Armored Athlete, OPI excel at TBT
BENNINGTON >> This year, two local teams, Armored Athlete and OPI competed in the The Basketball Tournament.
The Basketball Tournament, nicknamed TBT, is a tournament where teams from around the world compete for the grand prize of $2 million.
Armored Athlete is coached by Southern Vermont College men's basketball head coach Dan Engelstad, while the general manager is former Mount Anthony star AJ Mahar.
The team, which also includes former Mount Anthony star Jared Callanan, advanced to the Super 16 round in the Midwest region by defeating Ohio United 92-84 in the first round and then cruised to an impressive 101-70 win in the second round over Canton Bulldogs to make it to the second weekend of the tournament.
Unfortunately, Armored Athlete's run in the TBT came to an end in the Super 16 round when they lost a close one to the Golden Eagles Alumni, 82-71.
"It was a great experience to be in the TBT again," Mahar said. "Unfortunately, things didn't go the way we would of hope, but it was still an awesome time being with this team. Getting the media exposure we did by playing on ESPN2 allowed all our fans to watch us play, which was great, and the support we got from our fans throughout the tournament was awesome."
Last year, Armored Athlete made it to the final round of their regional tournament, so Mahar said the goal again will be to make to the Final Four next year.
"We're going to have a stable core coming back and being one of the youngest teams in the tournament this year, our guys will be more experienced going into next year," said Mahar, whose dream since he was a child was to be a general manger of a NBA franchise. "[We] will tweak the roster a little bit, but I expect us to be ready to make a push to the Final Four."
The other local team involved with the TBT this year was OPI, a team created by former Mount Anthony star Kyle Callanan in honor of his fallen friend and MAU teammate Owen Iannotti.
Callanan, with the help of the Iannotti family, created the team with the goal of taking $500,000 of the $2 million cash prize and putting into Owen's foundation.
OPI was able to get enough votes to make in the tournament, but fell in the first round to No. 1 seed Bluff City Blues, a group of Memphis alumni.
OPI had a lot of local faces on the team including Kyle's father Michael and brother Niles.
Arlington high school girls basketball coach Larry Andrews served as an assistant coach and MAU coach Kelly Kennedy served as the team's general manager.
MAU alumni Tanner Darwell, a teammate of both Kyle and Owen in their youth days, was a team booster.
Former SVC star and Pittsfield, Mass., native Lance Spratling played on the team as well.
"It was great experience to play in the tournament overall," Callanan said. "It helps give a lot of us young guys experience and greatly helped players on the team with professional basketball aspirations."
One thing for sure Callanan said is that OPI wouldn't have made it in the tournament if it wasn't for the local support of Bennington.
"The support we got from the Bennington community was amazing and helped us get a chance to play in the tournament," Callanan said. "We couldn't thank the people of Bennington enough for all the support they gave us."
Like Mahar and Armored Athlete, Callanan said that OPI will again try to compete in the tournament next year and will do so again for Owen's cause.
For more on The Tournament, visit thetournament.com
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