Monday, June 30, 2003

Spokane

Champions prove best under fire
Team Atlanta, Phillies play hot in the heat
Related stories

Dave Trimmer
Staff writer

photo
Brian Plonka - The Spokesman-Review
WIMS' Kireen Ellis absorbs a foul by the Phillies' Lindsay Herbert during the women's elite title game. The Phillies won the championship.

Hoopfest 2003 will be remembered for two days of heat, and hot is just how it ended.

Team Atlanta won its second championship, 20-18, in a heated battle with perennial contender Rock N Fire on Sunday.

And now Earl Warren can quit taking heat.

Warren, who scored nine points in the televised finale and was named MVP, missed Atlanta's 2001 championship because he missed his flight to Spokane. He was here for runner-up finishes in 1999 and last year.

"There's no better feeling," said Warren, 39. "I won a national championship at Jacksonville State, that's special, but in 3-on-3 basketball this is the best time I've ever had. We've won (three) world championships but I think Spokane is special. You just don't see the fans and the appreciation for basketball like you see right here. This is a great feeling."

Jerome "Big Sexy" Shelton, who played at Georgia College, was ready to quit ragging his teammate.

"Every day he said we're not going to quit com
ing to Spokane until he gets to win one," Shelton said. "He's been everywhere with us and I understand what he's saying."

Hot was the right word for the women's final as Coeur d'Alene native and MVP Lindsay Herbert scored 16 points in the Phillies' 21-13 win over WIMS.

"I never thought I would be good enough to play (elite)," said Herbert, a frequent winner as a youngster. "It was so physical and fast. I'm pretty amazed."

Darrell Walker scored nine points to lead Hoop Hearted, runner-up the past two years, to a 20-10 win over Wa Az Connection in the 6-foot-and-under division.

"We finally won it," said Walker, who played for his father Larry, the former Lewis and Clark coach, at Everett Community College and then at Eastern. "No injuries."

Former Gonzaga guard Winston Brooks helped the winners with six points. He was a replacement for Ryan Hansen, who recently had his appendix removed. The other team members were Eric Avery and Martin Scott.

And there were no big problems for the world's largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament that was spread across 395 courts in downtown Spokane, serving 24,500 players on 6,245 teams.

"I say this every year but the job everybody does, the way the volunteers stepped up despite the growth we had . . . things went really well," Hoopfest executive director Rick Steltenpohl said. "I'm proud."

Hoopfest started with 2,009 players on 512 teams covering 35 courts in 1990, and Steltenpohl doesn't know if it will ever quit growing.

"We're old now, we're going to be 15. We're obviously going to keep tweaking," he said. "We've always said we want to let as many people in as want to play. We've never said we want to be a certain size. If we can get enough space, have enough volunteers, especially court monitors . . . we'll continue to grow. It's a neat event."

Team Atlanta and Shelton couldn't agree more.

"The best thing about this tournament is right here," Shelton, 36 and a 6-foot-5 bear of a man, waving as the huge crowd exited center court in Riverfront Park and kids pressed for autographs. "We played in the world finals in Hawaii when we won our first world championship in '95 and there wasn't 10 people there. Coming to Spokane, every person in Spokane enjoys this tournament and the kids."

A peach of a game

Warren got Atlanta off to a quick start in the championship game with a pair of 2's, and Rock N Fire couldn't fire from the outside against the tough defense.

But a 2 from Tony Beo cut Atlanta's lead to 10-8 at the midway point. Then Beo, 31, who played at Pacific, hit a free throw and Heath Dolven, 33, who played at Central Washington, made a layup to tie the game.

The game remained tight the rest of the way with Beo, who finished with nine points, giving RNF the lead at 13-12 with a deep 2 from the left wing.

Another deep two by Beo gave RNF a 17-16 lead but Warren responded with a two and scored on a give-and-go with Shelton for a 19-17 Atlanta lead. Former Washington State player Chris Winkler, 39, made a free throw to cut the lead to one. But after a turnover, Beo couldn't hit one last 2 from the right corner. Then 6-6 Charles Burkette, 35, muscled in for the winning layup.

"We've been in the finals five or six times; we can't seem to get a win," said Winkler. "The games we've played with them before, we've always had a shot to win. Yeah, it's getting frustrating."

Rock N Fire beat defending champion Phat Steppin 20-16 in the semifinals. Team Atlanta topped NBC 20-14.

Brian McNeely, 22, who played at LC State, rounded out the runner-up team. The other player for Team Atlanta was Bill McNair, 40.

Fine Phillies

The Phillies, named after the Philadelphia Phillies T-shirts Herbert snagged off a close-out rack at her stepfather's Coeur d'Alene sporting goods store last year, never trailed.

Herbert opened with a 2-pointer and had eight points, hitting three 2s, as the Phillies took a 9-4 lead. The lead got to eight and was 15-7 when WIMS from Seattle scored five straight with Paulette Martin, Petra Jackson, Tara Davis and Kireen Ellis each scoring at least once.

But then Herbert hit a 2 from the top to stem the tide and she closed it out with a free throw and a 2, her fifth.

"I don't know if I would call that hot, I missed some shots," she said. "But shooting is the strongest part of my offensive game. . . . Last year we played with three players and we got tired. We weren't in as good of shape."

Herbert's team almost didn't make the tournament. Sarah Wobbe, a Utah teammate who played last year, couldn't participate because the NCAA didn't sanction Hoopfest and she still has eligibility. She was replaced on Friday by Australian Simone Shepherd, who played at North Idaho and will go to Regis College in Denver next year.

"She played for my dad at NIC," Herbert explained. "We wanted her for a fourth anyway."

The other player is Kristi Johnson, another Ute.

"It's not one-on-one talent that wins it," said Herbert, who is a personal trainer and will assist Greg Crimp, her stepfather, at NIC. "It's teamwork, communication and a good attitude, remembering why we're here, to have fun."

Herbert missed Hoopfest while in college.

"I love 3-on-3, it's the purest form of basketball, offensively and defensively," she said. "Plus you don't have to run down the court, which is nice."

Revisit

We had to check in with Stevie Gildehaus. Her regular team was out on Saturday, but she was playing in the wheelchair division with her mother Brenda. Father Jerred had another commitment, so the Bad News Bears got Stevie's best friend, Britney Jamison, to fill the roster.

It was quite uplifting to watch the two Bowdish seventh graders out there, even more so when the girls talked about their experience.

"I think it's awesome they get out here," Jamison said of everyone in the bracket. "It's very inspiring."

Stevie added, "They don't sit and watch life, they do what they can."

Brenda was a national champion BMX racer who woke up one morning paralyzed by multiple sclerosis. She's bounced back to be an active wheelchair athlete as well as a cool mom who coaches select soccer.

"I always tell them there are two kinds of people in life," Brenda said. "There are those who sit and watch life and those who live life. I've always lived life."

The Bad News Bears didn't win, but they were winners, along with everyone in the large crowd who stopped to watch.

January dreamin'

During timeouts and between games, the monitor on the junior high girls court on Sprague was dreaming about playing.

The dreamer was Brianne January, one of the premier high school players in the state.

"I'd rather be playing but I'm down here, I'm part of it. The girls are fun. That makes it OK," the two-time All-Greater Spokane League guard from Lewis and Clark said. "Plus the shorts and shoes don't hurt."

Turns out the experience was mostly good.

Some players recognized her and had her autograph their shirts.

"Communication is all good," January said. "Two coaches yesterday didn't like me. You have to tune that out."

Adapting to the young kids is hard because when she travels with the Spokane Stars to national tournaments, the play is extremely physical.

"That was my problem, I let them play a little bit," she said. "I call the obvious ones. It got a little touchy, but not too physical. I wouldn't let that happen. I'm calling more today."

It might be fun to keep an eye on January next season.

"I thought referees just ran up and down the court. I thought it was easy to see what is going on," she said. "But in my first game it was, `Oh my!' I'm never going to yell at a referee again."

Subhed (pe)Driving half-courter

Nineteen-year-old Brandon Prado of Nez Perce, Idaho, walked away the winner of a 2003 Toyota Spyder sports car.

Prado was one of three finalists in the contest Sunday downtown, which raises money during Hoopfest for Special Olympics of Spokane.

The three all missed their first half-court shots.

In the second round, Prado leaped up, flung a 50-foot shot that banked in. The other finalists took their shots next, and when they both missed, Prado dropped to his knees and slapped the ground in jubilation.

He's a business major at Seattle University. He played this past weekend with three buddies on Dime, which won its division.

Monitoring the monitors

A full two-day commitment to be a court monitor nets the volunteer shoes, shirt, shorts and a hat.

There were 525 who signed up but about 30 didn't show to get their stuff. Another 25 went AWOL after collecting the gear. And 10 to 15 packed it in in the middle of competition on Saturday, according to Hoopfest operations manager Chad Smith.

That left 450 monitors to cover 395 courts on Sunday and another two dozen disappeared.


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