Twenty years later, the Rim Rippers are still driven to compete in Hoopfest.
Trevor Pease, Koby Haikkila and twin brothers Evan and Nick Ernst made their first trek from Cusick to Spokane as fourth-grade teammates.
For several years, parents shlepped them and their gear the 50-odd miles to Hoopfest, and the foursome has done the rest.
Three of them now live west of the Cascades, which makes it harder to practice together, but no tougher to keep each other accountable.
“In a game, we still know where everyone is going to be, so we run a lot of give-and-go, and a lot of pick-and-rolls,” Pease said.
“And now, before Hoopfest starts, we call each other and ask, ‘Are you playing? Are you running?’“
Unless another team can prove otherwise, the Rim Rippers have been together longer than any other Hoopfest foursome. All played high school ball at Cusick High, and they brought their game to the competitive bracket at Hoofest.
They even won a championship, back in 2003, after graduating from high school. Since then, life has taken them along different paths.
“That’s the disadvantage of not being together all the time,” Pease said. “You get a little rusty when you don’t get to play every year.”
On Saturday, the Rim Rippers dropped their opener to FBOG.
Win or lose, the fan club is getting bigger. “Our fans get rowdier than we do,” Evan Ernst said. “They always have our back.”
They also have team T-shirts on their backs. Fathers, mothers, spouses and three children were on hand Saturday morning, most of them clad in orange T-shirts.
The Ernsts’ mother, Lois, said Hoopfest has always been “twice the fun.”
“We’ve always looked forward to it, and we still do,” she said. “It’s like Christmas.”
Avista has it wired
Avista has this thing wired. And then some.
A thousand feet of Ethernet cable, 300 feet of fiber-optic cable and 250 feet of telephone lines are more than enough to handle to ever-growing demands of Hoopfest.
It’s an added level of redundancy, which may be the favorite word of Graham Smith, Avista’s manager of information technology delivery.
If something breaks, as it did Saturday morning at one of the remote input tents, Smith shrugs and fixes it. “If something fails, we have something to switch over to,” Smith said.
“We’ve kept that mentality to support failures in the infrastructure.”
Ten years ago, the growth of Hoopfest became a strain on downtown Spokane’s “Hot Zone” wireless network, overloading the system multiple times; the scoring and bracketing systems almost ground to a standstill. With more growth imminent, Avista entered the picture on the technology front, hosting Hoopfest’s series of websites and laying a network of Ethernet, fiber-optic cable and Wi-Fi each year to handle team registration, real-time scoring entry and bracket updating – the lifeblood of the tournament.
Providing the network technology since 2007, Avista now puts more than 40 volunteers on the ground for Hoopfest, producing more than 550 volunteer hours to ensure the functionality and reliability of this human-powered network.
The volunteers start to put the network in place on Tuesday before the tournament, spending the week laying cable in the street gutters and through the trees, setting up computers in the information tents and testing the network. The network links all remote tents to the main information tent, allowing court monitors to enter scores from anywhere on the grounds to help keep teams informed of their schedule instantly.
The Elite High School boys champs, Brick Squaddd, returned and got off to a nice start Saturday morning at the Muscle Milk court.
Adam Chamberlain of Central Valley, Matt Hubbard of Colville and Mt. Spokane teammates Stu Stiles and Dylan Moran teamed together to top Hang Loose Ballers 20-15.
Hang Loose Ballers, led by George Pilimai of Shadle Park and Corey Koski of Post Falls, got out to a good start, but they couldn’t match the size of the 6-foot-8 Hubbard, who finished with eight baskets.
Hubbard has been offered scholarships from the University of Idaho and Eastern Washington. A number of West Coast Conference schools are recruiting him, too.
Brick Squaddd is favored to defend.
“I bet we’ll see that team (Hang Loose Ballers) we just beat in the championship game,” Stiles said. “They’re pretty solid.”
It’s not just the names
Not only is there a lot of thought given to team names, but there’s much consideration given to team apparrel.
While some players look like they showed up in the T-shirt they slept in, some would qualify for a best-looking uniform competition.
A walk along Main Avenue revealed some fun attempts at color and creativity.
There was the nod to Twitter: A boys team with black tank tops and yellow trim and this on the front of their jerseys: #swag.
On a little-girls court were the Sassy Swaggers in lime and pink tutus.
And, finally, the boys wearing maroon tops caused a few people to break a neck for a second look: Accidental Spongebath.