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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hoopfest, a game of endurance

Hoopfest courts filled streets and parking lots with 3-on-3 basketball action throughout downtown Spokane during Hoopfest on Saturday, June 24, 2023.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Ignacio Cowles The Spokesman-Review

Twenty-five minutes usually doesn’t feel like a long time. In Hoopfest though, that’s more than enough to test every player’s endurance. By the end, no brow is dry.

Aurora Borealis is a local team, comprised of, in their words, “three engineers and a postman,” from South Hill who are competing in the Men’s over 30, under 6-foot bracket.

Their first match began at 10 a.m. Like most matches, both teams start off with high intensity, making fast breaks and steals. By the halfway mark, it’s tied 10-10. Aurora makes a 2-pointer, and their opponent responds with one as well, 12-12. But Aurora has lost steam, and they don’t have the same long distance shooting skills. First, one longshot goes in, then another and another. Aurora tries to counter, but their shots go wide. By the time the whistle is called, it’s 19-12, and not in Aurora’s favor.

They shake hands with the winning team, and somewhat reluctantly walk over to the sideline to get a drink. They’ve been working hard; each man is breathing heavy, and all have some scrapes and bruises. It’s a letdown, but not the end, and their spirits are still high.

“It’s too soon to tell what our luck is, we’ll see after the second game at 2:30,” one player says.

Meanwhile on Washington Street Bridge, Kordell Small grips a barrier as he catches his breath.

It’s a unique location; the bridge makes for a good backdrop but adds the potential for a ball to go careening into the Spokane River, though so far none have. Spectators line the concrete barriers to root for their teams, neatly dividing them from the court.

Small is tired. His games have been tight; only one point between a win or a loss, 19-18 each time.

“We’re in the loser’s bracket. Last game went the same, but they ended up on top,” he said, adding he often doesn’t play as well in the morning.

Small’s team won this match by the skin of their teeth, giving them the right to stay on this distinctive court for the next game at noon.

His team, the RB Kings, hail primarily from the Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana. Small, along with his brother Todd Wolfchild and Coeur d’Alene Reservation native Sicha Tallman, have proven skills. This isn’t their first time here.

“Last year, they were here to win. This year they’re just here to play and have fun,” Kordell & Todd’s mom says, who accompanied the players on the road trip from Montana.

That being said, the Kings sure play like they want to win. During the midday game, they worked well as a team, moving the ball from one side of the field to the other under their opponents’ noses and legs. Small may be a misnomer, as Kordell repeatedly jumped to intercept shot after shot. Tallman and Wolfchild pulled more than their weight as well, and despite another tough game, this one is a decisive 17-9 win.

Kordell wasn’t surprised. “Morning games, I told you.”

They’ve earned the right to keep their court again, this time until 2, when they’ll have to do it all over again.