MERCED — Merced area law enforcement leaders and elected officials traded in their uniforms, suits and ties Saturday to shoot some hoops for a good cause.
Sen. Anthony Cannella, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Merced County Probation Chief Scott Ball, District Attorney Larry Morse II, and Supervisors John Pedrozo and Hub Walsh all hit the basketball courts of Merced's Boys and Girls Club in the first "Hoops for Kids" tournament.
The men battled it out in a free-throw competition, with 10 shots allowed for each player. In Round 1, Morse and Pedrozo were tied for first place -- making five out of 10 shots.
In a second-round face-off, Morse beat Pedrozo by making six out of 10 shots.
The friendly competition was sponsored by the Merced Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Task Force, with all the money raised benefiting programs for at-risk youth.
Since 2006, the task force gathers leaders from school districts, law enforcement, courts, probation, social services and more to address youth violence, gangs and drugs.
Matt Serratto, deputy district attorney, helped plan Saturday's event and said it was more successful than organizers anticipated.
"I think it went great," Serratto said. "Everybody had a great time and we raised a lot of money, which will go directly to help kids in need and to reduce violence in the community."
Although the exact amount still needs to be confirmed, Serratto said the tournament raised $1,500 to $2,000 for youth programs. In addition to the men's divisions, the fundraiser also featured co-ed teams, with three to six players playing at least four games.
Brackets were offered for different age and skill levels, with prizes awarded for winners of each division. Serratto said about 60 players turned out, with at least 100 family members and supporters. Generous donations were received from the community's residents and businesses, he said.
"I think it's important because like all communities, there's issues with violence, drugs and gangs in Merced," Serratto said. "Kids need more opportunities to do good things and be exposed to good people. Hopefully, this tournament can help play a little part toward achieving these goals."
Judging from the success of this year's event, Serratto said, it's likely that "Hoops for Kids" will be back for another shot next year.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.