Downpour dampens fire for Juneteenth city hoops tourney

By A Contributor

Rain Saturday afternoon put a serious crimp in efforts by the Juneteenth organizing committee to stage a three-on-three basketball tournament at City Park.

The tournament, one of the central events of the planned Friday-Saturday festival, was expected to feature eight teams, according to Jonathan Anderson, tournament coordinator. But with the rain falling shortly before 1 p.m., only one of those teams showed to play in the 18 and over age group. That team was “representing” Job Corps.

Three of the players, Mario Baldwin, Ezra Hill and Keymiy Johnson were students at Job Corps. The fourth member, Jarred Rainer, graduated last year and was hired as manager at the Fairfield Inn in Manhattan. Hill said this was the first time for Baldwin, Johnson and him to play, but Rainer said he played last year.

Fortunately for the competitive nature of the event, a second team arrived and signed up at the courts. That team was led by Adrian Harrison, Manhattan resident and included Christ Hudgins, Vert and Quinten Horne.

Harrison said he had been playing in the tournament for the last three years, and his team won last year.

The original rules had called for a double elimination tournament, but with only two teams, Anderson changed it to a best out of seven format.

The wet courts kept players from showing their best, but by the third game, the rain stopped and the sun came out to help dry the courts. Harrison’s team led at the time three games to zero. They eventually won in four straight.

Harrison said the wet court was both an advantage and a disadvantage. The water made it impossible for any player to stick and pivot, but helped when playing defense.

Because it was a 3-on-3 tournament, the players only played half-court with one and two point shots. The first team to reach 10 points won the game. Each team brought four players, in case someone got fouled out of the game. Any player who reached four fouls was out, and if that team did not have a substitute, the game was over.

Vert said that was what kept them winning. He said they had to keep their “legs fresh” in order to keep the other team on their toes.

Even though Harrison’s team won, both teams went home with trophies for first and second place.

This year was the 24th annual Juneteenth celebration in Manhattan. Even though the weather kept most people away from the basketball courts, several people attended the other events before and after the rain. The weekend events included a Gospel Festival on Friday; a parade followed by a variety of shows, train rides and the basketball tournament at City Park on Saturday.

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