ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - For the sixth year in a row, four East Texas charities will be benefiting from the Annual Pineywoods Showdown All Star basketball game.
The boys squad from Angelina County will be representing children from across the county through Harold's House. East Texas News was at the team's first practice Thursday night when they met the child advocates.
When these 12 boys take the court, it's usually against each other. However, for one night they will be playing for something greater than themselves.
Harold's House is a child advocate center for the Angelina County area. Their number one priority is making children feel safe.
Picking the charity was a no-brainer.
"Children are the beneficiaries and anything we can do to help children out is a good thing, said J.T. McManus, the coach of the Angelina County boys team and the head coach of the Lufkin Panthers basketball team.
Statistics show that 195 children are abused every day in Texas, and that amounts to 77,000 cases a year. They're numbers that hit these players close.
"We're playing for more than a game, we are playing for a charity," said Diontay Gibson, a Lufkin High School student.
"It hits you in the heart," said Brandon Carver, a Central High School student. "You want to win for everyone you can, especially for the little kids that have been abused."
"It made it a lot more meaningful because sometimes, we just come out looking for a 'W,'" said Davis Robinson, a Lufkin High School student.
McManus even felt like making sure the boys knew how important this game is.
"Angelina County has never lost, so these women already have plans to spend this money. Not to put any pressure on you," McManus told the Angelina County players.
But the players don't seem to be sweating it.
"It makes it a battle. I have no fear," said JaMarcus Horace, a Lufkin High School. "I think we will win. We have never lost before."
They already have their biggest fans.
"We love to come out and support the boys and support what they're doing, playing the basketball game and it just feels great to be able to do this," said Annie Myers of Harold's House.
Next week, East Texas News will continue the reports on the other teams starting with Glory Gang Ministries and the Nacogdoches County boys, which will lead us up to the showdown on Thursday night in Central Heights.
The Girls' game will start at 6 pm. The boys' game will follow.