By Kurtis Gosney, Extreme Alaska
This past weekend, basketball players from Fairbanks, Anchorage, and other parts of the state participated in the annual Martin Luther King basketball tournament at Lathrop High School. This four-day tournament started at about six o clock Thursday night and ended with the men’s championship game that began at three o clock Sunday afternoon. 10 teams made up the men’s half of the bracket and four teams made up the women’s half of the bracket.
This year, there was a wide range of players and teams that participated from former UAF players to teams made up of high school players. Here are a few names that Fairbanks fans might recognize.
Teams/players of note:
- Back-to-back 3A state champion Monroe High School
- Former UAF point guard Nico Matthews
- Former Division II college player of the year Parrish West
- Former UAF guard Armand Burkhead
- Former UAF point guard Jarrett Miller
- UAF senior guard Dominique Brinson
- Former state champion Cole Daniel
There was plenty of excitement and highlights throughout this double-elimination tournament. The first one came on Saturday when team “FNFL”, which featured Matthews, West, Miller, and Burkhead, were playing “Team Fam” from Anchorage. During the first half of this game, one player from Team Fam made a strong slam duck with both hands and broke the rim off of the backboard. Tournament referee, Rod Perdue was working the game when it all happened.
Fortunately for the players and fans, Lathrop’s gym had an extra basketball court on the other side of the court. That is where the game continued for the rest of the first half. At halftime, tournament and facility staff worked for roughly 30 t0 45 minutes to fix the broken rim. Team Fam went on to beat team FNFL by a double-digit score.
Sunday afternoon featured the quarterfinals, semi-finals and championship games in the men’s and women’s brackets. One quarterfinal game featured team “FNFL” and “Ken’s” team in the men’s bracket. It was a tightly contested game throughout with both teams fighting to stay in the tournament. Ken’s team burned team FNFL with their lethal three-point shooting and rebounding while team FNFL looked to attack the basket.
The second half of this game, however, was when things got really interesting. Down by one point with about 10 seconds to go, Ken’s had the ball with a chance to win the game. Then, right as the clock expired, Tom Kreta scored the game-winning lay-up right at the front of the rim. After the game, Kreta talked about his heroic last play.
“We were just waiting for the clock to wind down,” said Kreta. “Then I got the ball from my brother and got the lay-up.”
Unfortunately for Ken’s team, their night wasn’t quite over as they had to play their semi-final game five minutes later against Team Fam who was about to play their second game in one day. Team Fam went on to win and advance to the championship game against “Black Rose”.
Before the men’s championship, however, there was the women’s championship which featured former UAF guard Caitlin Hamsley whose team was playing a team comprised of local high-school players. This was another close game as both teams scrapped just to make a basket. This game did go into overtime, but not without a little controversy.
A player from the high-school team had just gotten fouled and was headed to the free throw line 28-27. She made one of two free throws, which should have forced the game into overtime. The score-keeper, however, made the score 29-28 in favor of the high-school team. For a couple minutes, the people in the gym, were livid with the score-keeper shouting stuff like, “28-27” and “Overtime”. Eventually, the score-keeper got it right and the game proceeded into overtime where Hamsley’s team, “The Best”, won the game and the championship.
The men’s game was between team “Black Rose and Team Fam. This game may have been more exciting than the women’s as it went into double overtime. The play of the game came in the last 20 seconds of the second overtime. Team Fam was down by two points and had just turned the ball over to Black Rose, who took the ball out of bounds along the sideline a few feet behind half-court, with about 15 seconds left. Team Fam then got a deflection after the inbound, saved the ball from going out of bounds, and gave it to Brent Aafedt for the go-ahead three with about 10 seconds left in the game. The final score of the game was 60-58 giving Team Fam the championship.