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Macker champs credit sunshine for role in wins

Last summer, the Gus Macker three-on-three basketball tournament's concluding day was filled with slips and falls as rain forced officials to make games quicker to end the competition earlier.

This time around in downtown Buffalo, it was a hot and beautiful day as the 20th annual event concluded smoothly without any interruption from the elements.

"It's been a spectacular weekend," said Sue Gonzalez, executive director of the Buffalo Police Athletic League. "We couldn't ask for more -- to be the largest Macker in the nation, to have the rain hold out for us and let the people come here and have the opportunity to play ball against great competition."

With 56 teams signed up to compete in the top men's division and only 32 teams able to fit in one bracket, the division was split into two. Therefore, there were two champions in the top men's classification again this year.

One of the championship trophies went to the Body Blocks (named Bayou last year), who got their revenge against Darling Paint in a 20-13 victory. Last year, Darling Paint was able to defeat them twice, on a slippery court from the rain, to take home the championship. But the Body Blocks proved that they're the better team when the court is dry.

"Last year their team really caught fire," said Andy Bush, a former Canisius College player. "When you're shooting like that it's tough, especially on a wet surface. But Danny [Gilbert] and Robb [Fitchlee] played really well today. That and it was dry."

Made up of Aaron Turner, Bush, Fitchlee and Gilbert (a former University at Buffalo player), the Body Blocks were able to defeat Darling Paint during both meetings this year, as opposed to a 1-2 record against them last year.

"We play with these guys all year round," Turner said. "They're a difficult team. But after beating them today I think we're the better team, for now."

The other top men's championship trophy went to Crown Ent., which beat a team named Sponge Bob in a 20-15 victory. Made up of Sweet Home graduates who took their high school squad to the state championship back in 2007, Joshua Parker, Steven "Boo" Roberts, Ali Ramadan and Terrell Rankin put their chemistry to work to win their first Macker together.

"We came out strong," Ramadan said. "We worked real hard for this. I've been playing with these guys a good five or six years."

After coming in fourth place last summer, Crown Ent. felt that a few strategic adjustments, along with the weather, made for a better outcome Sunday.

"This year we were more defensive orientated," Parker said. "And the rain definitely killed us last year. But that just made us work even harder."

Although playing in their first Gus Macker together, Alexandra Hart, Tawan Slaughter, Marlena Edwards and Ericka Browning took home first prize as team Wetoddit in the top women's bracket after beating the Wildcats, 20-15.

"We all wanted to win," Edwards said. "We're all very competitive, so we knew we could make it here. There was no doubt in my mind."

To top off her first year competing in the Gus Macker, Hart won the game on a driving layup with just under a minute left to play. The play before, Browning fell to the ground after hurting her ankle while fighting for position in the post.

"I was just trying to get the game over with so I can go check on Ericka," Hart said. "I heard something pop, so I just wanted to end the game as soon as possible so I could go check on her."

As always, the proceeds will go to PAL, which is a non-for-profit organization focusing on sports and recreational programming for children.

e-mail: mslaughter@buffnews.com

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