Happy birthday, Sweet Sixteen.

That song came to fruition Thursday night at Hoops Fest 20 when Woodbridge sophomore Hanna Oliver celebrated her milestone birthday by successfully defending her three-point title, scoring 15 points in the final round, while making her final two shots, including the two-point ball at the buzzer.

  • For a photo gallery from Hoops Fest 20, click here

The annual charitable event, held this year at Potomac High School and sponsored by Prince William Today, InsideNoVa.com and Northern Virginia Community College, raised over $9,000 through ticket sales and a generous anonymous donation for the family of 1-year-old Isla Lucks. Isla has been diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma and the money will go to help defray medical costs. 

Stonewall Jackson’s Alyssa Sweeney and Freedom’s Elizabeth Glassen gave Oliver a run for the money by initially forcing her into a three-way tie during the preliminary round. Had Oliver not drained her last shot at the buzzer to tally her 11th point, she would have been eliminated.

In the finals, Glassen shot first and made her initial attempt from the left baseline, moved to the right of the circles and made three in a row from there, before making five shots from the right baseline, including the two-ball at the buzzer to finish with 11 points.

Sweeney shot next and made her first shot from each one of the five spots in the contest and sank her final two shots from the left baseline, including her last shot, to finish with 12 points.

Oliver, the county’s top female three-pointer shooter this season with 71 in averaging 2.7 a game, missed her first two before making three from the right baseline, two from the right of the circles, two from the top of the circle, one from the left baseline, three from the left corner of the arc, and two from the right baseline to clinch the title with 15 points.

Oliver attributed the slow start in the finals to a bit of nerves, but said finding a rhythm was important.

“Repetition helped me work out the nerves,” Oliver said. “I’m used to getting a lot of shots up, so that helped. But in the second round it made me a bit tired.”

Some of the nerves Oliver felt may have come from being the defending champion, she said, and some came from the strong performances of Sweeney and Glassen.

“It was an advantage to go last [in the finals] because I knew what I needed to get,” Oliver said, adding that her performance in last year’s Hoops Fest gave her confidence entering this season and in this year’s three-point contest.

It was a good night for small schools, including private schools, to put on a show for the enthusiastic fans that packed the gym, as Evangel Christian’s Cameron Robinson (boys’ three-point contest) and Adam Serrano (slam dunk) each reached event finals, while John Paul’s Brandon Edmond won the three-point contest and Brentsville’s team of Ada Stanley and Ryan Rivenburg took the two-ball competition.

Hylton’s Silas Dzansi won a slam-dunk competition that lacked much of the flair and creativity that has been the hallmark of previous Hoops Fests, but still provided a few thrills for the screaming fans.

In the boys’ three-point contest, defending champion James West IV made just one shot in the preliminaries while failing to qualify for the finals. Several shooters scored in double figures in the contest, including Patriot’s Garrett Cook (11 points), Woodbridge’s Ryan Tatum (14), and Battlefield’s Myles Jones, Osbourn Park’s Hayes Bretzke and Osbourn’s Justin Vargo, who each scored 12.

But Robinson and Edmond each scored 16 to qualify for the finals. Edmond went first in the finals and put on a dazzling show, scoring three points from the left baseline and two from the right side of the circle before finding his zone at the top of the key, where he made four of the five shots in the rack.

He finished the marvelous shooting spree by scoring three points each from the left of the circle and three from the left baseline to finish with 19 points. With the pressure seemingly on, Robinson missed four of his first five shots before scoring just 11 points as Edmond took the title.

“Once you get that touch and your ball starts going through, you just have to continue to find that shot,” Robinson said of his strategy that included shooting quickly.

“I had lots of practice [shooting threes for about an hour a day every day during the past week], so that was the key to shooting so quickly,” Edmond said. “The pressure got to me a little bit. That’s why I missed a few in the first round. Cam Robinson is a great shooter, so he definitely put the pressure on me.”

The Brentsville pairing could not have felt much pressure because they had never practiced together before the two-ball competition. Rivenburg said he and Stanley had not played together since attending a basketball camp last summer.

Stanley said the pair’s strategy was to start by trying the short shots to get early points, then shooting from longer range.

“We strategized that we would go low and then go high. By talking about it before hand, it worked out well,” Stanley said.

Rivenburg also took part in the three-point contest, a factor he said was important because he was already warmed up from long range.

“She started out with the short layup. I started out with the free throw,” Rivenburg said. “Then we just tried to hit from all our spots.”

While the pair may have been pressured a bit in the preliminaries, with Freedom’s Kiani Cook and Frank Agyemang combining to score 48 points, including three nine-pointers, there was no such pressure in the finals.

Cook and Agyemang had difficulty finding a rhythm and finished with 15 points. So when Stanley made a nine-pointer that clinched the title, the pair decided to have fun with the final 30 seconds and added 31 points in the final 30-plus seconds.

Dzansi, competing sixth in the preliminaries, made the first dunks that brought the crowd out of its collective seats, executing a reverse tomahawk dunk that netted 10s from each of the competition’s three judges—former Gar-Field principal Roger Dallek, and two former activities directors at Potomac, Jim Qualls and Frank Higgins.

After missing on his next dunk and scoring just 14, Dzansi pulled off what was perhaps the most exciting dunk of the night, a reverse tomahawk dunk preceded by a 180-degree turn.

Serrano got style points by executing a Statue of Liberty-type dunk, taking the ball from a teammate’s hands while leaping over him and throwing it down. Serrano then executed a tomahawk jam of his own while sending the basketball bouncing toward the judges’ table. Potomac’s Josh Chukwu, the crowd favorite in many ways, took a toss from Potomac assistant coach Chad Anderson and threw down a dunk on his first attempt, missed his next attempt while scoring a 13, before executing a reverse dunk that netted him a space in the finals.

Dzansi scored a total of 85 points on three dunks, exhibiting consistency unmatched by any other competitor. Chukwu struggled to bounce the ball high off the backboard before dunking on his first two attempts, but finished with a brilliant reverse tomahawk that netted a perfect score.

Serrano put together three good dunks, but none was as impressive or powerful as Dzansi’s, and that made the difference.

“I didn’t expect it [winning]. In fact, I didn’t even think I would make the finals,” Dzansi said. “I really just wanted to show everybody that big men really can jump, too.”

Dzansi, listed at 6-5, 260, threw the ball up high off the backboard while earning a 28 on his first finals attempt. Then he leaped high to jam a basic throw down home on his second attempt before bringing the crowd to its feet with a brilliant reverse dunk on his last attempt.

“I only practiced for about 10 minutes before tonight,” Dzansi said. “I’ve practiced dunking a lot of times over the years and it came in handy.”

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