After 17 years, being ranked among the most memorable Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop moments takes an over-the-top effort. That’s what played out at Trent Arena on Monday afternoon.
LaMelo Ball and Spire Academy took top billing, but it was his father LaVar Ball who stole the show.
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That was evident from the moment LaVar took a break from mugging with fans and stepped into the arena, arms outstretched in touchdown mode and encouraging a greater crowd roar. Fairmont’s home court was packed for the 1:15 p.m. game between Spire and Prolific Prep (Calif.). The upper level track was 2-3 deep with onlookers who couldn’t find a seat. The over/under was a conservative 4,000.
“I don’t think we could have legally put another person in Trent Arena,” Flyin’ founder Eric Horstman said. “That’s got to be the biggest crowd Trent Arena has ever had. Kudos to the school, my volunteers and the city. For that many people in this environment, we handled the situation really well. The only people who didn’t come to play (on Monday) was Spire.”
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Prolific Prep won, 94-59. Afterward, fans raced to mingle with the Balls as they left. Much of that was recorded for their Facebook reality show “Ball in the Family.”
“Obviously, it puts a different pulse and heart rate on the day,” said Fairmont Athletic Director Chris Weaver.
The four-day midseason basketball hoopfest was another rousing success. That’s despite a snow and ice storm that prevented unbeaten and top-ranked Carroll girls playing defending state champ Minster on Saturday and a leaky roof on Monday.
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Horstman and his Sports Image marketing company and the City of Kettering maintain the event generates nearly $2 million into the local economy.
“A lot goes into a long four days,” Weaver said. “Eric and his team do a nice job of organizing what I would consider the front of the house and we’ve got a great staff working behind the house. It worked out well.”
Horstman said the buzz the Balls created adds to the Flyin’ mystique. Teams already are requesting spots in the 2020 lineup.
“It added something else unique that we can talk about for years to come,” said Horstman.
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• Named to the all-tourney team were area players Ryan Hall (Fairmont) and Samari Curtis (Xenia). There were joined by Jaden Springer (IMG Academy), Nimari Burnett (Prolific Prep), Terry Armstrong (Bella Vista Prep) and Meechie Johnson (Garfield Heights).
• There were numerous college coaches in attendance on Monday. All the immediate area programs were represented, including Dayton, Wright State and Miami. Also in attendance was Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, a frequent attendee.
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