SANTA FE Legislative bragging rights were center stage via the hardwood on Friday in a fight against cancer.
The New Mexico House of Representatives hooped it up against the New Mexico Senate to benefit the UNM Cancer Center. The charity basketball game was held at St. Michael’s High School Gym in Santa Fe on Friday.
State representatives wore New Mexico State Aggie jerseys, while the senators dressed in UNM’s cherry red jerseys.
“Hoops 4 Hope” has raised over $35,000 since the game turned into a charity event in 2004, said Cheryl Willman, director and chief executive officer of the UNM Cancer Center. This year’s game added to that total by more than $10,000.
Willman said the game became a fundraiser after the death of State Representative Raymond Ruiz, who died from lung cancer.
“The game has really grown since then and it has kind of turned into a big fundraiser every year,” Willman said.
Cheerleading squads and mascots from both schools rooted for their respective teams.
The game also included two well-known coaches — legendary NMSU coach Lou Henson coached the House Aggies, while UNM head football coach Mike Locksley led the Senate Lobos.
Locksley said he enjoys being involved in events like “Hoops 4 Hope,” because his mother, Venita Locksley, is a breast cancer survivor.
“It’s always something that is, obviously, important for me to be a part of,” Locksley said. “It’s all for a great cause. When it’s all said and done, the winner is the UNM Cancer Center, and I am happy I am involved.”
Billy Gupton, a former UNM student and former intern for the New Mexico State Legislature, is responsible for putting the charity game together and getting sponsorship.
“After I graduated from UNM, I started working up in Santa Fe and there was nobody to organize the event,” Gupton said. “I was asked if I would be willing to and so I started to. However, I moved on and got a job at Merrill Lynch back in Albuquerque, and I was asked if I would keep doing it.”
Although it’s Gupton’s fourth year in charge of the game, the game itself is 15 years old.
This year’s game featured a crowd of more than 100 people including Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, Chief Public Safety Officer of Albuquerque Darren White and UNM President David Schmidly.
As for the game itself, it lived up to whatever hype it may have generated.
Howie Morales from the Senate Lobos hit two go-ahead free throws with 39 seconds left in the final quarter to give the Senate a 43-42 lead.
The Morales free throws won the game and bragging rights, at least for the next year, for the New Mexico Senate.
“You know there is so much excitement here. Everybody gets into the spirit for this great cause,” Morales said. “It gives us an opportunity to break away from the tension that surrounds the Roundhouse at times, and it shows we are all united for New Mexico. I don’t think you could ask for a better ending, though. I don’t think the Senate has won the game in 11 years. But I was glad I was able to hit those free throws and really blessed to be out there.”
To donate to the UNM Cancer center, visit cancer.unm.edu and click on “Ways to Give.”