That time of year, when your 3-on-3 basketball team can be family, friends — or in the case of some, a group of players you threw together the night before — but with the same common goal, winning your bracket.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
After playing in 21 of the previous 22 Hoopfest events, Coeur d’Alene native Todd Butler wasn’t going to let a wedding get in the way of making it to 22 out of 23.
“I started with a guy in Spokane when I worked in town,” Todd said. “This year, he had a son getting married, so our team fell apart.”
All that Butler needed to do was look around his living room to find his teammates this year.
“This was the first time I said, ‘let’s do a family team this year,’” Todd said.
He was joined by daughters Sydney (a 2011 Lake City graduate) and Jansen (a 2012 Lake City graduate), and son Duncan, who is an eighth-grader.
“I love it,” Todd said. “We’ve never played together in this, so we just decided to do it.”
Jansen signed a letter of intent to play basketball at North Idaho College earlier this spring.
“I asked my coach (Chris Carlson) if it was OK,” Jansen said. “He didn’t recommend it, so I’ve got to be careful.”
“He didn’t recommend it,” Sydney said. “But we encouraged her to do it.”
Sydney, who moved on to the University of Idaho, has been working out with the Vandal women’s basketball team and may attempt to walk on in the fall.
“I haven’t completely lost contact with them,” Sydney said. “I’m probably going to play a bit with them next year and see how it goes before making a decision.”
Duncan also played on BoyztoMen, which went 0-2 on the first day in a middle school boys bracket.
“It’s really fun,” Duncan said. “It’s going to be tiring, but worth it to get to play with my family.”
The Butler Family won its first game on Saturday against Roop Group of Sandpoint, before losing its second game. The Butlers defeated Ball N Is Life in a loser-out game to continue on in the winner’s bracket.
“It’s actually going to be fun to all play together,” Jansen said. “We’ll see what happens.”
BACK FOR MORE
After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, medial meniscus and lateral meniscus in her right knee during a volleyball match in 2010, it appeared Priest River High standout Melissa Hopkins was done playing in Hoopfest — not to mention any other sport.
On Saturday, Hopkins returned to the streets of Spokane, along with teammates Marah Ashcraft of Kellogg, as well as Paige Kelly and Lexi Turkenburg of Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy.
Kelly and Turkenburg were last-minute additions after two other teammates backed out at the last minute.
“That’s who my friends are,” Hopkins said. “Everyone else already had teams, so we went with this group.”
Hopkins final high school basketball game was against Ashcraft’s Kellogg Wildcats in the state 3A championship game in 2010, won by Priest River.
“I think it’s fun,” said Hopkins of playing with Ashcraft. “We don’t really care about the rivalry.”
Hopkins had signed to play basketball at Lewis-Clark State College out of high school, and was cleared to play this past season, but elected in November to leave the program.
“I decided to walk away from it and I’m on to Boise State now,” Hopkins said. “I coach a club volleyball team in Boise and just have other stuff going on, so I’m done playing college basketball for now. I just decided I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
Ashcraft is playing in her first Hoopfest, but played with Hopkins a few years ago at Silver Hoops in Kellogg.
“I think it’s fun,” Ashcraft said. “We played in Silver Hoops before our junior year and we won, so hopefully it can happen again. I’m glad I’m playing with her for my first time here.”
Hopkins also suffered a dislocated right shoulder when she hurt her knee, but that injury was not diagnosed until recently. Her shoulder will also require surgery.
“Hopefully I’ll stay healthy and we win some games,” she said of Hoopfest.
They won their first game, lost a second game and defeated Our Feet Hurt to advance to a loser-out game this morning at 8:30 a.m. against Love and Basketball.
BULLDOGS BITE BACK
The Sandpoint Bulldogs, a high school boys team comprised of four sophomores, went 2-0 on Saturday to continue in the winner’s bracket later today.
“We’re all friends and play basketball and soccer together,” Jeremiah Gagnon said.
After defeating the Hydrating Buffalos in their opener, the Bulldogs knocked off Bedwell in the second round.
“I think it’s our chemistry on the court that’s helped us,” Joab Logan said. “We’ve got a lot of creativity and each of us works well together.”
Matthew Burgstahler runs cross country and track in addition to playing basketball.
“It definitely helps to run a lot for this tournament,” Burgstahler said. “Hopefully it should show in the later games.”
With the prospects of two-hour drive ahead of them after finishing Saturday’s games, the team decided to camp in Spokane instead of traveling home.
“We wanted to win two and barbecue,” Gagnon said. “We’ve got to camp because we’re two hours away. We want to relax later instead of playing again.”
It was a first for Kellogg’s Sarah McDonald.
And first time playing with a group of players, Samantha Woody, Jordan Browning and Emily Nelson from nearby Wallace. All four will be juniors in the fall.
“I like it,” Sarah McDonald said. “We won our first game, so it was pretty good.”
They lost their second game, but bounced back to defeat Oriental Express in a loser-out game to move onto another loser-out game against Fat Lady Sings this morning.
McDonald joined three Wallace varsity players, Samantha Woody, Emily Nelson and Jordan Browning on “Finish Strong,” a tribute to former Wallace coach Kirby Krulitz.
“He’s the reason I came to Wallace,” Woody said. “He always had an open mindset about everything. He was always positive and kept us positive and going strong.”
Nelson played on a coed team that paid tribute to Krulitz in last year’s tournament.
“We’re going to do it every year,” Nelson said. “We just wanted to do it for him and keep him in our hearts.”
The tournament concludes today with games starting at 8 p.m. on all courts and concluding with the Elite Championship games on Nike Center Court in Riverfront Park.