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Tough Competition

Gus Macker returns to Morris

Bird and Johnson.

Chamberlain and Russell.

Jordan and Thomas.

To these great basketball rivalries, add two more names:

Grundy County Sheriff Kevin Callahan and Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland.

The two squared off in a free throw contest at the 11th annual Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament in downtown Morris, and Helland – clad in full Kobe Bryant garb, despite his Bulls allegiance – walked off the court a champion.

He drained six of 10 from the free throw line, while Callahan – who had hit the “Do or Die Shot” at the opening ceremony – made just two of 10.

“I’m very surprised at my performance today,” Helland said.

“I could have made nothing or I could have made everything.”

While Helland – who said he played high school ball – may not have known how he’d perform, Callahan was skeptical of his chances going in.

Shooting around before the “Do or Die Shot,” Callahan said he was having trouble at the line.

“I made more from the three-point line than the free throw line,” Callahan said.

Perhaps that’s why he took the shot during the opening ceremony from three distance, setting the tone for what would be an exciting two days of basketball.

Julie Applegate, executive director of the Morris Downtown Development Partnership, the organization that hosts the event, said almost 250 teams participated.

“I thought it went very well,” Applegate said. “Great participation, great weather. Overall, it was a great event.”

Throughout the downtown courts, local participants and ones who traveled in for the tournament showed off their skills.

According to participants, competition was stiff and the atmosphere was fun.

Kim Ellis, whose team Smooth Sensation won last year, said the skill level was high at this year’s event.

“It’s competitive, but there’s also good sportsmanship,” Ellis said after her team won its first game of the weekend. “We love it here. You have family and friends out to watch, the vendors. It’s great support.”

James Welsh, whose team We No Win With That is comprised of Channahon middle school teachers, said he plays basketball with college friends three times a week.

And this event was a challenge, Welsh said after his team lost its first game.

“This was tough,” Welsh said.
“It’s fun,” Welsh added. “This was our first time out and we just wanted to have fun.”

Applegate said that, historically, the event draws a third of its participants from Morris, a third from a 30-mile radius, and a third from farther out.

She said the event is a good way to get people to see the downtown.

Applegate also said she appreciated the support of Callahan and Helland.

“It’s great to have an interest from our civic leaders,” she said.

This was Helland’s first time to the event, and he indicated he might like to come back — perhaps to defend his title against Callahan.

“It’s a good time,” Helland said. “I’ve enjoyed it.”

“I think I’ll be ready to take on the Sheriff in a three-point contest next year.”

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