When attempting to determine superiority between Law and Grace, those possessing wisdom and insight always place their trust in grace.
Such was the case for would-be round-ball prognosticators Saturday night in the Payson High School gym as team Law represented by local law enforcement officials and their cohorts took on Grace represented by local clergy and a few "divinely" guided ringers ... er ... um, additional players in a fund-raising basketball free-for-all for the Saint Vincent DePaul Food Bank in Payson.
After a brief opening prayer, which expressed concern for the physical and emotional well-being of the athletes, the melee ensued.
It was obvious from the start that both teams were determined to win. Weeks, days, or at least a few minutes of training had gone into the preparation for this game.
According to court-side scuttlebutt, a few members of the Payson Police team had even cut their usual six-donuts-per-shift snacks in half, causing some to speculate that player fatigue would result in double dribbling.
There also were concerns on the Grace bench, not with the game, but with lost preparation time for the following morning's sermons, which likely included messages about good versus evil, the redemptive qualities of grace and how to more effectively deal with the pains associated with advancing age.
Regardless, both teams were ready.
After the opening tip-off, it quickly became obvious that both teams had some experienced players and some ... others. Prior to the game, the closest the Law's team had come to a dunk was in a dunk tank at other local fund-raisers. Enter Reed Watson from the Payson Police Department, who, at 6-foot, 5-inches tall, and as a ex-San Diego State basketball player, towered above the competition in height and ability. While other players jumped wildly to gain rebounds, he reached up and grabbed the ball out of the air as though he were plucking a box of corn flakes off a pantry shelf.
But the Grace team also had a loaded roster. Chris Smith had experience on the team at Wheaton College and, of course, Randy Wilcox, a Rim Country Middle School coach and teacher, has himself turned in a fair amount of playing time.
And then there was the team's secret weapon. But more about him in a minute.
At the end of the first quarter, the score was tied at 12, with the game looking like it could easily go either way.
Outstanding officiating by Tim "I-Got-Your-Penalty" Fruth and Tracy "Don't-Be-Givin'-Me-No-Lip" Purtee kept the game under control. Penalties deviated a bit from the usual NBA format and even took on an NHL quality, as those receiving the whistle were forced to spend time in a penalty box.
Payson Police Lt. Don Engler, who was repeatedly called for police brutality, led the list of those who were sent to the penalty box. The battle went on, and at halftime, Law was up by five with a score of 27-22.
At halftime, the crowd's attention was diverted to the real reason for the event, which was to help raise money for the local food bank. After the hat was passed along with a donation from the Payson Ministerial Fellowship more than $320 was raised to help the food bank help others during the holidays.
The teams then quickly regrouped, studied their strategies or lack thereof and were ready to get the action back under way.
Grace was able to whittle away at Law's lead during the third quarter, bringing Grace within three, 32-29, as the teams headed into the fourth quarter. That's when Grace called in its ringer. The all-star of all-stars. The ultimate team captain. The player with the ultimate slam dunk God.
In an all-star sports moment, Pastor Todd Arnold brought Grace's team spirit to an all-time high as he summoned the player who had the power to turn the tide.
In the fourth quarter, Grace nearly doubled its score, while Law was able to garner only an additional seven hoops. Players on the side of the Law even degenerated and began breaking the rules. The team quickly learned, however, that crime doesn't pay, and even a piggy-back ride in the paint couldn't get the ball in the hoop.
With only two minutes left on the clock, both teams called in their second teams to do their dirty work. Yup, you guessed it; they called in their women.
In an almost bloody battle that could have qualified certain players for the World Wrestling Federation, the ladies fought, tripped, fumbled and fell their way to the final buzzer.
When it was all over, Grace triumphed with a final score of 50-46.
After it was all over, the winning team shrugged off the Law's lawless antics in stride.
"It's not a problem," one player for Grace said. "That's the great thing about Grace. It's all based on forgiveness."