Not only did a group of high school girls cruise through the women’s elite division at Hoopfest, it dispatched teams loaded with ex-Division I standouts and pros, including defending champion YYC Canada in Sunday’s title round.
Stars and Stripes, a USA Basketball-sponsored team comprised of high-major college recruits from around the country, wasn’t rattled by the sizable Nike Center Court audience or the brawny opposition nearly twice its age.
Three months after winning a U18 3-on-3 national championship, the 16- and 17-year-olds welcomed the challenge.
When Stars and Stripes established a late lead against YYC Canada, a team led by former Gonzaga standout Janelle Bekkering, they were comforted by the crowd’s chant of “USA, USA!” before dispatching the all-Calgary team 20-16.
“This was a fun environment,” said Samantha Brunelle, a Notre Dame commit and the No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class, according to HoopGurlz.com. “And to be able to go up against all of these great ex-college players and professionals, that really gives us a confidence.”
Kim Lee’s 2-pointer gave YYC Canada its last lead before crafty guard Hailey Van Lith of Cashmere, Washington, switched gears for Stars and Stripes.
Dribbling between her legs and behind her back as she drove to the hoop, Van Lith cashed in on a short floater that gave her team a 17-14 lead, and, a couple of possessions later, scored on a put-back.
A strong block inside by 6-foot-4 Aliyah Boston of Stars and Stripes helped her team regain possession, setting up Paige Bueckers’ game-winning layup.
Bueckers, the MVP of the title game, is the seventh-ranked recruit in the 2020 class. Van Lith, the fifth-ranked recruit in the 2020 class, is being recruited by such heralded programs as UConn.
Bekkering was quick to credit the young team.
“They were really good, and I’m sure this experience was great for them,” said Bekkering, who graduated from Gonzaga in 2011. “They could do a lot of things and are only going to get better. But I thought we competed well. To make it the final again was great.”
A boys Stars and Stripes team also played at Hoopfest, winning the elite high school boys division. Carson McCorkle, a five-star sophomore, was on the team.
McCorkle, a 6-foot-2 guard from Raleigh, North Carolina, reportedly took an unofficial visit to Gonzaga over the weekend.
Former Eastern Washington and Gonzaga Prep sharpshooter Parker Kelly did it again.
A year ago, Kelly scored 11 of his team’s points to help Lee & Hayes win the elite 6-foot-and-over championship, using the touch that helped EWU reach the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
In a 20-12 championship win over Spokane Rotary Club 21 on Sunday, Kelly scored 10 points, most of them in a short stretch that ultimately put away a team that featured former EWU big man Matt Brunell.
Lee & Hayes led 8-6 before Kelly scored seven of team’s next nine points, hitting 2-pointers and each of his free-throw attempts.
“When you win (the elite title) a second time, you’re more appreciative of what it takes to win this whole thing,” Kelly said.
“I give a lot of credit to my teammates. They were just trying to find me.”
Kelly was teamed up with former EWU great Marc Axton, ex-Gonzaga wing Mike Hart and Robert Lippman, a 6-foot-8 post who played at NCAA Division II Northwest Nazarene. Like last year, Axton hit a late 2-pointer that that helped put away his team’s opponent.
Rotary Club 21 featured Brunell, Michael Weisner (Montana), Curtis Carlson (Point Loma) and Colton Arias (Walla Walla CC).
His team trailing 19-18, Darrell Murphy stepped to the line and knocked down a pair of free throws, giving Pay Up a men’s 6-foot-and-under elite Hoopfest title.
In a game that had over 20 fouls, Murphy’s shots at the stripe answered two free throws from Need A Detail, which nearly clipped Murphy’s squad.
“It was very physical. Very demanding.” said Murphy, who played at North Seattle CC. “It was hard, but we fought, and took it home. We’ve been trying for about three or four years, and we did it.”
Murphy, 30, was teamed up ex-college players Brian Johnson (Seattle University), Mike Johnson (Western Washington) and Kwame Bates (North Idaho).
Led by Mt. Spokane products Matt and Michael Dorr, BAMM repeated as elite coed division champs, defeating Rez Renegades 20-14.
Former Eastern Washington guard Brianne Ryan, who played at Hoopfest alongside her brother, Andrew Ryan, hit a key 2-pointer that helped her squad pull away.
The Dorr brothers played at the University of San Diego and Carroll College, respectively. Andrew Ryan played at Campbell University.
The Rez Renegades featured former Lapwai and Eastern Washington guard Tisha Phillips. Tucker Louie-McGee, a former Lake City High and Idaho State football player, was also on the team.
Isaiah Edwards breezed through the opening round of Hoopfest’s slam dunk contest, saving his best for the title round Sunday.
Edwards, 21, elevated, grabbed the ball off the back of a participant, and jammed it home, electrifying the Nike Center Court crowd and defending his 2017 crown.
For an encore, Edwards tried to dunk over the back of contest judge but the ball sprung out from the rim.
“To win this twice, it’s pretty cool,” said Edwards, from Albany, Oregon. “I love coming back here for this.”
Edwards, a 6-foot-5 guard, played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Western Oregon University.