For all the varied colored shirts worn on the Horton Avenue Park basketball court, the color that stood out in the end was green — as in cash.
Show me the money!
That could have been the mantra for the black team, which had 5,000 reasons to take the championship of the 13th annual Riverhead Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament on Sunday. After going a perfect 4-0 for the weekend and handily defeating the blue team, 64-44, in the final, the black team players posed for happy team photos with medals hanging around their necks and one of their players, J.J. Moore, clutching a wad of bills, the $5,000 first prize.
“We had one goal, and the goal was to win the championship, so we came out here and we fought hard,” said Moore, who was an NBA developmental league player and a member of the New Jersey Nets summer league team as well as a former college player for Pittsburgh and Rutgers. “There’s a lot of good teams, but at the same time, we got the best team and we made the best of it.”
Asked what made his team a champion, tournament MVP Darien Davis, a former Dowling player, answered: “We played hard, we played smart, we played together. We got a good team.”
The tournament promotes goodwill in the community and passes along the message to stop violence (teams were differentiated by the color of their shirt, each one listing on the back the names of Riverhead area residents who died in violent incidents). At the same time, for one weekend, it brings to Riverhead tremendous basketball talent, players with collegiate and professional experience.
“It’s not just a regular park game,” said Ryan Creighton, a former Greenport High School star who played for the blue team. “It’s real competitors. You got NBA players, you got Europe league players … the kind of players that come out and want to win.”
The tournament had always been played at Horton Avenue Park until heavy rain forced it into the Riverhead High School gym last year. Rain wasn’t an issue this past weekend, though. The 10-team double-elimination tournament was blessed by splendid weather.
That added to the festive feel of a summer block party. The tournament featured music (some old school stuff, too), live game commentary (and humor) from public address announcer/comedian Noel Epps, food, drinks and, oh yes, some exceptional hoops.
Greenport was well represented with three former Porters on the blue team — Ahkee Anderson, Dantré Langhorne and Creighton.
Anderson, an incoming high school senior, is moving from Greenport to Center Moriches for his senior year in high school. This was the first time he played in the tournament. What impressed him the most about what he saw?
“Just how good everyone is,” he said. “There’s not really anyone that’s bad out on that court. Everyone’s good enough to play. Some people even play overseas in professional basketball, so it’s good to see a variety of talent.”
Dwayne Eleazer, the tournament’s co-founder with Larry Williams, said players come from as far away as New Jersey and Philadelphia to compete. “We’ve had teams that wanted to get in, but we have no room for them,” he said.
“Everybody comes out to support not only the stop the violence part of it, but to see some good basketball,” Eleazer said. “As the day goes, you start seeing some real quality team basketball. I mean, the stuff that they’re showing us out here is like unbelievable.”
Moore sounded as if he was in agreement.
“We’re going to come back and win the championship again,” he said. “The caliber of basketball is really good. Every year it’s getting better and better, so we’re just going to keep getting our team better and better as well.”
That’s one way to win the green.
Top photo caption: The blue team’s Ant White, left, battles for a rebound with the black team’s Egzon Gjonbalaj. (Credit: George Faella)