Vineyarders and visitors alike gathered at Niantic Park on Saturday to take part in the ninth annual Vineyard Streetball Classic. The double-elimination basketball tournament for preteens and teens featured, as is tradition, three-on-three half-court ball. As part of the classic’s ongoing evolution, new traditions, including a free throw contest, were also added to the day’s activities.
The Vineyard Streetball Classic was founded by Omar Daniel in 2002 as a fund-raising effort to repair the cracked asphalt courts at Niantic Park. Mr. Daniel also hopes to encourage physical fitness and overall wellness by promoting the tournament, which has grown each year since its inception. Saturday’s classic drew 90 participants, a 30-player increase over last year. Five teams represented the 10 to 12-year-olds, while three teams played in the 13 to 14-year-old division. Ten teams took to the courts in the 15 to 18-year-old division.
The greater number of players meant that, for the first time, play spilled off the basketball court itself and onto one of the tennis courts at Niantic. The 10 to 12-year-old division played their games on one side of the court, while regular tennis play continued on the other (a mesh net divided the court to prevent cross-pollination of the sports).
“If we get bigger,” said Mr. Daniel with a laugh, “we’ll have to move to Waban [Park].”
Despite the change in locale, the 10 to 12-year-olds showed no signs that they were in a less traditional setting. Games were fast and intense, with the quarterfinal match between teams Google and Daemen College (in another new tweak in the classic, individual teams were sponsored by different organizations, as opposed to having one sponsor for the entire tournament) going into triple overtime. Google finally took the victory, leading team member Mason Wayne to declare his team the “best search engine ever!”
“We didn’t come all the way here—on vacation—to lose in triple overtime,” added teammate Jonathan Grigull, who was visiting from London. Like many teams in the tournament, Google was composed of players who had not played together—or met one another—before the classic.
While adapting to play with new teammates was not often an issue, it didn’t hurt to be familiar with one’s fellow players, as evidenced by Google’s defeat in the next round by Above the Influence. The only all-girl team in the tournament, two of Above the Influence’s players, Mya Houston and Erin Hill, had been teammates since fourth grade. Along with their fellow players, Whitney Schroeder and Samantha Hargy, the two were also part of the Vineyard’s seventh grade travel team. Team Above the Influence took down Google 9-1.
After reaching the final game, however, the girls lost to undefeated Brown University, a team with more than a few Streetball veterans on it, in overtime.
Asked how Brown had pulled off the win, team member Doug DeBettencourt summed up the classic’s underlying philosophy by explaining simply, “We worked hard together.”