The Lebanon trio who named their team “L-Town” plan to make a return trip to Corbin, Ky. on Saturday to defend their 2016 title, making them the only team so far to attempt to do so with the exact same lineup of players.
“The experience we had last year actually exceeded our expectations, not just because of how we did on the court, but also the way the tournament was run and the competition,” said Mark Sandoval, captain of L-Town.
Sandoval along with two of his high school friends, Kyle Neal and Dalton Patterson, made the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Corbin last year to play in the tournament. They wanted to compete in the tournament in prior years, but couldn’t work it out with their busy schedules.
All three graduated from Friendship Christian School where they were teammates on the school’s basketball team. Sandoval, a first cousin to Neal, was most valuable player of the state tournament and Patterson made the all-state tournament team as the Commanders captured the 2012 Class A championship.
Sandoval went on to play two years at Centre College, and currently attends the University of Arizona, where he studies library sciences. Neal is pursuing a doctorate in civil engineering at Vanderbilt University and has spent most of the summer in Albuquerque, N.M. doing research. Patterson attended the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga to study business entrepreneurship, and currently works for his family business in Lebanon.
Sandoval said perfect timing will allow L-Town to return to the tournament. He will leave for Arizona again days after it is over. Neal will return home to Lebanon just days before the tournament starts.
“We’re definitely spread out,” Sandoval said. “It really is just luck.”
L-Town made it through a large and stacked field of talented teams last year without a loss – defeating a team in the finals made up of Corbin High School graduates.
“In three-on-three basketball, matchups are even more important than in regular basketball,” Sandoval said. “Fortunately, our team is well suited to this because all of us can play and guard multiple positions.
“That being said, I expect many teams will come back this year with a game plan to exploit our weaknesses … and we do have weaknesses.”
Sandoval said he and Patterson play pick-up basketball once or twice a week in Lebanon and also play in a local adult league. Neal has played regularly in New Mexico, but fears he will be a bit rusty.
“I’ve told him that I don’t think that matters so much since our team’s greatest strength, in addition to our versatility, is our chemistry and on-court cohesiveness, which should come back for him once we start playing,” Sandoval said.
The tournament begins Saturday at noon and will be played to its completion at the Corbin Recreation Center. Impressive prize packages and trophies are given to teams that finish well, including a $500 cash prize for the champions.
“Individually and as a team, we’re really looking forward to coming back to Corbin,” Sandoval said. “We had a great experience last year, and even though we were from out of town, everyone was welcoming and friendly.
“We owe a lot of thanks to the organizers of the tournament, its sponsors and the city of Corbin for helping to host such a great event.”
—The Corbin (Ky.) News Journal—