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Worthy field goals

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Former Connersville Spartan, Indiana All-Star and Butler Bulldog Matt Howard, left, goes up for a blocked shot at Roberts Park. Howard, whoplayed several years playingprofessional basketball after graduating from Butler, returned to a Connersville court on Saturday, representing Sportsman Store Trophy Shop in the Dribble Over Drugs basketball tournament.
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Former Connersville Spartan and Indiana All-StarGrant Smith goes between his legs on a dunk attempt at the 2019 Dribble Over Drugs dunk contest, Saturday at Roberts Park. Smith, who now plays for Indiana Wesleyan University, fell one point short of a perfect score on theeffort and wound up winning the first-ever title at the event.
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Representing High Praise Worship Center, Dalton Lee, right, goes for a block at the 3rd Annual Dribble Over Drugs tournament, Saturday morning at Roberts Park. Lee was one of many former Connersville High School players returning to action on the basketball court at the event.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Activity was everywhere on the Roberts Park basketball courts in Connersville, as the 3rd Annual Dribble Over Drugs tipped off on Saturday.

Labeled “The Takeover,” the third year for the 3-on-3 basketball tournament brought 51 teams to the park, playing in four divisions.

“The 51 teams was up 10 from what we had last year, so it was an amazing turnout,” event coordinator Sheriff Joey Laughlin said afterward. “It’s just crazy how big this has gotten in just a few years.

“This all started with just four guys, sitting around and talking one day. We talked about this issue in the community and, obviously, my role in the community is a little bit different. We just all wanted to do something to help, and here we are. It’s become a real established event.”

The tournament featured a men’s division for players between the ages of 16-34, a veterans division for those 35 and older, a women’s division, and a kids division for those ages 13-15.

The men’s division was the largest with 26 teams registered.

A total of 10 teams made up the veterans division. 

Eight teams played for the kids title, and there were three vying to win the women’s crown. Four teams registered but did not attend.

While winning one of the four trophies was the ultimate goal, Laughlin pointed out that for most of the participants, having a good time was a close second.

Even a little rain that forced the event to be moved inside Spartan Bowl failed to dampen spirits among the players, he said.

“I was very impressed with the amount of sportsmanship that we saw from the teams,” he said. “Especially once we came in Spartan Bowl, it was just great watching how competitive, but also how sportsmanlike all the players were.

“You’re always going to have one or two teams that create some issues, but when you’re talking about 51 teams, that’s fantastic that we only had a couple of incidents. Everyone knows that we are doing this for the right cause, so they’re coming and and just having fun.”

Among the 51 teams in attendance were many former Connersville High School players, including a pair of prior Indiana All-Stars, Matt Howard and Grant Smith.

Howard helped Sportsman Store Trophy Shop reach the final four of the men’s division, and Smith wound up walking away with the championship belt in the first-ever slam dunk contest.

Also featured at the event for the first time was a 3-point shooting contest. Bryce Moore wound up winning that competition, just ahead of Zach Henderson and Megan Caudill. In one of the rounds, Caudill earned a score of 18, the best score of the contest.

Keeping a tournament of this size and scope moving smoothly and with as little confusion as possible took a lot of help, and Laughlin was very thankful for it.


“Katie Kay Riker Payton, Sasha Henderson, Joe Brown and Zach Henderson were the big helpers for this,” he noted. “Clint Brown was also very important, organizing all of my referees, so I had some really good help in getting this done.”

Winning the boys division was the foursome of Braxton Myers, Ty McMullen, James Williams and Josh Williams. Representing the Everton Volunteer Fire Department, those four defeated the team of Justin Naylor in the final.

The winner of the women’s division was NSK, who defeated Kenzis. Playing for NSK was Caudill, Shawna Watson, Mariah Plynn and Beth Moorman. The Ruthies were third-place finishers in the division.

The men’s division came down to Joe’s Blue Chippers and the Honey Dips, the former winning the title behind the play of Melvin Tillman, Michael Tillman, Tyren Tillman and Greg Tillman.

In the veterans division, the appropriately named Old Dudes knocked off Just Us for the championship. Playing for the Old Dudes was Jeff Taylor, Kyle Ivy, Derrick Johnson and Weston Shrees.

The fundraising event wound up earning about $7,200, but Laughlin believed that that amount would go up.

“As of this morning, we had raised about $7,200, but I have not counted it since then,” he said as the tournament wound down. “I’d say we’re probably close to $7,500 or more. That eclipses what we brought in last year, so it’s great to see that this just keeps growing.”

The money will go to several worthy efforts, he pledged.

“We want to give some money to the House of Ruth and Brianna’s Hope,” he began. “Red Ribbon Week also needs some funding this year for the kids, and we’re going to give some to Better Days Through Jesus Christ.

“We’re going to give some money to the Fayette County Drug Coalition as well. We’re going to hire someone that dresses up like Batman and brings the Batmobile, so that he can talk to the kids about drug safety.

“We also want to set up a scholarship for the high school. That was something that we wanted to do this year, but by the time the idea came around, we missed the deadline. The initial goal, something that we continue to do, is send folks that need it to rehab.”

Laughlin added that, though the 2019 Dribble Over Drugs event might now be in the rear-view mirror, there is still plenty of opportunity for anyone interested to offer assistance.

“Anyone interested in still donating to the Dribble Over Drugs cause can still do that by contacting me or by sending a check to the Fayette County Drug Coalition,” he said. “We’ll put that right in with the money we’ve already raised.

“People can also come to the coalition meetings at The Haven on the first Friday of each month. People can also join the coalition. We always need more minds and more help to combat this problem.

“There is always going to be need, so we want people to come join us. Ultimately, this is about getting the people the recovery they need, and saving lives.”