Senior Games basketball

Jim Dixon of the Fast Friends team takes a shot at the Alaska International Senior Games basketball tournament on Tuesday at the UAF Patty Center.

On Tuesday night, the Alaska Airlines Court at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center was home to four teams of senior hoopsters showcasing their basketball skills as part of the Alaska International Senior Games.

Tuesday’s basketball event was a 3-on-3 tournament, with seniors either being drafted onto teams, or forming their own squads.

AISG basketball commissioner Tim Stickel noted that when the seniors play, there is a level of intense camaraderie that is always fun to watch.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie between the guys,” Stickel said. “They play competitively but they’re good sportsmen.”

This is Stickel’s first year as AISG basketball commissioner after he took over from long-time commissioner Tamara Hornbuckle.

Though he’s on the sidelines for this year’s competition, Stickel has participated in the Alaska International Senior Games basketball in previous years.

“A lot of us guys play up at the (UAF Student Recreation Center) every week,” Stickel said. “We like to call ourselves the gray beard league.”

This year’s four men’s teams played a round-robin format. Each game was played in half court for two 15-minute halves.

Apart from the time and court size-modifications, AISG basketball observed many of the NCAA basketball rules.

The four teams were the Fast Friends — comprised of Felix Bambury, Jim Dixon and Mike Hendricks; the Hop ‘n Hoops, with Howard Hornbuckle, Greg Dominique, Theodore Belton and Tony Chiu; the Peonies — with David Russell, Jeff Sharnbrich, Todd Doage and Roy Prennon; and the Alley Hoops with Pnutz King, John Gebhart, Carl Roland and David Moore.

Tuesday’s first round of play saw the Fast Friends fall to the Hop ‘n Hoops 68-33, while the Peonies, two-time defending champions of the AISG basketball tournament, edged out the Alley Hoops 72-59.

In the second and final round, the Alley Hoops managed to secure a 59-44 win over the Fast Friends. The Hop ‘n Hoops claimed first place in this year’s tournament, defeating the veteran Peonies with a 68-56 upset.

All four teams this year hailed from  Fairbanks, though teams from Anchorage have played in the tournament in past years.

“It’s great to be able to play with all the old guys again,” Chiu said. “We’ve all played city league together for a long, long, time, so when you see a lot of the joshing and pushing on the court, it’s all in good fun.”

This was Chiu’s first year entering the Alaska International Senior Games, but after Tuesday’s games, he said it will certainly not be his last.

“I’m just fortunate to be at 58, and be able to go out on the court and play in a tournament,” Howard Hornbuckle said. “It’s just great to get that competitive feeling at this age, you know. Some of us have been doing this for four decades.”

Hornbuckle has been competing in the AISG basketball for three years, and for him, the camaraderie among the players is always one of the best parts.

“You might see me out there, emotional, talking a lot,” he said, “but after the game, we’re all best friends.”

Contact News-Miner sports assistant Brian Ely at 459-7589.

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