This past Saturday, the News Journal presented its Seventh Annual NIBROC 3-on-3 Hoops Tournament inside the Princess Vermillion McBurney Recreation Center in Corbin.
The tournament has seen a new team crowned champion each year of its existence, and 2019 turned out to be no different with the Hammonds Hounds (Chandler Stewart, Blake Smith, Will Philpot and Bryce Slone) walking away with the first place trophies and $500 in cash prize money.
The Hammonds Hounds’ road to this year’s 3-on-3 championship title was not an easy one, however, as the team dropped into the loser’s bracket of the double elimination tourney after a 24-20 loss to Culture in their second game of the day.
Culture (Brent Perry, Michael Dow and Corey Shelton) would go on to advance to the winner’s bracket championship, but were defeated by the Corbin Ballers (Travis Cowden, Isaac Wilson, Luka, Matt St. John and Bruce Hopkins) in what was probably the most overall competitive contest of the entire day, 33-28.
This set up a rematch between Culture and the Hammonds Hounds in the loser’s bracket finals after Hammonds Hounds tore through CPR, LEAD, the Lakers and a very talented team out of Richmond calling themselves the Redshirts.
The Hammonds Hounds were able to overcome Culture in the rematch, 24-13, earning a shot at the Corbin Ballers in this year’s tournament finals. One win would not be enough, though. In order to complete their climb up out of the loser’s bracket and reach the mountaintop they would need to pull out back-to-back victories. It was a tall task to say the least, but in the end it is exactly what they managed to do.
Game one of the championship round was close, but the Hammonds Hounds stayed alive with a 31-27 win. This forced a decisive game two for all the marbles, including bragging rights for the next year. Thanks to some sharpshooting from behind the three-point arc, the Hounds were able to make quick work of the Ballers in this contest, going on to win this year’s championship title with a final score of 25-12.
Team captain, and former Corbin Redhound, Chandler Stewart said, “We were thinking all the way back in December that we could play in some summer 3-on-3 tournaments just to keep active during the offseason. We’re all teammates at Alice Lloyd now, and when I told them about this NIBROC tournament we all decided to come down and play in it together.”
As for how life playing at the next level has been so far, Stewart said, “It’s been going pretty well. It’s a lot different than high school. The game is more intense, and there is a lot of traveling, but I love playing with these guys. They’re like my brothers now, and I’d do anything for them.”
Bryce Slone said, “I played at Boyle County High School, so I figured I would rep that over here in Corbin because of the feud between the football teams. Chandler is on my college basketball team now, and he’s from Corbin, so we always have a little back-and-forth between us about that, but it’s great that we get to team up and win this together.”
Former Clay County Tiger, and recent NCCAA First Team All-American selection, Blake Smith said of being an Alice Lloyd Eagle, “It’s been a lot different. I’ve been over in the middle of nowhere in Pippa Passes, so it’s really been a whole lot different. It’s fun to come back to this are in the summertime and play a little bit, though.”
This was Smith’s second appearance in a NIBROC 3-on-3 Hoops Tournament, having appeared several years ago as a sophomore at CCHS.
Will Philpot is a graduate of George Rogers Clark High School. He was named 10th Region Player of the Year, and was a Kentucky Mr. Basketball Candidate as a senior. He also currently plays at Alice Lloyd.
Philpot commented that he loves the game, and is always looking for an opportunity to play. When asked to compare the NIBROC 3-on-3 to other tourneys he has played in in the past, he said that the level of competition surprised him, and definitely exceeded his expectations.
The Hammonds Hounds were accompanied Saturday by former Clay County team manager, and current Eagles assistant, Phil Arnett, who served as a coach/motivator throughout the tournament.
“After the semester ended, we hadn’t seen each other much,” Arnett explained. “I really just came over to hang out with my friends, but I made some suggestions along the way and helped them win I guess.”
On the chemistry that Stewart, Slone, Smith and Philpot share as teammates at Alice Lloyd, Arnett said, “I think that really went a long way for them. Those four are playing together pretty much all year, so it probably gave them a big advantage over the other teams today.”
In all, 13 teams came out Saturday to compete for this year’s NIBROC 3-on-3 championship title. That was one more than the dozen teams that appeared in 2018’s tourney.
The News Journal would like to thank everyone that participated in the event, as well as all of those who came to watch and cheer from the stands. A very special thanks goes out to the following sponsors for their generous financial support – Hometown Bank, Tri-County Cineplex, Forcht Bank, Si Senior Mexican Restaurant, Gibson’s Music, Ernie’s Spirits, Creative Touch Jewelers and Director of Tourism for the City of Corbin, Maggy Kriebel.