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Event success: elbow room


That's the operative word in street basketball.

There was enough attitude at the Florida State Fairgrounds this weekend, site of Hoop-It-Up, the NBA's touring three-on-three basketball tournament, to power the lights at Tropicana Field.

There was a shoving match, pages and pages of trash talk, about two dozen evil eyes and every rebound attempt came with a complementary elbow.

And that was just the women's Top Gun final.

So much for that finesse stereotype.

"It was very, very physical, not what I expected. But that's the way I like to play," said Angel Donley, an assistant women's coach at Florida Southern College in Lakeland and a member of the The Gamers, the women's champions in Top Gun, Hoop-It-Up's highest level. They defeated Team United from Orlando 16-11 Sunday.

Donley and teammates Tasha Smith, who will be a junior with the Moccasins next season, and Florida Southern coach Diane Foli advanced to the regionals in Orlando in September. Should they win there, they advance to the Hoop-It-Up World Final, which will be broadcast on NBC.

Joining The Gamers were the men's Top Gun champs, the Funky Four _ Will McCloud, Floyd McPherson, Brian Speight and Darrell Jones _ from Bradenton, which defeated the Tampa-based Shooting Stars 16-10.

This was the Funky Four's first time playing as a team, but they played in a five-on-five league in Bradenton and knew one another's game.

"We knew what each other's strengths and weaknesses were," said McCloud, who played at Connecticut. All of the Funky Four, who range in age from 26 to 36, played college ball.

"We were only able to get together for one day to try and play a little bit," McCloud said. "We didn't really know exactly what we had until we got here."

In all, 1,220 teams played in 131 divisions, separated by age, skill level and sex.

A total of 122 courts were spread out at the fairgrounds, which according to most players as well as the organizers, was a much more convenient venue than last year's event at the Tampa Greyhound Track.

"The courts aren't as close together, and that allows families to stand in between courts and watch," said Ken Washington, the manager of team services for Hoop-It-Up. At the 1997 event, many adjacent courts shared sidelines.

"This is a more serene site, there's trees here not just concrete and asphalt," Washington said.

"I'm hoping we can come back next year."