Slam Dunk Basketball Celebrates 15th Season At County Center

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Slam Dunk founder Lou DeMello, right, during Friday's games at the County Center. Photo Credit: Danny LoPriore
Basketball scout Tom Konchalkski, far left, is a regular at the Slam Dunk Tournament along with coaches from many Section 1 teams. Photo Credit: Danny LoPriore
Slam Dunk awards team trophies in the Boys and Girls Tournament and Boys and Girls Challenge competitions. Photo Credit: Danny LoPriore

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Westchester high school basketball fans, coaches and players are gathering this week for the 15th year for the Slam Dunk Tournament at the Westchester County Center.

Slam Dunk is sponsored by the Westchester County Parks and Recreation and was the creation of Lou DeMello, longtime high school and recreation basketball coach and organizer.

"The concept for Slam Dunk was to give local basketball teams an opportunity to experience tournament play with top teams and in local rivalries in Westchester," said DeMello, who coached at Rice High School in Manhattan and Concordia College in Bronxville, and is the athletic director at House of Sports in Ardsley. "The County Center is the perfect venue. We're in our 15th year. ... It's hard to believe."

It was launched in 1999 as a showcase for Westchester and New York City area high school teams as an early winter holiday event. It boasts dozens of Westchester alumni who have gone on to play Division I men's and women's basketball, including Fox Lane's Taj Finger (Stanford University), Peekskill's Hilton Armstrong (University of Connecticut), Ursuline's Cori Chambers (University of Georgia) and Ossining's Saniya Chong (University of Connecticut.).

DeMello said he saw the need for a locally based tournament after coaching nationally ranked Rice in the 1990s.

"Teams like Mount Vernon and New Rochelle have the opportunity to play in invitational tournaments, but many of the smaller programs don't," DeMello said. "Seeing Iona Prep play Eastchester in front of a big crowd was the reason for Slam Dunk."

Keith Yizar of Mamaroneck, a former high school and college athlete who is a youth coach and organizer in Westchester, never misses the Slam Dunk tournament.

"This is the County Center," Yizar said as he sat court side for Friday's games. "Westchester basketball players all dream of playing here. The Slam Dunk is an opportunity to play in a great venue. Mamaroneck High School hasn't made the (Section 1 basketball championships) Final Four since 1971, but the team played Slam Dunk last year. And it's a chance to see many of the good local players."

Ronnie Stall and his 12-year-old son, Ronnie Jr., of Yonkers, were at Friday's games to watch the games.

"We love high school basketball, so we try to come up and watch Slam Dunk and the Section 1 tournament (in February)," Stall said. "We get to see at least 10 teams from the county. It's a great bargain, too."

The Slam Dunk Tournament continues at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. A complete bracket of games is available at the Westchester County Center website and includes boys and girls teams from Archbishop Stepinac, Dobbs Ferry, Fox Lane (Bedford-Mount Kisco), White Plains, Peekskill, Ossining, Iona Prep and Cardinal Spellman (Bronx) high schools.

Admission is $5 per day. Tickets can be purchased at the County Center box office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased through Ticketmaster.com.

Slam Dunk results

Thursdays games

Spring Valley 95, Bedford Academy 62

Iona Prep 79, Eastchester 69

Friday's games

Boys

Poughkeepsie 66, Sleepy Hollow 52

Bedford 52, Eastchester 51

Girls

Our Lady of Lourdes 53, New Rochelle 37

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