For the first time in its five-year history, the defending champions of the NIBROC 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament will be making a bid to be repeat winners.
The Lebanon, Tenn. trio who named their team “L-Town” are planning a return trip to Corbin this Saturday to defend their 2016 title, making them the only team so far to attempt to do so with the exact same lineup of players.
“The experience we had last year actually exceeded our expectations, not just because of how we did on the court, but also the way the tournament was run and the competition,” said Mark Sandoval, captain of L-Town.
Sandoval along with two of his high school friends, Kyle Neal and Dalton Patterson, made the three and a half hour drive to Corbin last year to play in the tournament. They wanted to compete in the tournament in prior years, but couldn’t work it out with their busy schedules.
All three graduated from Friendship Christian School six years ago where they were teammates on the school’s basketball team. Sandoval went on to play two years at Centre College, and now attends the University of Arizona where he is studying library sciences. Neal is pursuing a Ph. D in civil engineering at Vanderbilt University, and has spent most of the summer in Albuquerque, NM doing research. Patterson attended the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga to study business entrepreneurship, and currently works for his family business in Lebanon.
Sandoval said perfect timing is allowing L-Town to return to the tournament. He will be leaving for Arizona again days after it is over. Neal will be returning home to Tennessee just days before the tournament starts.
“We’re definitely spread out,” Sandoval said. “It really is just luck.”
L-Town made it through a large, and stacked field of talented teams last year without a loss — defeating a team in the finals made up of Corbin High School graduates Matt Maguet, Kaleb Maguet, Kevin Goins and their friend Alvin Davis.
In three-on-three basketball, matchups are even more important than in regular basketball,” Sandoval said. “Fortunately, our team is well suited to this because all of us can play and guard multiple positions.”
“That being said, I expect many teams will come back this year with a game plan to exploit our weaknesses … and we do have weaknesses.”
Sandoval said he and Patterson play pick-up basketball once or twice a week in their hometown, and also play in a local adult league. Neal has been playing regularly in New Mexico, but fears he will be a bit rusty.
“I’ve told him that I don’t think that matters so much since our team’s greatest strength, in addition to our versatility, is our chemistry and on-court cohesiveness, which should come back for him once we start playing.”
The tournament begins at noon on Saturday and will be played to its completion at the Corbin Recreation Center. Impressive prize packages and trophies are given to teams that finish well, including a $500 cash prize for the champions.
“Individually and as a team, we’re really looking forward to coming back to Corbin,” Sandoval said. “We had a great experience last year, and even though we were from out of town, everyone was welcoming and friendly.”
“We owe a lot of thanks to the organizers of the tournament, its sponsors and the city of Corbin for helping to host such a great event!”