Hoops tournament kicks off a new area tradition

LOS ANGELES — It was the first event of its kind, but judging from the large turnout by teams and their fans that made for a lively atmosphere in the stands and an air of intense but friendly competition on the court, the First Annual Glendale Summer Classic Basketball Tournament held at the Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter on Saturday and Sunday won't be the last.

Glendale Panthers Coach Avedis Melkonyan, who devised and staged the idea for a local travel ball tournament along with Tomik Ebrahamian, who coaches several Ararat age-group teams, said the tournament successfully realized the main goals he had for it — exposing the Panthers' younger age-group teams, as well as Ararat squads, to higher-level competition, and creating a tournament to unify all the teams that play under the banner of Glendale.

"[It has gone] better than expected, we are loving it; we have a lot of fans, a lot of people coming out to support us," said Melkonyan, coach of two of the Panthers' 13-and-under teams, who said the first day of games drew over 200 spectators, while Sunday's gate had already topped 100 by the early afternoon. "Everything's organized, the teams are playing together and they're cheering for each other, like Ararat teams cheering for each other and Glendale Panthers supporting Glendale Ararat.

"If we get a tournament [here], that's how Glendale gets put on the sports map, we develop and we get interest out here."

Melkonyan modeled the tournament after the ones he takes the Panthers to around Southern California. The Homenetmen facility, which features two full-size gymnasiums, proved to be the perfect home for the event.

In addition to local age-group squads, such as the Panthers, Ararat and Hye Boyz, the tournament drew teams from across the San Gabriel Valley, as well as the neighboring communities of La Crescenta and Burbank.

Championships were awarded in four age divisions raging from 10-and-under to 15-and-under.

"This tournament was really fun because we got to play other teams from different communities that we weren't able to play before," said 13-year-old Thulani Kachingwe, whose Crescenta Valley Falcons team finished runner-up in the 13-and-under division. "The competition was good and it was fun hanging out with the fans and everything."

Having the tournament in Glendale gave the local teams the new experience of playing in a major tournament in their own city and, for the travel teams from the Panthers organization, it was an opportunity to play in front of large numbers of friends and family who can't always travel with the team.

"It's good, we're playing a lot," Ararat 13-and-under player Narbe Nazaryan said. "It's pretty fun."

Melkonyan said he hopes to be able to stage similar events in the future and, based on the strong reception over the weekend, it would seem the demand is strong.

"It's very in the community, it's very close," Kachingwe said. "It's one of the closest tournaments we've had next to La Crescenta, so it's good. Next year, maybe in a different season, it would be really cool to have another one played here. It was really fun."

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