LEBANON – The ultimate street ball tournament is quickly becoming one of the locale’s ultimate community events. That’s a testament to the importance of the sport of basketball to Lebanon and Lebanon County.
More than 600 mostly local residents turned out to celebrate the game of basketball at the 14th annual edition of the Sweep the Streets tournament, staged on Saturday and Sunday at Coleman Memorial Park. This year marked the first that the popular hoops festival was conducted on newly constructed macadam courts at Coleman Park, following a successful 13-year run at Southeast Playground on Walnut Street in the city.
With a concession stand, modern music blaring during the relatively short, fast-paced games and people socializing in the background, Sweep The Streets was held in a carnival-like atmosphere in the scenic park. On the court, the talent and competition was akin to that found on the small college level, or higher.
Late on a hot Sunday afternoon, Off Road Motor Sports, a team made up of mostly former Lancaster-Lebanon League scholastic stars, was crowned the champion of the 16-team, double-elimination tournament. Off Road Motor Sports completed an undefeated jaunt through the winner’s bracket by pulling away from the York-based Coach Rod’s Boys 53-35 in the championship game.
George ‘Gzo’ Rodriguez is Sweep The Streets’ tournament director, its founder and its energy.
“It’s just a huge feeling of satisfaction,” said Rodriguez. “I can’t express it right now. I’m just soaking it all in. The turnout was amazing. We found our new home, and now it’s just going to continue to grow.
“You’ve got to have the teams and the players,” continued Rodriguez. “We locked in our teams in the first two days. That shows the name we have in the area. You’ve also got to have the weather. It changes everything. You really can’t have this event inside.”
“These new courts are spectacular,” said Colton Lawrence, a graduate of Elco who was a key ingredient in Off Road Motorsports’ drive to the title. “I liked the Walnut Street courts. That was sort of my home court. But everyone really seemed to enjoy these new courts. I love how close people are surrounding the courts. Sometimes they get to hear a little trash talking, and see some good basketball.
“I think this was my tenth year of playing in it,” added Lawrence. “It was nice seeing some of the same faces supporting it. There are a lot of people who care about basketball in Lebanon County.”
In the title tilt, Off Road Motor Sports established a bit of a working margin on Coach Rod’s Boys in the middle of the first half and took a 28-19 lead at the intermission. Then, during the opening portions of the second half, Off Road Motor Sports began to pull away.
“It’s definitely fun getting together with a group of guys who haven’t played with each other in a while,” said Lawrence. “I thought we worked well together. We thought we’d be playing for the championship. We were pretty comfortable with that team (Coach Rod’s Boys), because we had beaten them before. We had a lot of bodies.
“We had a tough first game,” Lawrence continued, “but we started looking around at some of the other teams, and we thought we could do OK. It (Off Road Motor Sports) was like an all-star team.”
“We need the community to come out,” said Rodriguez. “A new champion, a new sponsor, it makes a huge difference. Seeing a new group of guys come in and knock off the the old champion was good for the tournament.
“The move (to Coleman Memorial Park) was risky, because if it doesn’t work out, you put all this time and energy into nothing,” Rodriguez added. “It was a gamble. Some people said, ‘It’s not going to have the same feel, it’s not going to have the same atmosphere’. But it was the same feel, it was the same atmosphere. I was willing to take a chance.”
Before the tournament’s championship game, a group of current Lebanon boys’ basketball players defeated a group of current Cedar Crest players 36-29, in a contest that was just a bit more than an exhibition. The more seasoned Cedars controlled the flow of the scrimmage throughout, but experienced difficulties putting the Falcons away.
“It’s almost like having your first car,” said Rodriguez, of how the successful event has grown since its inception. “Now we’ve upgraded to a newer model. I loved my first car, but we’ve upgraded to a 2021. Now, I love my new car.
“I appreciated my city. I love my city,” concluded Rodriguez. “I’m the true definition of ‘Lebanon, A Place to Grow’. We’ve grown. We’ve expanded.”