McKee Keys Blue Team at Sportime

Down syndrome research was the beneficiary
Vic Quirolo played steadily for When We Were Young, the eventual champions. Craig Macnaughton

Jenel Russell came, he posted up, and he almost conquered, but a cramp, in four places, he said, rendered him hors de combat in the final of Saturday’s 2016 Hoops Classic at the Sportime Arena in Amagansett, and thus Grand Kenyon (the yellow team) lost 10-4 to the blue team, When We Were Young.

Well, make that “When We Were Young and Kyle McKee,” a recent East Hampton High School graduate and boys basketball star who, with Seth Greengrass, frequently knocked down shots from the outside that morning in Sportime’s air-conditioned arena.

Greengrass, who said afterward that he did not play basketball at his alma mater, Union College, and McKee, who’s to begin a “pg” year at Sarasota’s Impact Academy soon, accounted for half the scoring in the final of the hard-fought, eight-team, five-on-five tournament, a fund-raiser for the LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation, which is in its third year.

Anthony Providenti, the tournament’s impresario, draws from a pool of players many of whom have played in a weekend pickup game here that has been in existence for about 30 years. It hasn’t quite got to the point where the grandchildren of the founders are playing, but that may not be too far off.

There were several father-son combinations this year, including Mark and Jake Lieberman, who was a bottle-fed infant in his father’s care when he began playing on the court behind the Springs School. Jake’s 6-5 now. 

Kevin Coffey of When We Were Young, the eldest player at 64 (to be 65 in September), was active in the preliminary games that day, though he sat out the final.

Jason Grossman, one of the tourney’s founders, said at one point, “Kevin’s one of the greatest gentlemen — he keeps everyone acting respectfully.”

Which is saying something because there are no referees. As is the case in Ultimate Disk, players are charged with their own policing. One, Sam Teller, was so intent on rectitude that his layup that treated CatsinTheCradle to an 8-7 lead in an early-round game with Bowe Knows was waved off after he’d said he’d been fouled on the way to the hoop.

“He’ll learn,” Brian Marciniak, of the defending champions, said. “He should have waited to see whether it went in or not.”

Consequently, in the game referred to, Bowe Knows, which had been trailing CatsinTheCradle 7-2 (until Marciniak, Jarred Bowe, and P.J. Wizelius began hitting), went on to win.

They didn’t win ultimately, though. Grand Kenyon upset Bowe Knows 9-7 in one of the semifinals. Jenel Russell shot what would ordinarily be a 3-pointer (though not in this tournament, where every basket counts as one point) to win it, over Wizelius’s outstretched arms.

Wizelius, a New York City fireman now, who grew up in Springs — his brother, Vinnie Alversa, is East Hampton High’s junior varsity baseball coach — has become a strong player, though he said in answer to a question that he hadn’t played much of anything when in high school here. “He’s a late bloomer,” said Marciniak, who, at 30, remains one of the pickup game’s top players. 

Marciniak dislocated a finger early on, but, fortunately, he had Doc Feldman, the Rangers’ former doctor, as a teammate, and he promptly popped the finger back in.

Feldman, an orthopedist, said during a break in the action that he’d operated on a number of the game’s participants over the years.

After his son’s team had bowed to Bowe Knows, Joe Marciniak Sr. said as he walked by Brian, “He’s getting old.”

When We Were Young defeated the white team, Jakers Wild, in the other semifinal. But by that time, Marcus Edwards, who is to assist Jesse Shapiro with East Hampton’s boys varsity this winter, was gone, having had to go to work.

Will Shapiro, one of Jesse’s brothers — and a former East Hampton High School guard, as were Jesse and his other brother, John — said when questioned that he thought Jesse, who was recently appointed to the head coaching job here, would continue the Ed Petrie and Bill McKee tradition. 

Jerome Russell, who was the sharpest long-range shooter in last year’s tournament, had to sit this one out, having suffered a compound ankle fracture “the week after last year’s tournament here.” He vowed to be back next year.

Providenti, who held a party at his house later that day, said that “this tournament has become an annual tradition. It’s parlayed our love of basketball and camaraderie into supporting an important cause, Down syndrome research. The foundation’s aim is to stimulate biomedical research that will accelerate the development of treatments to significantly improve cognition — including memory, learning, and speech — in individuals with Down syndrome so that they can participate more successfully in school, lead more active and independent lives, and avoid the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

This year’s tournament, he said later in the week, “has raised $50,000 and counting.”