third quarter.
Warriors veteran player Allan “Black” McIntosh led all scorers with 16 points in the first half, finishing with 26.
Jay Strange, 46, arrived at SQ in the beginning of the pandemic. He immediately enrolled in several self-help programs, including the San Quentin News Journalism Guild and the 1000-Mile running club. He said that it’s an honor to be part of the San Quentin family.
“I see the guild and college program as opportunities to improve myself,” Strange said. “San Quentin is like the sports heaven for a prison,” Strange said. “I love being out here on the yard with three different sports going on at the same time.”
Andrew Halperin, 64, a longtime SQ basketball fan, wasn’t at the game but plans to attend the games when the outside teams come to The Q.
“I watched when the NBA Warriors, with Steve Kerr, came to San Quentin, got beat by our Warriors,” Halperin said. He added that there are “many good players” in San Quentin, “even the ones that play other sports.”
Stephen Pascascio handled the sound system.
Refs were James Humphy, Robert Lee and Jeff Brown.
Marcus Henderson contributed to this story