A record number of basketball teams migrated into Hastings over the weekend to battle for area bragging rights and cash prizes at the 33rd annual Whoopers and Hoopers Basketball Tournament Friday through Sunday at area gyms.
Organized by the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, the hoops extravaganza drew a record-setting 144 teams this year to take in the weekend festivities, which included a team party Saturday night, along with the three-point shooting and slam dunk contests.
Mikki Shafer, tournament director, said that for those who came to watch the games, there was plenty of good basketball to be found. Teams of various levels boasting players from area colleges and even former professional players battled through the weekend in high hopes of reaching the coveted finals Sunday evening.
On Saturday, several of the basketball games extended into overtime periods, an indicator that competition was both fierce and evenly matched, Shafer said.
“It’s good when you have the teams that are that equal,” she said. “It makes for some really good games. For those who were coming to watch some good basketball, they definitely got their money’s worth.”
Two-time slam dunk contest champion Michael Wilkins of Omaha was back on the first-place pedestal this season after finishing third last year. The 6-foot-1 champion scored a decisive victory in the contest, besting second-place finisher and teammate Traviz Castillo by 16 points, 46-30. Kenny Brazidl finished third with 23 points.
Though his team, “Team Turn Up,” was eliminated from the tournament in the second round of Division B play earlier in the day, Wilkins was all smiles as he anticipated joining his teammates at the team party at City Auditorium.
“I’m finally 21 this year, so this is the first time I get to enjoy the party with the grown-ups now,” he said.
His strategy for winning the slam dunk contest has remained constant each year, Wilkins said.
“The other day we were having a conversation about what you grade dunking on,” he said. “It’s about strength and it’s about style. In the dunk contest, you want to get the best of both worlds in.
“I just focused on getting it down, firstly, and then trying to figure out a trick to do.”
In the 3-point shoot-out, Shayla Patterson bested a field of five competitors on the women’s side to win the contest, connecting on six shots in the championship round. Tying for second were Debi Smith, Hannah Smith and Nichole Grutorad.
On the men’s side, Jason Addemen gunned his way into first place by sinking 10 shots in the final round. Akeem Moussah was second with eight 3s in the 30-shooter competition, while Kyle Hamburger took third with five.
For the community, the event meant extra people in town to do business. From area restaurants to hotels and other specialty stores across town, the extra traffic was indeed a welcome boon. Even area churches were impacted by increased numbers at Sunday services.
Dave Worrell, who co-owns Kopz ‘n Konz Tattoos and Piercing Studio in Hastings, served as a volunteer official during the 3-point shooting contest. It was his sixth straight year helping out at the event.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “There are a couple of big events that happen in Hastings, and just like Kool-Aid Days, Whoopers is one of them. It’s just good all around for the community.
“For all the businesses, we get a lot of exposure. It brings a lot of money into town. We get busy.”
Winners in the slam dunk and 3-point contests took home $100 each, with $50 for second place and $25 for third.
Per usual, there was little drama connected to the tournament, save that which played out competitively on the courts, Shafer said. Players — especially those in the elite divisions — seem to revel in the atmosphere that allows them to focus on the sport they love for an entire weekend.
“For a lot of the players, this is about being able to get together with their friends, get away from normal life and come and have a good time,” she said.