Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) is frantic. She’s weaving her way through crowds of Congressional pages, men in suits, security officers on radios. She only has a few minutes left.

No, she’s not in the south end of the Capitol building, on her way to a big vote on the House floor. Nor is she late for a big speech in her home district of eastern Cleveland. Instead, she’s in the lobby of Gonzaga College High School’s Carmody Center last Wednesday, where the Eagles play their basketball games. She’s wearing a white T-shirt with “24” emblazoned on the back. And she’s coaching a Capitol Hill basketball team that has only minutes to get its bearings before the big game.

The opponents, a group of Georgetown Law professors who call themselves the “Hoya Lawyas,” are projecting confidence. “We’re gonna wear ’em out, and then, if they don’t get tired, we’ll tell ’em there’s a vote,” says Everett Bellamy, who is taking a break as senior assistant dean to play the role of Jones’ archrival.

Then there’s Jones, who is still shouting, “We need players, bad!” to anyone who will listen.

But help is on the way. Her teammates – a distinguished group including Mike Arcuri (D-N.Y.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and a few basketball-gifted `guests’ – are finally growing in number. And more importantly, there are the 38 face-painted, wig-wearing Congressional pages storming through the lobby and screaming, “Let’s go Congress!” so that all of central D.C. can hear them.

“It’s really exciting for the kids, so they’re really psyched about it,” Carmen Phelps, assistant director of the pages’ residence hall and their ringleader for the evening, says. “It’s the first time they really get to be back in a high school situation.”

It’s Phelps’ first year bringing the teenagers to the annual Home Court Charity Basketball Game, which for 21 years has seen representatives from Georgetown Law and the U.S. House faceoff to raise money for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. The organization works to protect the rights of homeless and low-income people in D.C. via pro bono legal work, class-action litigation and community outreach. This night marks the conclusion of a long campaign that has raised $323,800. And the work is not done.

Access to the big event comes at the suggested price of $10; there’s a silent auction, too, at which a SuperSonics shirt with Jeff Green’s signature is giving a Gilbert Arenas-signed jersey a run for its money. (They both end up going for $160.) Laura Macrorie (COL ’06), busy managing the silent auction, is among dozens upon dozens of young people in blue T-shirts running the event. Most are students at Georgetown Law.

“My friend is helping put this on, and I just love basketball,” Macrorie, who is on the verge of a career in non-profit work, says. “It’s shocking how much homelessness there is, especially in D.C., so this is definitely a great cause.”

Sadly, Macrorie’s volunteer spirit comes at the expense of missing much of the action on the inside of the arena. Still, would a matchup of congressmen and professors really excite a four-year devotee of Georgetown basketball? You wouldn’t think so. But then again, when was the last time a Georgetown game went to sudden-death triple overtime?

* * * * *

John Thompson III is an alumnus of Gonzaga High, and the Carmody Center was dedicated just in time for his arrival. The place contains four sets of unimposing purple bleachers. Courtside to the left, the seats have been pushed back for team benches and the scorer’s table. Courtside to the right is a long, thin expanse of law students in burgundy T-shirts. By the near basket, we have the vocal adolescent supporters of the “Hill’s Angels,” carrying signs that read “THIS IS OUR HOUSE” and “DUNK IT, STEARNS.” And at the opposite end is the celebrated marching band of Ballou High School in Anacostia, subject of a crime-ridden and moving 2007 documentary. On more than one occasion, the silkily moving band elicits dance moves from Jones and from Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), who is in the audience.

The pages, to be frank, are causing trouble for the Georgetown fans. The law students, after several failed attempts, gradually figure out how to choreograph a decent “Hoya Saxa” chant, and they intersperse it with the occasional, equally-decent wave. Yet, even though they outnumber the youths five to one, the rabble-rousers are still outclassing them in decibel level, what with their blistering chants of “When I say Tubbs, you say Jones! Tubbs! Jones! Tubbs! Jones!”

Jack the Bulldog is here, too – both Jacks, in fact. The little dog barks during the national anthem and tears apart a Hill’s Angels box for dramatic effect; later, the big fake dog responds to my question by motioning that he’s going to hit a few three-pointers. Little Jack, who can at least vocalize, ultimately makes for a better interview.

Alas, the game starts, and the tip-off is quickly vaulted out of bounds. On the next play, Georgetown’s John Mikhail, wearing sports goggles, sees the ball bounce off his face. On the next play, a Hill’s Angel makes a nice spin move and then hits the rim from six inches away. On the next play, Mikhail dives for the ball once, then dives again and flies into the stands, only to turn the ball over. The score is 2-2 through the first six minutes.

As I realize just how long of a night this is going to be, I remember Bellamy’s words from before the game: “It’s a great chance to sit down and watch some terrific basketball. Or at least some basketball.”

Luckily, the game turns in quality soon enough, which may or may not be related to some of the substitutions. They don’t look very much like politicians or academics, and a few of them pull off dunks and some well-choreographed plays. On the benches, too, things are heating up: Bellamy has been talking shop with his players all game long, and Jones, too busy chatting with friends in the audience, is finding her post usurped by an expert surrogate. Somewhere along the way, Georgetown’s Donald Gooding falls into the scorer’s table, setting the towel kids in sweat-wiping motion.

Skill level notwithstanding, everyone is trying hard. “Who’s the forward over here?” a concerned faculty member yells. “Watch him underneath!” Bellamy shouts. Georgetown’s Tom Karr is getting physical with his guards. An apparent push-off gets the crowd howling. After a Georgetown miss, Jones exclaims, “No basket! No basket! No basket!” and is sounding disturbingly similar to Rich Chvotkin in the 2007 Final Four.

With two minutes left, the players are really scrambling. Karr, with his team down 34-31, gets fouled on a three-point shot. Contending with 38 obnoxious pages behind the basket, he amazingly hits all three free throws. Then, with about a minute and a half left, Ryan puts the House back on top with a jumper. 36-34. A turnover gets turned over again, and Ronnie Rease ties it with one minute left.

After an excruciating timeout, the House turns the ball over to Karr, who pulls up to the arc with 48.6 left – and hits the three! More scrambling. Finally, Congress is at the line with three shots, a 39-36 deficit and 2.8 seconds left. After the first two go in, Bellamy, always the psychological swindler, calls time out.

I ask Jones if she’s nervous.

“Of course!” she says. “But I’m confident!” And she raises a clenched fist to the sky, moments before watching the third free-throw swish through.

The crowd is beside itself. We’re going to overtime.

* * * * *

Home Court has its regulars. Bellamy has been doing this since the event started in 1987. Margaret Trinity has been coming with her husband and kids since 1995; daughter Claire, six years old, ends up being selected for an on-court contest during one of the game’s time outs. Scott Dafflitto, a co-chair, has been involved for three years running.

“It’s been fantastic,” he says. “Obviously I wouldn’t have kept doing it otherwise.”

All four end up witnessing the greatest game in Home Court history.

With one minute left in overtime, no shot clock and the score still tied at 39, Georgetown decides to hold the ball, prompting derisive chants of “let’s go shot clock!” from the pages. The Hoyas let one go at the last second – and miss. The cameraman behind me sighs and shakes his head. Welcome to double overtime.

While the first extension lasted two minutes, double OT will be just one. Right away, Rease steals the ball for a faculty basket. 41-39. It’s almost over, but the House responds immediately with a two-point jumper seconds before the final buzzer sounds. The crowd emits a punched-in-the-stomach yelp. Georgetown’s Henry Hunter sticks out his arm and slams a chair.

Now, double OT has become sudden-death triple OT. Whoever scores first wins.

The House gets lucky when the tip-off falls into the hands of Mervyn Jones, Sheila Tubbs’ son, who is not a member of Congress. He drives to the basket, spins, and as the ball falls in for a 43-41 victory, 38 congressional pages storm the court. Every single member of the House team is part of the swarm. Their concerned security personnel look on, refusing to smile.

When the crowd clears, I ask Jackson-Lee what the win showed about the U.S. House of Representatives. She doesn’t bite, saying, “We’re really people, and we care about those most in need.”

But Jones takes the bait.

“This shows that we were resilient, that we can win against adversity, even though we were outnumbered in players and in age,” she says.

Is that true, Dean Bellamy? Were all of those young guys really distinguished members of the Georgetown faculty?

“They’re all faculty for the day,” he says. Let’s just let sleeping dogs lie.

And so a three-hour evening comes to its conclusion. The blue-shirted volunteers and the T-shirted players and the awestruck fans and the wigged-out pages slowly spill out of the Carmody Center, all sweatier than they were three hours before.

Except some things are strikingly similar. Jones is still frantically weaving through the crowds, shouting one more announcement to anyone who will listen.

“I’m buying dinner at Uno’s!”

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