Kadrice Booth and Edward Jones of Freedom each caused flashbulbs and the crowd in attendance at Hoops Fest XXIII to erupt with excitement during the first round Wednesday night, but the winning dunks came from out of Bounds—Battlefield’s Will Bounds, that is.
Bounds, a 6-7 senior forward, used the height advantage he had on Booth and Jones to convert relatively “safe” dunks in each round of the slam dunk contest at the event, which was held at Woodbridge High School, site of the first Hoops Fest, and raised an estimated $3,000 from ticket sales and also a $300 donation from Wegmans in Woodbridge for the family of Andrie Castro Medrano, a nine-year old student at Old Bridge Elementary. The funds will help Castro Medrano’s family with bills due to his ongoing battle with leukemia.
In the opening round of the slam dunk competition, Jones dunked before both Booth and Bounds and got the Hoops Fest participants off their seats near the sidelines and onto their mobile phones to take videos with one dunk that featured a high pass off the backboard to himself before the dunk (earning a total of 27 from the events three judges), and then two dunks that featured high vertical leaps (each earning a score of 25).
After Hylton’s Marcus Stephens converted some flashy dunks while managing a total score of 73 on his series of three dunks, Booth brought most of the participants and several in the crowd out of their seats with a reverse 360 tomahawk dunk that was one of the few converted in the first round by any of the participants. His final dunk, which involved taking a high bounce off the backboard from a teammate, netted a score of 27 and caused several of his teammates on the court to run and jump around in glee.
Then it was Bounds’ turn. Bounds earned a 24 with a dunk that can best be described as not flashy, but effective, earning him a 24. He bumped up the level of difficulty with his next dunk, bouncing the ball off the wall and back to himself before he dunked it. His last dunk earned him a 27 and guaranteed him a berth in the finals.
In the three-man finals, Bounds went first and converted a fairly safe running dunk before missing on his next two attempts. Still, Bounds scored a total of 55 on his three dunks. Each of the freedom players missed on at least two dunks, which were more creative but less well executed. So in the end, Bounds, who said he only competed after two other teammates dropped out, won the contest.
“I figured I was a senior, so why not go out and have some fun?” Bounds said. “They [Jones and Booth] set the bar high [in the first round], but I knew if I made my dunks, I would have a good chance because there were a lot of misses overall and I am pretty tall compared to them.”
In the other events, two-time defending two-ball champion Brayden Gault of Battlefield fell short in his bid to become the first person ever to win a Hoops Fest event three straight times (albeit with three different partners) as he and his partner Linden Beasley scored a respectable 52 points in the first round, but Patriot’s pairing of Alyssa Bertrand and Drake Marshall scored 66 and Osbourn Park’s Maddie Scarborough and Ethan Wilson totaled 69 to make the finals with Scarborough ensuring a finals berth on a buzzer-beating nine-point shot.
In the finals of the event, Bertrand and Marshall, who shot first, could not find the rhythm they found during the first round, missing several shots from all over the two-ball course before finishing with just 27 points. That took the pressure off Wilson and Scarborough and it appeared to show in their finals round. The pair used their strategy of allowing the freshman Scarborough to take long shots to good effect as she made four nine-point baskets during the finals session. The pairing wrapped up the two-ball title with more than 30 seconds left after Scarborough made her last nine-pointer.
What made the pair’s victory so amazing is that they had not practiced together beforehand. Wilson said the pair had concocted a strategy through texting each other on Snapchat.
“We came in with a game plan of shooting the ball well and that’s what we did,” Wilson said.
“She would shoot the ball long and if she missed, I would get the rebound and put it back up.”
Scarborough said the pair was ready from the beginning.
“I was nervous at first, but once I started shooting, the nerves went away. Ethan was very encouraging and that helped me keep calm,” Scarborough said.
Hylton’s Josie Rodas, who was the area leader in three-point goals this past season, averaging three per game, made the finals by scoring 15 in the first round, while Patriot’s Naomi Hanton and Osbourn Park’s Jo Raflo each tallied 13. In the finals, Rodas outscored both of them by tallying 12, including the first three she shot from the rack near the western baseline.”
Rodas said she shook off the nerves she was feeling at first, which may have been based on her performance at last year’s Hoops Fest where she missed several shots in a row and never really found a rhythm.
“I felt really confident because I knew based on my mistakes [from last year], not to go too fast [when shooting],” Rodas said.
The boys’ three-point competition was perhaps the best overall during the event. In the first round, Christ Chapel’s Evan Makle scored 15 points, while three shooters (Brentsville’s Drew Michak, Osbourn’s Donovan Breeding, and John Paul’s Ryan Wheatley) finished with 14, necessitating a shootoff between the three for the final spot in the finals.
In the shootoff, Michak scored 13, including two racks, where he made three shots each. Breeding scored 12 points, but had just one rack with three made baskets. Then Wheatley scored 14 to make the finals, sinking the money ball on the last shot in the sequence.
Then in the finals, Makle, who shot first, found a rhythm. He made three baskets in each of the first racks, including seven baskets in a row at one point.
“I just started to feel it and the crowd, my friends, family, all of it, just kept me going,” Makle said.
Makle said he was happy to return the three-point crown to Christ Chapel. Stephen Brown, a four-year starter at Bucknell, was a two-time boys’ three-point champion while competing for the Lions, winning the event in both 2011 and 2012.