Sports

Mercer Island's Summer Celebration! draws record numbers for basketball tourney

Julia Blumenstein goes up for two points during the 3-on-3 basketball competition. - Mark Lowry/Reporter Newspapers
Julia Blumenstein goes up for two points during the 3-on-3 basketball competition.
— image credit: Mark Lowry/Reporter Newspapers

The 2008 3-on-3 basketball tournament, as a part of Summer Celebration!, drew a record 33 teams on Saturday. The increase of eight teams, compared to last year, was not the only change as the event moved to downtown Mercer Island to the parking lot of Farmers Insurance for eight hours of hoops.

The tournaments have traditionally been held at the Lid Park and, last year, at the Community Center at Mercerview.

“Summer Celebration! is down here,” said one of the event’s organizers, Christa Lilly. “That is why we wanted to do it here.”

The move added an electric atmosphere of larger crowds and more things to do between games.

“It’s easier to get something to eat,” said Steven Huber, 12, playing on the team Awesome Possum. “There aren’t as many people here as at Hoopfest [in Spokane], but I think it is better with less people. It’s a lot more fun.”

One of the biggest reasons for the increased participation was that more girls teams turned out than in past years.

“Girls are just picking up the basketball and wanting to play,” said event co-organizer Mindy Blakeslee. “Overall, we have six teams from off-Island and some teams with kids from off as well as on-Island.”

Of the 33 teams to participate, 16 were girls teams. Last year, the event played host to just nine teams.

“There are way more teams this year,” said Katherine Vetter, 11, playing for Island Force. “This is my second year, but I like it outside much better than in a gym like at the Community Center.”

The courts this year featured eight-foot-high hoops for third and fourth-graders, and 10-foot-high hoops for the older kids.

Most of the participants said that winning was not the main reason they came to play, but it never hurts.

The winners for the individual brackets were as follows — third-grade boys: MI Black Shots; fourth-grade boys, MI Heat; fifth-grade boys , Cloud 9; sixth-grade boys, South Sound Shick; seventh-grade boys, MI Thunder; eighth-grade boys, MI Ballers; third-grade girls, Cloud 9 Islanders; fourth-grade girls, Hot Shots; fifth-grade girls, Tie between the Ball Thieves and Street Dogs; sixth-grade girls, Island Girls; seventh-grade girls, E-Lemonators.

The event not only included 3-on-3 basketball tournaments divided up into brackets for age and gender, but also some shooting competitions that were popular not only with players but spectators as well.

High scores for the day were made by Caden Conder on free throws with five consecutive; Nikhil (last name not available at press time) on the Three Point Shootout, making nine shots in 45 seconds; and Josh Stenberg on the Spot Shooting Competition, collecting 30 points in 45 seconds.

Many former players from the tournaments past and the Mercer Island High School basketball teams helped referee games.

“There are a lot of off-Island kids here this year,” said Raul Misra, who played in the tournament while growing up on Mercer Island. “The competition is a lot better than when I played. This is the future of Mercer Island basketball, so it is fun to watch these kids play.”

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