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Hoops by starlight

Thursday, August 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:20 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Lance Gregory drives to the basket during the Moonlight Hoops tournament Tuesday night at Douglass Park in Columbia. The summer basketball league for youths and adults is organized by Columbia Parks and Recreation.

COLUMBIA- It’s Tuesday night at Moonlight Hoops, an annual basketball tournament held at Douglass Park. The heat is unrelenting, but still a crowd of about 100 ultimately gathers.

6:36 p.m.

The sunlight cuts through the trees and falls onto the bleachers. Two people shoot baskets on one of the park’s two courts. One of them is Tanisha Peal. The 15-year-old’s hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail. The soles of her flip-flops slap the ground as she cuts to the basket. As one of only three girls in the league, she hopes to play for the University of Tennessee one day.

IF YOU GO

What is it? A 5-on-5 basketball tournament. It is predominantly male, but women may sign up. Where? Douglass Park Basketball Courts Who sponsors it? City of Columbia Parks & Recreation Department and the Columbia Police Department. Sign up for next year Go to the city of Columbia Web site, click on parks, recreation and the arts, and then on the link to sports. Registration for this year started in February, so look around that time next year. Source: City of Columbia Web site, Moonlight Hoops 2007 Application Packet. (click on Moonlight Hoops at the bottom to launch the PDF)

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7:01 p.m.

Boys crowd the court, and Tanisha is lost among them. People start to trickle in.

7:18 p.m.

League members wander onto the court. Their jerseys hang loosely on their bodies. Informal shootarounds form at most of the park’s seven hoops. Still, spectators already sit on the benches that dot the perimeter of the courts.

7:50 p.m.

The game clock blinks to life on the scorer’s table in the corner of the court.

8 p.m.

Bryan Prince, 60, sits on a bench next to the court. He has come to the games “to see who’s developing and who’s not.” His cousin coaches a small team, he said, but they got knocked out last week. Prince touts the league for its positive influence on young people and praises the strong police presence. Before the games begin, he strolls over to the scorer’s table. A little after 8 p.m. the lights flicker on.

8:08 p.m.

The number of players increases steadily. Camren Cross, community recreation supervisor for the Department of Parks and Recreation, said the number of youths in the league has risen due to increased business sponsorship.

8:30 p.m.

The ball flies straight up into the air. The yellow team gets the tip, but a player wearing orange steals the ball and races down the court for two points. The game has begun. Calls fly through the air as the pace quickens.

“Put a hand in his face” mixes with “Good D.” “Travel,” “Air ball” and “And 1” round out the standard dialect.

8:52 p.m.

The half ends. Sweat runs down the players’ faces. They are stopping because they have to, not because they want to.

9:09 p.m.

Play has resumed, and children in the stands argue over the remains of a soda. Thirsty onlookers congregate at the ice cream truck behind the bleachers. Brightly colored signs and stickers line the side of the truck.

9:21 p.m.

The game ends. The yellow team wins 58-52. Two more teams begin to shoot around in preparation for the next game.

Tonight, 8:30 p.m.

The championship game at Douglass park.


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