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When these gangs met Monday, the shots were jump shots and layups

The red team celebrates it's 38-37 wover black team championship game peace basketball league Monday March 4 2013 St. Sabina.

The red team celebrates it's 38-37 win over the black team in the championship game of the peace basketball league Monday March 4, 2013 at St. Sabina. Four of the six-team league is made up of neighborhood gangs in order to build relationships and peace in the community. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 6, 2013 6:36AM



There may not have been any NBA scouts at St. Sabina’s Peace Basketball Championship, but there was a mayor.

When two teams took to the court on Monday night in a gym at the Ark of St. Sabina Church, two groups of young men who might have otherwise only met in violence on the street would meet instead at a jump ball to compete for the championship.

With Mayor Rahm Emanuel sitting courtside, the red team, made up of members of the Killa Ward gang, came to play the black team and their Black P-Stones. The game was painfully close — 38 to 37 in the end — with the red team taking home the win and the championship.

Teams with Gangster Disciple and Black Disciple affiliations played in the league but didn’t make the championship, as did two teams made up of neighborhood kids not affiliated with any gangs.

Though his team lost, black team coach Curtis Toler, 35, said the greater purpose was definitely achieved.

“The game was a safe haven,” said Toler, himself a former Black P-Stone who quit the gang eight years earlier.

Toler said the game gave the players a chance to see each other outside of their gang affiliations — which was what it was meant to do when he brainstormed the idea for the tournament with Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina.

The results surprised even Pfleger — according to his tally, the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood nearby has not had a shooting involving these gangs since the start of the peace basketball program on Sept. 22. Data from the Chicago Police indicate the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood near St. Sabina has had three murders and 12 shootings since the start of 2013.

Though 60 people competed for the right to play Monday night, Pfleger said more than 62 people involved with the league have internships — and more than 50 are working on their education.

As they watched in the stands, players whose teams were eliminated said they would definitely play again when the league starts again in the spring.

Tramel Tullock, 16, a sophomore at Bogan Computer Technical High School, said playing in the league changed his opinion of kids he was initially suspicious of, though he said he had no gang affiliations.

“I thought they were bad people because they were from other neighborhoods,” Tullock said. “But then I got to know them.”



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