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Still going strong: Hoopfest’s elder players look back on nearly three decades of competition

UPDATED: Sat., June 30, 2018, 9:13 p.m.

Hoopfest is an event for all comers, and athletes from second grade to age 77 squared off Saturday in the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament, now in its 29th year.

Tom Ferch and his sons Shann and Kral have played several tournaments, and have made appearances at Hoopfest on and off for years. This year, now that Shann, the youngest in the group, is 50, they were able to compete on the same team for the first time.

“I think the joy (of it) is … mostly just the love of being together and enjoying each other,” Shann Ferch said.

Shann said he and his brother Kral played basketball together at Montana State, and his father, who is 77, plays in international 75-and-over tournaments. Close family friend Terry Schaplow, who is also on the team, plays in 65-and-over tournaments.

Despite winning their Saturday games, the brothers said this might be their first and last time playing in Hoopfest together. Kral said 3-on-3-style basketball is a lot more physical than how the game is normally played, and outside on the asphalt injuries like the roadburn he sustained during their Saturday morning matchup are a lot more likely.

Hoopfest organizer Giff Marleau said the adult men’s division is one of the largest groups at the event, but some of the most dedicated players who return year after year are the women in the 40-and-up division.

Ginny Knox and Annette Helling of the team Old Spokane, which also includes Janet Skaife and Jeanne Helfer, said their team, with a few intermittent breaks, has competed every year since the tournament began. Knox has never missed a Hoopfest.

“That’s really the only reason we’re playing,” Knox said. “I guilted them into it so I could keep my streak alive to 30.”

Helling said when she first heard about Hoopfest from Knox, she didn’t believe the city would really close down its streets for basketball. But 29 years later, they’re still teammates.

Knox said the name Old Spokane was a reference to a coach they had at Spokane Falls Community College. While their name was once a tribute to their era of college ball, she said it was becoming more and more appropriate the longer they played together.

Colleen Flanigan, a member of team Pacemaker, which lost to Old Spokane, said Hoopfest was on the entire team’s bucket list. Flanigan said she and the other team members, Kelly Lafferty, Jennifer Gaffoney and Anne Molenda, have watched their children participate in the tournament for years and after she got her pacemaker in January, which inspired the team name, she realized they had to go for it.

“Our decision was met with surprise, consternation (and) mockery by our children,” Gaffoney said, “but they have since turned the corner and changed their minds.”

Their coach, 12-year-old Ryan Lafferty, Kelly Lafferty’s son, said the team fared far better than he anticipated.

“They scored more points (in this game) than I thought they would all weekend,” he said.


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