PALM SPRINGS, Calif. —
A shaggy haired, inconspicuous kid in red sneakers walked in just as the MaxPreps Holiday Classic slam dunk contest was about to begin.
"Excuse me, but our game ended sorta late and I'm here for the slam dunk contest," he said quietly.
His name was Ryan Lough
, a 5-foot-8 starting junior guard from King (Riverside, Calif.)
and though a little tardy his spot was secured in the finals. On appearance, it was hard to believe so.
"Sure kid, knock yourself out," was the general consensus.
The other consensus was — is this kid an imposter just out to have some fun?
The more than 2,000 folks who hung around after the final game Friday night at Palm Desert High School were the ones having fun after Lough sent down a 360 jam on his first attempt.
Actually, most just groaned in disbelief.
More shaking heads and high scores came after three more high-flying dunks from Lough who went on to win in the finals over another sub-6-footer Ronnie Pinkerton
of Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.)
. It highlighted a night of fun and electricity that was MC'd by MaxPreps host Chris Stonebraker.
"This is great," Lough said. "I wasn't really sure I could win this thing. I was just happy to make the finals."
This was the first slam dunk contest Lough has entered, though he's dunked three times in games. He was egged on by his teammates, who have more than admired his 36-inch vertical jump at practice over the years.
He was mobbed by friends and family, as was the 5-11 Pinkerton who actually had the top dunk when he flew over two teammates and threw down the ball tossed near the rim by a teammate.
His score was actually 51 from the five judges as MaxPreps basketball editor Jason Hickman configured an 11 on one of his large index cards. Among others on the panel were former UCLA coach Jim Harrick and MaxPreps President Andy Beal.
Pinkerton, however, missed on three straight dunks in his first final-round attempt and got mainly 5s and 6s for his effort. That cost him the championship.
Nevertheless, Pinkerton had a great time. He also received a second-place trophy.
"We came all the way across country so it was good to come home with something," said Pinkerton, whose team plays for 11th place against Miller 2 p.m. today at College of the Desert.
In the 3-point competition, Hunter Lee
, from the host school Palm Desert (Calif.)
, took home the crown with a 20-point effort.
For Lough it was a huge performance for his friends, family and the King team, which has lost three straight tournament games, to Colton (63-61), Palm Springs (61-54) and La Costa Canyon (83-63).
The losses dropped King to 8-6. Lough's title perhaps raised the Wolves up a notch.
"I hope so," he said. "It's been a rough couple of days. This was just great."