Coach Joyce Tillman's Lincoln Tech team, which finished playing at 11 p.m., had beaten Tri-Equity, 92-85, last Wednesday in a Central Division game of the Midnight Basketball League at the Glenarden Recreation Center. But instead of rushing home so she could catch a few hours sleep before heading off to work, Tillman decided to hang around the gymnasium nearly three more hours.
She stayed until the Glenarden Stars defeated Bowie New Town, 99-83, in the night's final game, which ended at 1:40 a.m.
Going home early would only have bored Tillman, who has been involved with the Midnight League since its origination in 1986. "I'm so used to getting to bed late that when I go home early, I don't know what to do," she said.
When the long hours at the gymnasium mean late starts at her job, Tillman does not worry. "I have a good boss at work and we have pretty good flex hours," she said. "I just have to cover my desk for 7 1/2 hours and we're okay."
For the past 19 years, Tillman had been coaching AAU and boys and girls club basketball teams in Prince George's County. Occasionally she coaches girls, but she prefers to coach boys teams, like the ones that play in the Midnight League. "Girls are too temperamental," she said.
Tillman has been a guiding force in the the men's Midnight League, which was formed in 1986. She thinks the league has been good for the area, as well as an outlet to help youngsters stay out of trouble.
"When you walk out of the gym and a kid grabs you and kisses you on the cheek, and this kid is only 19 or 20 years old, that's just not your average sentiments from a black teenager these days," said Tillman. "You know that somewhere down the line, you have touched somebody and gotten through to them. That really makes it worth my while."
Four summers ago, G. Van Standifer, then town manager for the city of Glenarden, came up with the idea to organize a late night basketball league. He hoped the league would create warm and positive feelings between players and coaches and that the "rash of incidents in the wee hours of the morning in the summer time," would take a reverse turn.
Three nights per week, a series of games start at 10 p.m. and continue until most bars have long announced their last call for drinks that evening.
"I was just concerned about Glenarden -- my town," said Standifer, who's son Nelson is the director of the league's Central Division.
But as the war against drugs and violence has increased, Standifer's concerns too have broadened. The league has added six-team divisions at the Glass Manor Recreation Center in Oxon Hill and at the Langley Park Boys and Girls Clubs in the past two years.
"We expanded because of the target of kids that we want to be a part of the program," said Nelson Standifer. "We go after kids that do not graduate from high school or who have graduated, but are not working. It shows that these guys are in the streets late at night with nothing constructive to do, so we are trying to give them an alternative."
The Midnight League is more than just a basketball hangout. With basketball as the attention-getter, the league holds frequent educational workshops. The league also tries to arrange scholarships for career training courses at Lincoln Tech Institute, which is located in Capital Heights.
It was the educational benefits that attracted many athletes to the league.
"When I heard that they were offering scholarships, I decided to try and get involved," said Steve White, 19, who graduated from Parkdale two years ago. "It's a nice league, something to do when you get off work."
For some spectators, attending a basketball game is entertaining and offers a change from their daily summer routine.
"This is my first time here," said Kristie Roberts, 22, of Glenarden. "It was someting different to do. I could be home sleeping, but I'll probably come back because it was fun and it is free."
G. Van Standifer gets great pleasure when learning a former league participant achieved something worthwhile away from the court.
"We say that the Midnight Basketball League is an ounce of prevention and we seek to slow down the transition from high-risk teenagers to the criminal justice system," said Standifer. "We seek to slow down the killings and we seek to build a bridge from joblessness and the development of marketable skills."
Tillman said the Midnight League is the type of innovation that is needed to combat the changing problems in the community.
"There are not a lot of us adults left out here who still care enough about the kids and who want to put in the time it takes, especially this late at night," said Tillman.
The players appreciate the efforts made to establish the league.
"Everybody here is friends -- it is a neighborhood thing," said David Cebhas, who plays for the Glenarden Stars. "There are a lot of bad things that happen out in the streets."