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South Williamsport, PA
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3 on 3 Battles Begin

After my brief reunion with then dentist Lou Gingrich, I was excited for the last weekend in June to roll around to participate in the Carlisle 3 on 3 outdoor basketball tournament. On that Saturday, the whole main street in Carlisle is blocked off from all traffic. High school 3-point range lines are chalked from

After my brief reunion with then dentist Lou Gingrich, I was excited for the last weekend in June to roll around to participate in the Carlisle 3 on 3 outdoor basketball tournament.

On that Saturday, the whole main street in Carlisle is blocked off from all traffic. High school 3-point range lines are chalked from the top of the key to the curbing creating a series of half courts staggered every few feet the length of the road. Brackets are set up with girls’ and boys’ high school, 40 and over, and even a “couch potato” division. The streets are quickly lined with hundreds of spectators and street vendors-just like at a parade. The local restaurants and stores thrive as spectators and players take any opportunity to grab some food and drink and get out of the blistering heat.

The 3 on 3 game rules are simple: 3 people for each team on the court at a time, with 3 subs per team. You get 2 points for a shot beyond the arc and 1 for anything inside. Strategy consists of setting screens for the shooters and roll to the hoop in the unlikely chance you’d get a pass for a layup, as after all, it’s only worth 1 point! Games to 21, or 15 minutes, whichever comes first, win by 1.

Most twos are taken straight on toward the basket as given the curvature of the roads to promote proper water run off the degree of difficulty in making a shot from the deep corner dip was extremely high. There were referees —well sort of — but very few fouls were called. Given the small court area, activity “in the paint” was particularly brutal.

Once, Mike Baggett attempting to make a two near the downward curve of the arc, got brutally slammed into the curb, and we thought surely it was a collar bone break. It wasn’t, but when we looked to the ref for a call, the ref simply shrugged and said, “What?” Another time, when it was getting especially rough, we looked for the ref, and he was over at the concession stand getting something to drink while the game played on without him!

I was told to show up late Friday afternoon for our team “strategy” session, which primarily centered around telling old war stories from our high school and college careers while indulging in a few adult beverages. Often lasting very late into the night, awaiting our team leader Mike “Brill” Baggett to roll in from the Pittsburgh area. The thought of being on the court by 8 a.m. seemed ludicrous, but show up we did. With shooters like Mike and his brother Kevin, we seemed poised for a good run at the 40 and over division title. Mike’s yearly promises to bring a real big man in from Pittsburgh never materialized, and I usually became the only big man. I cut my teeth in the game playing inside, but after the late-night strategy session, being on the court by 8 a.m., playing all day in the June heat on scorching macadam streets, and banging with other team’s “really” big-big men, one tends to get a little worn out. One of those other big men, also a tremendous shooter, was Rich Henninger, of local and Lycoming college hard-court fame. Living in the Carlisle area, Rich played for a local law firm-sponsored team, always loaded with talent and always a favorite to take the title.

In the 2002 tournament, we squared off early with Henninger’s team. It was a brutally hot day. The game was close, with both teams raining twos and me trying my best to keep up inside with Rich and their other seemingly unlimited reserves.

With the score tied, I cut to the foul line and received a pass from Mike Baggett — itself a surprise as Mike passing the ball was not a common occurrence. With my peripheral vision, I caught Kevin Baggett — foul line extended — cutting back door, so I whipped around to my right, “chinning the ball” with elbows extended — ala Bill Walton — intending to hit Kevin with a bounce pass in stride for an easy bucket. Rich, who was supposed to be guarding me, had hesitated under the hoop and now came sprinting up to close the gap just as I turned to throw the pass.

My right elbow caught him square in the nose. The crunch was unmistakable, the blood was explosive, and Rich dropped to the ground like a stone with a thud. Help ran to him quickly, and they were able to stem the spurting blood. To his credit, Rich packed his clearly broken nose full of cotton squabs and helped his team eliminate us from the tournament and went on to win the championship that year.

NEXT EPISODE: Revenge.

Paul Petcavage
Paul Petcavage
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