Spokane Hoopfest 2009
The 20th annual Spokane Hoopfest was a pretty amazing experience. The streets of downtown Spokane were completely filled with basketball hoops. Around 7,000 teams participate and 200,000 people come to watch. I joined a team led by Wynne, who is a friend of mine from college and she would always organize our intramural basketball and volleyball teams.
We drove down from Metaline Falls at 5:45am on Saturday morning and made it to Spokane with plenty of time for our 9:00am game. Parking could have been a nightmare, but we found a shady spot under the freeway for only a few bucks. We ended up losing both of our games on Saturday, putting us in the consolation bracket Sunday. Both games were close, and we could have won both, but we weren't too shook up about losing. There are two ways to win t-shirts at hoopfest: you can win the entire division, or you can win the jester shirt by winning the consolation bracket. Also, if you win your first game and lose the next two, you don't even get to play on Sunday. For the rest of Saturday, I walked around downtown Spokane taking photos of hoopfest, watched basketball, or polished off a jumbo cherry snow cone... I'm talking soccer-ball sized snow cone.
I wasn't really sure what to expect at a 3 on 3 basketball tournament, but watching the other teams play, it seemed like there were a lot of terrible basketball players in our division. Then we played our first game and completely bombed. Air balls, dribbling out of bounds, you name it. There were a few factors I hadn't considered before stepping on the court. First, the street falls off on each side, so a 3-pointer from the corner is shooting at an 11ft basket. In the middle of the street there are noticeable ridges in the street due to cars with studded tires in the winter, so if the basketball hits one of those ridges wrong, it won't be where you expect it to be while dribbling. The wind really affected shots, too, and your shot might be on line when you release it, but the wind knocks it off course on the way.
The style of basketball was interesting to me, and the winning teams were really good at posting up. Our team noticed this after our first game and tried to bring it into the post more in our second game Saturday, but the three of us suck at posting up, so we were out of our comfort zone. Being tall and skinny is usually pretty nice for basketball, at least 5 on 5 basketball, because I can run up and down the court like a gazelle and shoot over people from the outside. In 3 on 3 basketball, there is not much running, and shorter more muscular people could man-handle me on the block and I couldn't shoot outside due to the court and the wind. I felt pretty useless on Saturday.
In between our first and second games on Saturday, Wynne and her family surprised me with a chocolate birthday cake. It was my golden birthday, as I turned 27 on the 27th of June. Hoopfest was a great place to be on my birthday, and I was soaking it all in. Chocolate cake in 85 degree weather before a basketball game might not have been the best idea, but the thought of bringing a cake for me was really nice.
On Sunday, we were down 7 to 12 in our elimination game when things finally started clicking. I luckily banked in a two-pointer (3 pointer, playing by ones and twos), then Wynne and her brother made a couple of nice post moves while we locked it down on defense. We tied the game at 17 with under a minute to play. The other team missed their shot and it got passed around to me with only a few seconds left to play. I had an open shot and tried to bank it in from the elbow and missed. The game went to overtime and first team to 19 wins. Both teams have a possession and miss, then I come off a screen from Wynne and drill a 2-pointer from the top of the arc for the overtime win. It was pretty sweet to finally feel like I helped out the team!
Our last game of the tournament was the consolation championship game, which pitted us against another team with short, strong guys that I wasn't looking forward to. I guess our team figured out how to play together, because our defense was water-tight and we were gelling on offense. I finally started hitting my 2's, and Wynne and her brother were dominating the boards. We won 20-9 and got 13th place t-shirts! The only bad part about the weekend was retrieving our 13th place shirts along with hundreds of other teams at exactly the same time!