Bellingham players win third consecutive Hoopfest title

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 4, 2013 

Six teams trudged off the smoldering blacktop at Spokane's nationally renowned 3-on-3 basketball tournament mumbling the same question over and over: "Did we really just lose to a group of dads?"

And for each team, the answer was the same resounding "Yes."

Larry Fenner, Reggie Powell and Brandon Powell of Bellingham won their third consecutive 6-foot-and-over Competitive group basketball title at Hoopfest on June 30, kids in tow. Hoopfest is the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world, bringing together 7,000 teams and nearly 3,000 volunteers over the two-day long tournament.

With thousands of basketball players descending on this tournament, all with aspirations of winning, three dads in their thirties shouldn't stand a chance.

Clearly, Fenner and the Powell brothers don't subscribe to that school of logic.

"They're cocky, but we got experience," Fenner said in a phone interview.

The three, equipped with more guile than raw athleticism more fitting of a 22-year-old, had little trouble through their first five games. None of which were really close, Fenner said.

The championship game was of a different make and model.

After a few early games, the 92-degree weather was beating down on them like a unrelenting force, and the game itself was tempting the 30-minute time limit. The game was tied at 19 apiece, and Fenner had the ball and the chance to win it with just a few seconds left.

"Usually there is that moment of suspense," Fenner said of watching the ball drift toward the rim, "and for me, it wasn't. I wasn't even paying attention to the clock.

"I just wanted to take that shot. I didn't feel the pressure or anything... I just took the shot."

It sealed the fourth time this team had won their grouping at Hoopfest, and the third time in a row.

Fenner chalks it up to 15 years experience of playing together, knowing where each other will be and knowing what each other is good at.

It was 15 years ago that Fenner and the Powell brothers first met at Bloedel Donovan Park. As one might imagine, a pick-up basketball game ensued.

"Brandon was a tall, skinny guy at the time," Fenner recalled. "He was younger then us, and I just remember him having a really dirty face. And then there was Reggie. He just had his first kid, and he was pushing a stroller. And then me. I had my braces, and we started playing."

What started as a serendipitous meeting between the three grew into a daily ritual.

"When we all linked up, it was like an every-day thing," he said. "That's what we would do. We would play basketball every single day. Take the kids with us and just go.

"They're like my family now... like brothers."

While past successes notwithstanding, Fenner and his teammates still questioned whether they could come back and repeat as champions given, well, father time and all. That, and the body just doesn't do what it used to.

"Ah, man, we don't know if we can compete anymore," he said. "These guys have six packs and everything, and everyone is in shape. Not that we're in bad shape, but they're in really good shape.

"When you hit 30, things just start changing."

Apparently age isn't synonemous with losing, though.

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