Hoopfest 2017 began with smoke and flashing lights as the second annual ALUMNI GAME presented by Spokane Hoopfest tipped off The Best Basketball Weekend on Earth underway on Friday night.
A crowd of 2,000 fans packed the Spokane Convention Center exhibit halls to root on teams of former Gonzaga University and University of Washington. The game was the unofficial continuation of the recently renewed rivalry between the intrastate schools.
The Huskies kept this one close, providing fans a competitive game. The final score was 112-106 in favor of the Bulldogs, but the final result isn’t all that THE ALUMNI GAME is about.
“Really, really happy,” said Spokane Hoopfest Executive Director Matt Santangelo about THE ALUMNI GAME. “It was competitive. I’m just so happy that all of the guys had a good time, because they are taking time out of their schedules and lives to come and do this. It’s fun to see them feel the Hoopfest love. You look around and everyone seemed to be having a good time, so I think we pulled it off!”
But it wasn’t just THE ALUMNI GAME that was a hit with Hoopfesters big and small.
FANFEST presented by Washington Trust Bank was packed with kids throughout the night and featured bouncy houses, face painting and a jumbo Connect Four. For the adults, there was a variety of local craft beers available at HOPFEST presented by Hoopfest.
During halftime of THE ALUMNI GAME, a 3-point contest between the schools ended in a win for Justin Dentmon and the Huskies, but not before two overtime rounds against last year’s winner, Steven Gray.
An equally exciting outcome came at the conclusion of that contest, when Gray had three chances to drain a halfcourt shot to earn $2,000 for a lucky fan as part of The Basketball Tournament (TBT). Amme Paluck was one of the winners in TBT’s Bracket Challenge in 2016. For her prize, she selected the chance to have anyone take a half court shot for $2,000 for her. Gray stepped up for his first attempt and nailed it off the backboard for the money. Watch the Facebook Live video to see the crowd and players go wild!
Donald Watts, captain of the Huskies team, has been to eight or nine Hoopfests, but said this Hoopfest ALUMNI GAME experience is new to him. It was his job to gather other Huskies to come play.
“I think that now that they [other Huskies] have come, they are going to come back,” Watts said. While UW didn’t get the win, Watts still enjoyed his time. “It would have been nice to get the win, but that isn’t the point (of it),” he said.
Former GU center Robert Sacre, who was named MVP of THE ALUMNI GAME, wasn’t prepared for the fast-paced, competitive nature of the game, as he was only a spectator last year.
“I just wanted to come out here, go up and down [the court], get a little sweat, but then it got competitive,” Sacre said. “That’s what happens at the end of the day between two competitive teams.”
Sacre said he is excited for the future of THE ALUMNI GAME and hopes it continues to grow.
At the end of the night, Sacre had this to say: “It was a really fun event and I think we should put it on next year because I think it is going to get bigger and bigger.”
Thanks to everyone who came out to witness an intrastate rivalry renewed at THE ALUMNI GAME! The competitive game tipped off the Best Basketball Weekend on Earth for 2017. See photos here.