Team TBA finally closed out Team Three and a Half, 20-15, to win its fourth straight Hoopfest Women’s Elite title Sunday afternoon.
Finding closure was much tougher for both teams; they were playing for former player and friend Melissa Erickson, who died June 5.
Erickson, a former University of Washington star who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 34, “was an inspiration to all of us,” said an emotional Kristen O’Neill, who also played at Washington.
“Her strength and courage was unbelievable,” O’Neill said.
With Erickson’s sister Kristen watching from the stands, both teams struggled to break the ice despite searing heat on the court.
Emotions played a part, and so did the basketball – the first five minutes were played with a men’s ball, which is slightly larger than the women’s version.
“Oh, yeah, that’s why I airballed my first three shots,” said Lindsey Wilson, the former Iowa State star who recovered to lead TBA to the title and win Most Valuable Player honors.
“I think we were all so focused, it’s so hot and nobody had our best legs, and then you throw in that ball,” Wilson said.
By the time the ball was thrown out, Team Three and a Half led 5-2, but TBA found its shooting touch along with some dominating defense to scored 10 of the next 12 points.
Wilson made a 2-point shot to make it 17-10 and put the game all but out of reach, though Team Three and a Half made it interesting before TBA put them away.
Other members of the winning team were Casey Bunn (Oregon State) and Amy Taylor (Seattle Pacific). Team founder Brianne Watson broke a wrist playing rugby and was unable to play, but was there to cheer on the team.
Team Three and A Half included former Stanford player Enjoli Izidor, Tasha Harris (Boise State), Vivian Frieson (Gonzaga) and 5-foot-3 Syesha Thomas (Oregon State), the “Half” portion who kept her team in the game.
“This was a tough one, every year we get more and more competition,” Wilson said. “They make us earn it every year.”
Checking it out
Even in a crowd of tens of thousands, Eastern Washington University basketball player Frederik Jörg stood out.
At 7-foot-1, Jorg, a native of Berlin, Germany, had a great chance to survey the sights and sounds of Hoopfest.
“There’s nothing like it in Germany, not even close,” Jörg said as he walked through Riverfront Park with teammate Garrett Moon.
“I think it’s excellent, just sharing the love of basketall,” Jörg said.
Jörg and Moon said they’d like to play, but that’s not an option for active college players.
Not so for recent EWU alum Kevin Winford, who was parked at Nike Centre Court for the elite games.
Winford, who just completed four years in Cheney, said he’d planned on competing with some former teammates, “but I didn’t get my registration in on time.”
“Next time for sure,” Winford said.