Three self-proclaimed “Gimps.” One guy named Bill. Nine straight Hoopfest titles.
Three Gimps and Bill, a group of forty-something men out of the Seattle area who have played at Hoopfest since 1991, took home their ninth straight wheelchair division title Sunday, defeating a much younger Titans DC team 15-14 in their toughest test of the tournament.
“Some 19-, 20-year olds came up through the ranks,” said Paul Hill, who at 41 is the team’s youngest player. “They’re a tough team, very aggressive … but old school carried the day.”
Hill is joined on Three Gimps by Bill Heacox and Marty Boggs, both 45, and Rick Cruz, 49.
Three Gimps took an early 8-3 lead, using their experience to find open looks underneath the hoop.
“We’ve always been basketball players,” Hill said. “When we were standing up, we played basketball; sitting down, we play basketball.”
Then the Titans’ Jerry Mitchell, 20, warmed up, hitting five 2-point baskets to account for 10 of the Titans’ next 11 points.
With time winding down, Mitchell hit his fifth to tie the game at 14 apiece. Heacox responded with the game-winner on a drive to the left side.
After winning title No. 9, Three Gimps and Bill plan to keep the streak going for as long as they can.
“We’ll do it when we’re 50,” Cruz said.
Hill added, “Gotta get 10. One for the other thumb, baby.”
Aeroelite Six wins at the line
Quality free throw shooting can help win championships at any level.
Just ask Anthony Wiederkehr of Aeroelite Six, who went to work at the free throw line and led his team to a 20-13 victory over Pine State Athletics for the elite high school boys’ championship at the Dairy Farmers of Washington Youth Center Court.
“The first game we played (against Hancock) was 20-19, and that really set the tone for us,” Wiederkehr said. “We got better every game we played. I really was shocked we won it.”
Wiederkehr actually made up for last year, when he missed three straight free throws that resulted in an early exit and third-place finish.
“Last year, he lost it for us,” teammate Craig Cheatle said. “He did a lot of practicing (this year) and came through in the clutch.”
Wiederkehr received help from fellow Lakewood High School players Cheatle, Bryan Connor and Slava Borisov, all of whom are six feet or under.
“I think teams underestimated us because of our size,” said Connor, the lone six-footer on the team.
Wiederkehr’s shooting set up Borisov, who hit a pair of 2-pointers late in the game. The second was a 22-footer to clinch the title, Borisov’s third game-winning shot of the weekend.
“When I get the ball for game winners, man, it’s all me,” Borisov said. “I feel it.”
“On the girls’ side, Varsity Ballers played four games in under four hours, winning the last three to win the five-team elite high school girls’ bracket.
Varsity Ballers, which includes Lake Roosevelt sophomores Lachelle Ives and Rowena St. Pierre, lost to NEMontanaHS in the semifinals, defeated Westside Hoops in the consolation bracket, then beat NEMontanaHS twice to win the title.
Damage Inc. done at Shootoff
After six other finalists in the Toyota Shootoff had found pretty similar ways to miss a halfcourt shot, Nathan Remaley of Damage Inc. walked onto the court and tried his own.
“I was taking my time, and I tried to make it as much like a real shot as possible,” Remaley said. “My brothers and friend and I have entered this every year we’ve been here. I just did what I’ve done in the past and it worked.”
Remaley’s cross between a jumpshot and a shot put found the bottom of the net to win a brand-new Toyota Tacoma truck to drive his wife and two sons around Pullman, his hometown.
“It was just surreal. I couldn’t believe it,” said Remaley, 33, who works with disabled individuals. “I think [my family] will love it.”
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