Lace ’em up, hoop it up


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Basketball is in the air this time every year, and the local version of March Madness hits Gar-Field’s court tonight.

Prince William and Stafford County’s best public- and private-school basketball players are back for two-ball, the 3-point shootout and the dunk contest, all in the name of charity at Hoops Fest 8.

All proceeds from the event benefit Gar-Field junior Ali Mohamed, who lost his legs in an explosion in his native Somalia when he was 8. The event, which drew 1,816 people to Hylton last season, is a rare opportunity to bring the community together for a good cause, and at the same time have a blast.

“That’s what it’s about,” said Potomac junior Jason Flagler, a dunk contest finalist last season. “Last year, we just went out there and tried to have fun. [Hoops Fest] helps those who need to be helped, and it brings a smile to people’s faces.”

Returning to competition are two-time girls 3-point shootout champion Whitney French of Forest Park and another finalist from last year’s dunk contest, Osbourn Park’s Adam Hinton-Moore. Hoops Fest also represents a chance to see Kendall Marshall, ranked by one recruiting service as the best sixth-grader in the nation, in the two-ball contest with Evangel Christian schoolmate Ashleey Stevens.

“It’s a great chance to [show] your personal skills in a way that people have never seen them,” said Flagler. “In a game, you might not get to do all of these things.”

Cedar Run District boys player of the year Tyc Snow will also attempt a rare double-feat, going for the 3-point shootout championship and the dunk contest title, as he plans to replace teammate Onyie Onunaku in that event. The last person to accomplish that feat was Hylton’s Tommy Adams in 1998. Adams, who recently graduated from Hampton and spent training camp with the NBA’s Boston Celtics, is back as one of five dunk contest judges. And as much as people love the shooting competitions, the dunk contest caps the night off and gets the crowd rowdiest. With last year’s champion Ahmad Brooks now at the University of Virginia on a football scholarship, Flagler and Hinton-Moore are two of the dunk contest favorites.

“[Kids in school] are all telling me Flagler’s going to beat me,” said Hinton-Moore, who was in a dunk contest at spring camp at Hampden-Sydney. “It’s definitely a big deal. Kids I don’t even know are coming up to me asking if I’m dunking. I feel like a celebrity.”

But Flagler says none of the competitors hold any grudges.

“They want us to go out and try to win it for our school, but we’re just there to have fun, that’s how we see it,” said Flagler. “We’re all friends. Win or lose, we’re going to have fun. It’s an honor just to be in it.”

While stars like Hylton’s Jasmine Byrd, Woodbridge’s Daniel Fountain and Potomac’s Bryan Butler will be in the mix, the big-school players don’t always win. Seton’s Matt Parriott and Elena Jones won last year’s two-ball competition after practicing their skills. The best prepared don’t always win either. Three-point shootout champion Blake Willis of Stafford showed up late last year after getting lost on his way to Hylton.

“I have something I’m going to do,” said Forest Park’s Aaron Meacham, a 6-foot-2 small forward who will dunk. “I’ve been working on it. I’m confident that if I do what I’ve got to do, I can get into the finals.”

Hoops Fest tips off at 7 p.m. at Gar-Field High School on Smoketown Road. Tickets can only be purchased when the doors open at 5:30 p.m. and admission is $5. The same type of T-shirts that the competitors wear will also be on sale for $10, with all proceeds again going to help Mohamed.

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