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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hoopfest elite: Former Zag Mike Hart, Marc Axton win over 6-foot title; G-Prep grad Oti Gildon leads the way to women’s championship

By Justin Reed For The Spokesman-Review

Different team name, same results.

Hub Northwest, formerly Lee and Hayes, won the 6-foot-and-over elite title at Hoopfest on Sunday on Northern Quest Center Court in Riverfront Park after taking care of Big and Juicy in the championship.

“This is awesome, I mean with Hoopfest to be back and playing again, we missed it the past two years,” Mike Hart said. “That’s the best part about Hoopfest, the community, the friends and the good competition.”

Hart, a former Gonzaga Bulldog, along with Marc Axton, Parker Kelly and Rob Lippman have formed a formidable squad the previous Hoopfest weekends. They believe they have found the right mixture to win.

“It was all just us doing our roles,” Hart said. “Big Rob battling down low, I can run around and get the loose balls, and Parker and Marc just don’t miss. So I mean, that’s kind of the magic formula.”

It also helps that working out and practicing together for Hoopfest has built a strong bond.

“This group just loves getting together on this weekend and it is kind of a friendship builder for this group that’s lasted six-plus years,” Hart said.

Even after the domination of the 6-foot-and-over elite bracket the previous half-decade, the crew plans to stick together, they just have to keep their bodies right.

“We’re slowly getting a little bit older as we go, but our MVP was 40, so if our MVP is 40, I think we will be alright,” Hart said.

Axton, a former Eastern Washington University player along with Parker, took home the MVP honors with his championship plaque. He did it as the oldest player on the court.

“I feel good, having two years off of not being able to have (Hoopfest) has been huge,” Axton said. “For us to come back and still kind of prove we still have something left in the tank is great. And to win the championship and the way we won the last few games, not just shooting, but also on defense.”

Axton expects to see himself in a Hub Northwest jersey come 2023. He just has to stay away from the sweets.

“As long as I’m not 15 pounds heavier,” Axton said.

Be Ball For Life wins under-6-foot division

The fourth time was the charm for Dominique McClendon.

After reaching the under-6-foot finals three times prior, McClendon tossed the monkey from his back as he paraded through the crowd after the game.

“I’m doing great because all the hard work I put in there … man, it’s good,” McClendon said. “It’s great to finally have it pay off.”

Be Ball For Life beat Northwest Warriors to win the under-6-foot elite title.

McClendon teamed up with Justin Bright who has won two previous elite titles with two different teams.

It was an opportunity for Bright to pull in another title and with it being the first Hoopfest in two years, it made this win specifically, a little bit sweeter.

“It is even better having this be the first one back,” Bright said. “You gear all year long to train for this. This is Christmas morning in June for us. To not have it for two years, it was so tough.”

It was Bright’s third title and Preston Wynne’s fourth title.

This was the first title for Bright without his brother Dan.

“Oh man it feels so good,” Bright said. “This is the best weekend on Earth.”

Bright was happy to have McClendon’s big, physical body pounding the paint. It opened up the outside which then allowed McClendon more space to operate.

It also helped McClendon earn MVP honors.

“He is just so fun to play with,” Bright said.

McClendon said his physicality comes from playing on the streets in Spokane as he grew up and still does to this day.

“This is how we play so it’s nothing new to me,” he said. “So, to me, this is the NBA Finals for us. If you don’t make it to the NBA and you don’t get that far, this is it, man. I’m definitely built for this.”

McClendon was emotional postgame, no tears, but was so grateful to be in the position he was and to have the support of all the fans.

Bright and the rest of squad told McClendon pregame they were going to win the championship.

“We were sitting in the tent over there and all the guys told him we are going to get you one,” Bright said. “You do your job, and we’ll do ours, and we will get you one.”

Tomato Streetballers claim women’s title

Tomato Streetballers combination of size, speed and athleticism – as well as a mixture of former WNBA and international pro talent – became too much for team LOB in the championship of the women’s elite bracket.

The Stacy Clinesmith-captained team won 20-9 after the game ended the way it started – with an Oti Gildon bucket.

A former Gonzaga Prep Bullpup and Oregon Duck, Gildon was a force down low the entire game.

“We just know she’s good,” Clinesmith said. “Get her the ball inside, if she is doubled, she’s a smart player, she’ll kick it out. I grabbed a good one.”

“Move around and get it as easy as we can,” Gildon said. “Stacy is a great passer and I have good hands, so it was an easy combo.”

Gildon was named the MVP of the women’s elite bracket after causing problems to opposing teams both days.

“I’m just glad we won it,” she said. “I’m a little tired, but it was definitely good to get back out there. It is good to be back with a great squad.”

Gildon has played 3-on-3 on a national level, winning the USA Basketball’s national championship on in 2018.

Her background with the rules and strategies helped give her a leg up, she said.

For Clinesmith, who is an assistant for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team and former WNBA player and Mead Panther, she was happy to see the team together. She said it was difficult to build a team with everyone’s hectic schedule.

“It’s really difficult to find four that could make it, so Lisa Fortier (GU women’s head coach) helped and then we just got it together somehow, some way,” Clinesmith said.

The victory on Sunday was Clinesmith’s fifth elite win at Hoopfest.

She won four consecutive titles between 2005 and 2008 with three different teams, GU Balls, Team Idaho and Tomato Street.

“As long as I’m able to be out here, I think I will be out here whether it is elite or competitive,” she said. “Whatever it is, it’s just so fun to be down here and a part of. I am going to try and keep this team together for a little while.”

BAMM wins fifth straight coed elite title

“One more year, one more year,” the crowd chanted moments after the coed elite championship ended.

BAMM, the team that had won four straight titles before the pandemic paused their Hoopfest dynasty, was forced to play a winner-take-all rematch against Alley Oopers away from Northern Quest Center Court.

BAMM came away with a 20-13 victory on Sunday in the coed elite bracket on the high school elite court in Riverfront Park.

“There have been some rumors that it could be, but we will decide a week or two before Hoopfest starts if we are going to go again,” Andrew Ryan said.

Now, with five straight elite titles to their name, BAMM becomes only the second team all-time with that streak.

TBA between 2010 and 2014 won five women’s elite titles.

“I think because Hoopfest had two years off, this one was kind of special,” Andrew Ryan said. “I know we haven’t been in the gym as much, but basketball is a family thing for us. I would like to say this fifth one’s probably the most special just because of the two years off.”

Ryan, his sister Brianne and Matt and Mike Dorr are cousins.

Matt, 34, felt the trials of Hoopfest this year as did his older brother Mike, 36.

“I don’t feel good, but I also don’t train anymore,” Matt Dorr said. “So we’ll see. My brother Mike is the oldest, so he is probably going to be done and then we might substitute one more and see if we can keep it going.”

Ryan, 30, was named the MVP of the coed elite bracket after dominating the second game of the championship.

It was the third time BAMM played Alley Oopers as Bamm knocked Alley Oopers to the loser’s bracket before they fought back to meet in the title game.

Alley Oopers took the first matchup before falling in the first game of the championship round.

“We lost the first game because we got outworked,” Matt Dorr said.

Since it was BAMM’s first loss, they played again to decide the champion.

Being forced from center court to the high school elite court wasn’t preferred, but it is better than heading to the streets to decide a champion.

One of Bamm’s previous title wins did happen on the blacktop, so Ryan was thankful the high school court was open.

In their first meeting, Alley Oopers didn’t knock down many shots, so BAMM decided to roll under the screens in the title game which goes against their normal strategy of fighting through screens.

But in the second matchup, Austin Bolt, a wide receiver at Boise State took over, knocking down two points after two points and causing havoc at the rim.

“Then in that first (championship) game, they might have hit six or seven 2s, so we had to make an adjustment, fight harder over the top with more energy,” Ryan said. “That hindered (Bolt) from making more 2s in the second game and gave us the advantage inside.”