June 29, 2009 in Sports

Finals full of new faces

AM lone defending champ
By The Spokesman-Review
 
J. Bart Rayniak photo

Jamal Miller of Seattle’s Finest drives during a semifinal game before losing to Team Tonicx in the finals.bartr@spokesman.com
(Full-size photo)

Inside

Results: List of Sunday’s champs, B5

It may have been the 20th Hoopfest, but two of the three elite division finals were full of new flavor Sunday.

The lone defending champ to prevail was Associated Messenger, which captured a third consecutive title in the men’s 6-foot under division. The Spokane-based team beat the Pterodactyls 20-18.

In the elite men’s championship game, it was Spokane versus Seattle. Team Tonicx, behind former Ferris standout Erik Benzel and former Gonzaga University journeyman David Pendergraft, topped Seattle’s Finest 20-18 in a wildly entertaining matchup.

In the women’s final, EXLG, which stood for ex-Lady Griz, edged TBA 20-17.

Here’s a brief look at each game.

•Matt McIntryre, who was recently named Gonzaga Prep’s boys basketball coach, led Associated Messenger. He scored a team-high nine points and was named the most valuable player.

“We’re getting a little older and nothing’s a given,” McIntyre said. “I live for Hoopfest. I have nothing else left competitively. This is a big deal for me.”

McIntyre’s usual treammates, Dallas Leslie and Spencer Bishop, teamed with newbie Greg Johnson.

“We just share basketball … and it makes all the difference,” McIntyre said.

Associated Messenger was sent to the consolation bracket by Intrepid All Stars, which included Andrew Sorenson of Gonzaga. But AM bounced back to beat Intrepid twice to advance to the finals.

•Hollie Tyler, a 6-foot-3 post from Leadore, Idaho, stepped up big for EXLG.

Tyler, who has been playing in Poland since finishing her career at Montana in 2005, scored a team-high 12 points and was named MVP.

She and her teammates played in Hoopfest before on different teams. This weekend was the first time they teamed up.

“My teammates making some outside shots really helped and kept them from being able to double team (me) down low,” Tyler said.

•Team Tonicx spread out the contributions, but Benzel was big down the stretch.

The 6-1 shooting guard hit a big step back 3-pointer (counted as two points in Hoopfest) that gave Tonicx the lead for good at 18-16. He finished with a team-high 13 and was named MVP.

Pendergraft gave props to the standing-room-only crowd at Nike Center Court.

“The Seattle people were cheering loud (and) the Spokane crowd was amazing,” Pendergraft said. “It was like playing in the Kennel.”

Three-on-two finale

The nation’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament had a 3-on-2 moment Sunday.

A broken toe trumped an Achilles tendon tear when Swinging Doors EWU won its fifth straight coed division championship.

It took the team of Ron Cox (EWU 1978) Rob Otis, (EWU ’84), Jon Heimbigner (’70) and his daughter, JoEne Liezen (EWU 2001) two games to defeat Team Gray Street (Ryan Farrell, Greg Marshall and Stevie Stephens), which was down to two players for the championship after Stephens injured her Achilles in a semifinal match.

The tendon popped when Stephens, a probation officer in Spokane and former Walla Walla Community College and Central Washington University player, pushed off. She was relegated to standing on the court briefly as the finals got under way.

“I have to be there for the team just for the start, then I can get out,” she said prior to the finals.

Liezen almost didn’t play this year, but was a go-to girl given her team’s player advantage. She broke a little toe a week prior to Hoopfest.

“I stubbed it on a dresser,” she confessed.

A face from the past

Three Gen basketball player Gary Martz stood on the court in the O’Doherty’s parking lot Saturday resigned to the fact his team’s day was done.

His oldest son, Gary Jr. (Boomer), had been called away after learning of the death of a friend in Oregon. His brother-in-law had not returned from business, leaving just his son Aaron, a mechanical engineering major at Washington State, and himself to hold the fort. And he is unable to play because of disability.

A gifted athlete, Martz was one of the best all-around in West Valley history. He pitched and batted the Eagles to Spokane’s high school baseball championship, led them to regional in basketball and quarterbacked a league championship football team in 1968-69.

He went on to play professional baseball and had a brief appearance in Kansas City.

But the resultant 40 years have taken their toll, a series of personal travails culminating five years ago in a serious automobile accident that left him with a broken neck, five fused vertebrae in his back and long convalescence.

“The surgeon said it would be a miracle if I walked,” he said.

Which is why it was a surprise, in 2006, to see his name listed with a family coed team and find that his families, including his two 6-foot-6 sons, have rostered him on their teams each year since.

“I was going to be an emergency sub only,” he said.

Five hours to volunteer

You can take the court marshal away from Spokane, but can’t take Hoopfest away from the court marshal. Reese Riggin for the past three years has traveled from Great Falls to serve as a Courts Marshal. It is his eighth year overall of volunteering.

“My dad (Fran) was doing it and I was tired of playing,” said the 1984 East Valley graduate.

He and wife Natalie, also from Spokane Valley, have worked together at Hoopfest until this year. She’s taking time off after having a baby.

“Last year she was seventh months pregnant when she was here,” Riggin said. “We’ve had the same courts every year and see repeat people and people we grew up with. It’s nice to be able to come back and see our families.”

Staff writer Mike Vlahovich contributed to this report.

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