Gonzaga may have opened Hoopfest on Friday night with the inaugural alumni game, but it was Eastern Washington that closed the show on Sunday as teams with former Eagles players claimed two of the three major championships.
Earlier Sunday, the Mambas, made up mostly of former Eastern players, won the women’s elite championship.
Then in the Hoopfest finale, EWU was guaranteed another win in the men’s elite championship because both Spokane Club and Boiler Room had a former Eagle on the roster.
“Boiler Room,” which knocked off defending champion 120 Sports in the semifinal, made a mad push to finally take its first lead since the opening bucket when former Eagle Marc Axton hit a shot and a free throw to give his team a 19-18 lead.
However, Axton missed a long jumper and a fadeaway before Spokane Club’s Curtis Carlson nailed a 2-pointer to take the championship with a 20-19 win.
“Once they got up 19-18, now it’s scramble mode,” Carlson said after the win. “We were running round like fighter jets. On offense, you can’t force anything or you end up losing.”
Axton said he loved the experience, even if his two chances at game winners didn’t fall.
“We did good. We had our opportunities,” said Axton, who scored eight points. “Hoopfest brings out a lot of people. They really did a nice job. It was fun.”
Spokane Club’s Matt Brunell, a Cheney High graduate, got a chance to play a fellow Eagle who had graduated a couple years before he started playing for EWU.
“I grew up watching him play,” Brunell (2007-10) said of Axton (2001-05). “It’s kind of an honor to play against him in the championship. It was a good game.”
While team Desert Horse had no Eagles, it showed it had the most heart as the team of Native American players won its third-consecutive 6-foot-and-under elite championship behind the steady hand of J.R. Camel.
Camel, 42, somehow led his team back from a nine-point deficit to beat HPH and Cameron McCaffrey, who poured in 12 points in the loss.
Down 14-5, Camel started the comeback with a layup that became one of his 11 points. Preston Wynne then started hitting 2-pointers and Desert Horse finally got its first lead of the game when HPH was hit for a technical foul because it called a timeout it didn’t have.
Desert Horse was awarded a point for its first lead at 17-16. Camel then put back his own miss to push the lead to 18-16.
Cameron Guyton tied the game at 19 for HPH with a free throw. But McCaffrey was called for a technical after arguing a foul on Camel and the referees awarded a point that ended the game with a Desert Horse win.
“We do this every year. We get down a lot and we come back,” said Wynne, of Wellpinit. “This guy: J.R. Camel. He makes sure we keep our composure.”
Camel, who wears a 23-year-old tattered jersey that he only breaks out for Hoopfest, said the team wants more.
“I’m going to keep going until the wheels fall off,” he said. “There is no quit in our hearts.”
A team of made up mostly of former Eastern Washington players won the Hoopfest women’s elite division championship 20-19 when Aubrey Ashenfelter sank a free throw to defeat Every Blessed Day.
Chene Cooper hit a 2-pointer for Mambas to tie the game at 19, and Every Blessed Day had a chance to win it at the line but failed to convert. Ashenfelter was then fouled and then hit a free throw to win the championship.
The champion Mambas, made up of Carrie Ojeda, Cooper and Ashenfelter (EWU), and Tayler Flemming (Whitworth) held off Kelsey Patrick and Jazmine Jackson (Pepperdine), Alyssa Smith (Montana) and Kamilah Jackson (Hawaii) to avoid a second game and cap an undefeated tournament.
Earlier in the loser’s bracket, Every Blessed Day took down team WCC Babes, made up of former Gonzaga players Jazmine Redmon, Shannon Reader and Haiden Palmer, as well as Natalie Day (University of Portland).
Reader and Redmon played on the 2015 women’s elite championship team under the name Zag Babes.
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