OPI tournament to be held this weekend

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BENNINGTON >> It's been over a year since Bennington's own Owen Iannotti passed away from injuries sustained in a horrific car accident, but his spirit and love for sports still continues to live on through his friends and family.

This weekend Owen's friend and Bennington native Hunter Stratton is holding an event to honor his fallen friend named the OPI Classic basketball tournament, where proceeds will go towards Owen's scholarship fund for the Mount Anthony Union High School athletic department.

"After Owen passed away I heard that his parents started a scholarship fund in his name at MAU and I thought this could be a great way to raise money for it," Stratton said. "Owen loved sports and I thought this tournament would be a great event for those that knew him to come together and help celebrate his memory."

The two-day event will be held at the Mountaineer Athletic Center on the campus of nearby Southern Vermont College.

Teams from Bennington, Pittsfield, North Adams, Hoosick Falls and the surrounding areas are expected to compete in the tournament.

The teams will either compete in the varsity division, which will gear more towards the top-tier athletes competing or the intermural division where teams that just want to have fun and compete at a lower level can participate.

"We want it to be a fun but also competitive event for those who want to participate and honor Owen's memory," Stratton said. "Breaking these divisions up helps gives everybody who wants to play in the tournament a chance to play. It's a win-win."

Winner of each division will win receive a trophy and t-shirts with the slogan "Fly High", which is a saying that Stratton and friends and family have said about Owen since his passing.

Also on the shirts will be an O for Owen's nickname the Big O and his number 23.

The t-shirts will also be on sale for $15 at the concession stands all throughout the tournament as well along with food and beverages available for purchase.

The tournament will also feature a little NBA All-Star game weekend section to it with a three-point and dunk contest that will take place on Saturday at around 3 p.m.

There is a $25 fee to participate in the three-point contest, while the dunk contest will feature Division I players Malik Miller and Jordan Hoose.

Miller and Hoose will be joined by fellow Division I basketball players Aary Bibens, Lloyd Johnson and Zach Radz who will compete in the tournament.

Added to the three-point and dunk contest will be a knockout tournament that will be open to everyone to participate in for a fee of $10.

Winners of each contest will receive a prize.

"This is more then just a tournament, it's an event for all to join to honor Owen," Stratton said. "People can come participate in different ways or just come watch and be a part of the tournament as fans."

It's been a year since Owen has passed away, but his memory is still living large as his friends and family continue to find ways to spread his love of sports.

"Owen touched so many people, including myself and this event is another way to honor his legacy," Stratton said. "We all miss him and we hope that if we can continue to do things like this help to keep his love of sports alive through his scholarship fund to MAU, that more kids can enjoy playing sports as much as he did."


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