The News Journal’s Sixth Annual NIBROC 3-on-3 Hoops Tournament once again produced some top-notch roundball action inside the Princess Vermillion McBurney Recreation Center, but in the end only one team was able to call themselves champions.
The Eagles, a five-man squad co-captained by locals Travis Cowden and Isaac Wilson, were hoping to become the first-ever repeat champs in tournament history. It was not to be, however, as they had to settle for runner-up after falling to your 2018 tournament champions – Team Aussie.
Aussie is made up of familiar faces Michael Dow, CeJay Jones and Skyler Griffith.
Dow, originally from Australia, played four years of varsity ball at the University of the Cumberlands before graduating in 2016. He has stayed in the area, and is now married and teaching English at Williamsburg High School.
When asked about his experience in the tournament, Dow said, “It was actually more competitive than I thought it would be. There were some good players here. I was kind of surprised, but it was a lot of fun.”
Dow said he would like to return next year to defend his newly won championship crown.
Those who have followed this tournament since its inception in 2013 will remember that Jones was a member of a championship team once before – in 2015 along with teammates Corey Shelton and Aaron Cunningham.
Ironically, Jones was featured on the promotional flyer for this year’s tourney, and he wasn’t even a full-fledged member of Team Aussie until about an hour before tipoff time.
“They had their team set, and I didn’t have any plans to play,” Jones explained. “But they texted me about an hour before the tournament asking me to join. That’s actually the way it happened the first time I won, too.”
Jones, who played at Williamsburg and the University of the Cumberlands, said that he felt like the competition was a bit more intense this time compared to when he played previously, but he was happy to get to be a part of another championship run.
In fact, Jones now joins Isaac Wilson as one of only two players to ever win a NIBROC 3-on-3 tournament twice.
Finally, most will recognize the name Skyler Griffith as the all-star athlete that helped lead the Yellow Jackets football team to back-to-back appearances in Class A state championship games in 2013 and 2014. He also played a key role in getting the WHS basketball team to the Sweet 16 tournament at Rupp Arena in 2015.
Griffith was a part of the inaugural 3-on-3 tournament, but had not returned until this year.
“I played in the very first one,” said Griffith. “Coming back and playing again, it’s just a great atmosphere. To see all of the talent, and get to watch everyone play, it’s just fun. It’s a great experience.”
Team Aussie had to battle through pool play Saturday, coming out on top of a six-team pool that included the defending champion Eagles.
They then had to get past the God Squad (Bruce Hopkins, Tanner Boggs, Jacob Bundy and Ryan Rogers) in the tournament semifinals before meeting up with the Eagles again in the finals.
They would win that game by a convincing final score of 24-7.
Tournament organizer Trent Knuckles had this to say about the Sixth Annual 3-on-3…
“The NIBROC 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament was, once again, a highly competitive event. The level of team basketball being played in this tournament, and the individual skill of the individual players taking part in it, never ceases to amaze me. It is really fun to watch.”
“Congratulations to the winners, and in particular CeJay Jones for becoming one of only two players now to be part of teams that have won the tournament twice. It’s a competitive tournament, and the fact that no team has ever repeated, and that only two players have ever been able to win it twice, says a lot. It’s quite an accomplishment.”