I went with high hopes for the non-basketball elements of an IBL event. This debut certainly did not disappoint in that department. My imaginary award for best local sponsor promoted throughout the game goes to both Cascade Pest Control and Valley View Retirement Community. The half-time festivities were highlighted by performances from local pre-teen hip-hop dance
The attendance level surpassed previous IBL games I've attended. I'm no good at estimating crowd size but there were enough bodies in the middle-school gym to keep the air stuffy and humid. (What? You expected A/C?) This could just be people checking out something new in town. It could also be a sign of good things to come. As someone who grew up in Yamhill County I can guarantee you that there are not a lot of local entertainment options, and something that is affordable as well as fun is likely to continue to attract patrons.
The game itself was full of the IBL quirkiness that makes me feel happy inside. The star of the Highflyers is Jason Hartford, who grew up in a small town only a couple hours away. He played for Cornell a couple years ago and lead the Big Red to the NCAA tournament as a senior. Hartford is fresh off playing a season of professional ball in Finland (Finland!). At the IBL level he is kind of like a video game version of Dirk Nowitzki. His length and skill set make things extremely easy for him. He averaged 28 points and 13 rebounds in the first two IBL games. Tonight he had 20 and 11. At the half. If the team wanted to run more of the offense through him it could have really been out of control.
Hartford's talent puts him clearly above this level of competition, but you can't talk about his impact in this game without mentioning the opposing team. You see, my Highflyers faced off against a team from Japan. (Did I mention the IBL is quirky?) While they did not list heights on the program I think the Nippon Tornadoes had one guy that was maybe 6'4. The other eleven were 6'1 and under. And no, there was not a Tabuse among them.
This raised the novelty level into the stratosphere. On defense the Japanese team slapped at every ball within reach and scrapped mercilessly. On offense it was all about a five guard offense that used quickness to get at the rim or fire away from three and involved literally diving after every long rebound. All while the coach was screaming what I hope were Japanese profanities from the bench.
It sort of worked for a little while. Eventually the Highflyers figured out that as long as they kept the ball up and got reasonably close to the rim it was all over. In the end my Yamhill Highflyers took the victory 140 to 121. And yes that is an average score for an IBL game.
After the festivities I relaxed with a cool and refreshing Sprite, thinking about how I was going to be attending the ultra-funktastic NBA Sprite Dunk contest thing on Saturday. Sprite! Dunk Contest! I will be the one with an IBL t-shirt.