A team of Northwestern graduates lost their final game on Saturday so had to fight their way through eight grueling games under punishing conditions Sunday to defeat the defending champions and win their first Hoopfest men’s elite championship.
The team 120 Sports outlasted the mostly Northern Arizona-trained Roots Sports 20-17 for the grand finale of the world’s largest outdoor 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said MVP Craig Moore. “We definitely lost a couple pounds. My feet hurt. But, the liquid diet we are about to get will help.”
But the run to the title almost got detoured to Fast Eddy’s several hours early.
After losing their final game Saturday, the 120 Sports team had a team meeting that included players yelling at each other and using various descriptions of their mothers among other things.
“We talked about losing the next game (Sunday) and heading to Fast Eddies for some cold ones,” said Tim Doyle, who hit the winning hook shot. “I’m really happy we kept on playing. But we didn’t know we would be walking into the hottest heat wave in Spokane history.”
The temperature topped out at about 105 at Spokane International Airport and made the black portion of the Nike Center Court almost twice that hot. As a result, 120 Sports teammate Sterling Williams had to get an IV to pump liquids into him after the sixth game.
Even before the heat, Doyle said he didn’t know whether he would be able to play after straining his hamstring three days before Hoopfest. He went to Northwestern and had medical staff patch him up so he could play.
“I took some Advil and went out there. I treated this event like I was an 11-year-old,” he said. “But, I’m 32. I’m definitely feeling the effects.”
Moore lives in Brooklyn, Williams and Doyle live in Chicago and Vince Scott in Phoenix. The team played in Hoopfest three years ago and lost to a team that included former Gonzaga players Josh Heytvelt and David Pendergraft.
“This is a great event. We want to keep coming back,” Moore said. “It’s pretty surreal. We never thought we’d win eight straight games.”
While the defending champions got beat in the final game, the Desert Horse Elite team defended their 2014 championship with a come-from behind win over Charlie’s Gold in the 6-foot-and-under elite championship.
Last year J.R. Camel got emotional as he talked about finally winning Hoopfest at 40. This year, he won the MVP while leading the team of Preston Wynne, Michael Jackson and nephew, Zach Camel, to 20-16 victory.
“It means a lot. We worked hard for this,” said J.R. Camel, who hit a free throw for the victory. “We just try to be a positive role model for all these Native American kids.”
Camel said he remembers holding his nephew, Zach Camel, in his arms when he was born. Now the younger Camel has to try to keep up with his uncle in the gym.
“It’s a surprise to everybody else that he can ball at his age, but not to me,” Zach Camel said. “I’m used to it because I practice with him every day.”
Repeating as champions took a lot of dedication, Zach Camel said.
“It feels awesome, especially in this weather,” he said. “I’m just going to sleep for a week.”
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