Sterling hosts hoops tourney

Photo by GREG SKINNER/Peninsula Clarion Mekhai Rich (12) reaches in on Elijah Wackler (11) during the inaugural 3 on e Basketball Tournament at the Sterling Community Center Saturday afternoon. Rich's team won the first round 28-19.

Spectators at the inaugural Sterling 3-on-3 basketball tournament got a glimpse of the future and a blast from the past all in the same event Saturday at the Sterling Community Center.


Seven teams paid a $30 entry fee to participate in the tournament with four teams competing in the adult bracket and three teams vying for bragging rights in the youth division. Teams played 20-minute games in a double-elimination format to determine a champion to claim the $50 prize.

Sterling Community Center Board President Bob Oakes said the hoops tournament was the first sporting event the SCC has hosted since the $1.3 million dollar facility was made open to the public six months ago. Oakes said the board spent $8,000 on two regulation basketball hoops bolted to the wall, which replaced two backyard hoops. They also installed a multi-sport scoreboard and have plans to host more sporting events like volleyball and indoor soccer in the gym.

“It took us three days to put the first hoop up,” Oakes said. “The other basket only took three hours. We are all figuring this stuff out together.”

On Saturday, two sixth-grade teams named Spider Monkeys and Revolt, showed great poise and determination in their games against a trio of ninth graders, but the freshmen team of Ryan Boyer, Mathew Daugherty and Kyle Winkler named Sterling Boys, played to their advantage and won all three games in the youth bracket.

The adult bracket featured several close contests coming down to the last basket. In the end, the tournament championship came down to Team Chad versus Team Derrick, two teams comprised of five former Skyview High players and one graduate from Soldotna High.

Derrick defeated Chad 29-24 in the opener then advanced to the finals following a 35-21 win over Team Hoose Horns. Chad won their next two games in the loser’s bracket to set up the finale and avenged their first loss with a 36-30 win.

A champion could not be decided in the final since both teams lost to each other once, so the players, wary from 60 minutes of intense action, decided a winner with a three-point shootout. Team Chad, made up of Chad Oakes, Jake Bauer and Buck Coons won the shootout 6-1 to win the 1st annual Sterling 3-on-3 Tournament.

Bauer, who his teammates declared as the tournament MVP, said the group of friends enjoyed being a part of the event.

“Our good friends put this building together and we wanted to come and support the community doing something fun,” he said. “It was good to get out and do something like this. Hopefully we can have more great events here.”

Tournament organizer Melissa Daugherty echoed the sentiments of Oakes, who said the timing of the tournament was convenient with their kids back home for the holidays. Oakes’ son, Chad, graduated from Skyview in 2010.

“It was cool to see the old teams back together from their Skyview days,” Daugherty said. “Our kids had fun and maybe they will come back and bring their friends.”

Daugherty had two sons play in the tournament, Matthew, a freshman, and Mitchell, who graduated from SoHi last year and is now going to college in Florida.

Daugherty said the event could not have gone as smoothly without the help of volunteers. Some parents pumped up basketballs, worked as referees and ran the scoreboard, she said. Even Daugherty’s mother provided food with enough hot dogs and water for everyone involved.

Steve Harshman, pastor at Abundant Life church off the Sterling Highway, played on a team with his three sons, Josh, Caleb and Judah. Harshman said the toughest team had to be Hoose Horns, made up of two middle school students and their uncle.

Hoose Horns beat Harsh Dog 43-42 in the highest scoring game of the tournament, before losing a 34-33 to Team Chad. Hoose Horns overcame a 19-11 halftime deficit with three straight three-pointers from Nick Horning, an 8th grader at Soldotna Middle School that gave them a one point lead. From there the game went back and forth until the team’s uncle Will Von Hoose missed a last second shot.

Harshman, who is a regular at the SCC open gym, said the tournament went better than he anticipated.

“We got a great response from the community,” he said. “It was nice to play here after all the improvements made to the facility.”

The SCC also has plans to put up a digital sign by the highway to inform residents of future events and is working towards creating a bike and ski path that would run between the Sterling fire department to the Sterling Elementary School next to the community center.

Membership fees help pay for the facility utilities, Oakes said. He said the board members have been surprised with the amount of income from members in the short amount of time. Anybody can become a member and he said the more support they have the more they can do for the community.

“It’s going to take time but it’s all coming together we are renting it for a lot of events,” Oakes said. “We are doing pretty good being open just six months. I’m happy with what we have accomplished so far.”


Dan Balmer can be reached at