After two days of play in 56 divisions -- including Couch Potato, Wheelchair and All Over 40 -- the finals of Baltimore's Hoop It Up tournament were held yesterday in Parking Lot C of Oriole Park at Camden Yards between a giant sneaker and a parked trailer.
With a large crowd cheering them on, Villa Maria and Footlocker Three won the men's and women's titles in the most competitive division -- Top Gun -- and earned trips to the 3-on-3 tournament's regional finals in Washington.
Playground rules governed all the games. Games were played to 16, and a team had to win by two.
A 30-minute time limit was imposed on the semifinals and finals, but Villa Maria didn't need it in the men's final. Villa Maria, 8-1 over the two days, defeated The Streetballers I, 16-9. A team total of seven two-point jumpers built a steady lead for Villa Maria. Jeff Robinson, Villa Maria's leading scorer with seven, hit the first two-pointer to tie the game, 3-3. Marty Johnson (Towson State) made back-to-back jumpers to give Villa Maria a 7-3 lead. Robinson and Johnson lead the team's two-point assault with three each. Mike Dukes and Charles White rounded out Villa Maria's roster.
"We really don't have a post player," said Robinson, who played at Siena College in New York. "I'm 6-6, but I've played point guard my whole life. Our outside game carried us thorough this whole tournament so we stuck with it."
Footlocker Three, 5-0 for the tournament, defeated Leithwalk A, 7-3, in the women's final. Angela Jones (UMBC '89) led Footlocker Three with four points and five rebounds. After a slow start, Jones' corner shot gave her team a 4-3 lead. She added a finger roll layup with six minutes remaining for a 5-3 advantage. Teammate Angel Webb (UMBC '92) hit a fade away jump shot with 4 minutes to play before Jones made a layup for the final basket. Jones and Webb were joined by Karen Smith and Cynthia Dorsey in the Footlocker Three lineup.
"[Leithwalk A] played a strong physical game both times," said Jones. "When you play like they did, you live and die by the outside game. We just wore them down."
Hoop It Up started in June 1986 as "Hoop D-Do" in Dallas, with a field of 450 four-man teams. Now, Hoop It Up tours 40 U.S. cities with one overseas stop, Zaragoza, Spain, and boasted 70,000 players in 1991.
If Villa Maria and Footlocker Three win the regional, they will compete in the International Championships in November in Dallas. In addition to the finals, the 1992 Hoop It Up champions will face a team of yet-to-be-named NBA legends.
This year, Baltimore more than doubled last year's 311-team showing. Event director Michael Neuman attributed it to word of mouth spreading about this NBA-sanctioned, grass-roots level event.
In addition to players and fans, former NBA player Charlie Scott and rapper Jesse Jaymes were on hand.