July 30, 2018
By John Finn
Wooster Daily Record
What some call the “purest form of basketball” was on display from after dawn to just after dusk on Saturday at Dalton’s Village Green Park, where 180 players, ages 8 to 45, turned out for the 13th annual Dawg Days 3 on 3 basketball tournament.
“It’s non-stop, physical basketball with great competition,” said Tim Vandervaart, whose Canton Ballers successfully defended their title in the Top Dawg Division for the third year in a row and pocketed the $2,000 first-place prize. “There’s a lot of strategy, and matchups are huge. You can’t have a weak link.”
Former Triway High School standout Morgan Wenger, who now lives in Dalton, started the tournament and continues as its director. “Every year, there is more and more interest,” he said. “This year we had 45 teams, the most we’ve ever had.”
Play began at 9 a.m. and did not conclude until just after 9 p.m. Saturday evening. The first team to reach 30 points, or the team that was ahead after 25 minutes — whichever came first — was declared the winner in each game.
In the girls competition, NEO Swish-1 (Ella Lunsford, Ella McMillen, Cameryn Wickens, Lacey Walters) won the 8th Grade Division by defeating NEO Swish-2, 24-18, while the Warriors (Ashley Mullet, Abby Hewitt, Naomi Keib, Alyssa Geiser), beat the North Canton Streaks 30-15 in the 7th-grade girls division.
“Experiences like these in the summer are invaluable,” said new Waynedale girls coach Rick Geiser. “It helps the players to adjust to different situations and battle through the outdoor conditions (sun, heat, wind, etc.), which is not always easy. It also gives them more chances to play and more chances to succeed.”
In the boys competition, OPA (Mandwel Patterson, David Thompson, Cameron Carl, Hunter Hershberger), beat a team from Norwayne in the Puppy Division, and Grizzly 4 (with Matthew Fahey, Sullivan Chadbourne, Callaghan Corell, Alex Innocenti) edged Soup-A-Star in the Biddy Boys Division.
In the Junior Division, Norwayne (Braden West, Parker Metsker, Connor Preattle Dylan Smith) captured the title by beating the Panthers, while in the 8th-Grade Division, the Bobcat Ballers (Roman Portis, Jake Gill, Justin Rupp, Elijah Stanley) claimed the championship by beating the Bulls.
In the Young Bucks Boys Division, the Shooting Stars (Javar Simpson, Jared Frey, Michael Bova, Jalen Wenger) came out on top by beating the Big Ballers in the finals. Those four players then turned right around and competed in the High School Division, where they finished second to Waynedale (Derek Reber, Zach Geiser, Chase Murphy, Mason Higgins).
“It was pretty tiring, but it was great competition,” said Jalen Wenger, a rising freshman at Dalton and a member of the Shooting Stars. As to why they were able to win their division and finish second at the next level, he said, “we had a lot of scorers, we played well together, and we held our own on defense.”
In the climactic Top Dawg Division, Vandervaart’s Canton Ballers (which also included Angelo Edwards, Mario Edwards and Evan Pannell) took two of three games from OAC (which consisted of Jarrett Ruffin, DeAllen Jackson, Malik Billingsly and Josh Keyes) to capture the title.
One of the most competitive games occurred earlier in the day when Waynedale edged the Sauce Gawds (with Triway’s Bryce Biggs, Channer Wells and David Nolen), 29-27, in a game that was decided after regulation time had expired.
“This (tournament) gives us a chance to play together and build for the coming season,” said Reber, a rising senior at Waynedale. For Murphy, also a rising senior, it was a chance to work on his defense and refine his shot; for Geiser, a rising sophomore who started as a freshman, the focus was on “sharing the ball,” and for Higgins, a rising junior who hopes to break into the starting lineup, it was about “finishing around the rim.”
Biggs viewed the tournament as an opportunity to work on conditioning and ball skills while competing against quality opponents. “It helps you to work on your one-on-one game and spread the floor,” he said. “It’s also a lot of fun.”
Not all the stars competed on Saturday. Many were there just to watch, including former Norwayne High School and College of Wooster standout Mark Stanley, who was there to see his son, Elijah, play. “This is one of the best tournaments around,” said Stanley, who along with former Fighting Scot stars Erich Riebe and Doug Cline played in a lot of 3-on-3 tournaments in their day.
“There’s no cheating in 3-on-3,” he said. “You have to play every possession, and you have to be able to play a complete game — scoring, rebounding and defending.”
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