There were two half-time treats at the Washington Bullets-Boston Celtics match Saturday.
For the 18,424 basketball fans there were individually wrapped Hostess cupcakes. The cupcakes were part of a double celebration - the fourth anniversary of the Capital Centre and the 54th birthday of Abe Pollin, owner of the Bullets.
But six metropolitan youths got a bigger treat as winners of the area Pepsi/National Basketball Association Hotshot competition: A trip to New Orleans Jan. 22 to compete in the Hotshot division championship.
The winners, who were among 12 area Hotshot finalists:
Boys 16-18-years-old: Alan Keller, 17,526 Center St., Herndon, Va.
Girls 16-18: Margie McClure, 16, 3314 Tennyson St. SE, Washington.
Boys 13-15: Ronald Ratiff, 13, 4526 3rd St. SE, Washington.
Girls 13-15: Natalie Ho, 15, 8390 Indianhead Hwy., Oxon Hill, Md.
Boys 9-12: Gregory Arnold, 12, 12805 Shulton St., Upper Marlboro, Md.
Girls 9-12: Sandy Wilson, 12, 6805 Autumn Dr., Sykesville, Md.
The winners will complete against age-group champions from Cleveland, Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, and San Antonio. After that, there are conference and national championships, following the NBA alignment for the different cities in competition.
The Hotshot rules are simple. There are five spots on the floor worth two to five points, according to degree of difficulty. Each contestant dribbles in from halfcourt, and scores as many points as possible in one minute for shots made from the various spots. The contestant must keep dribbling between each shot; he is penalized one point for each infraction, such as walking, palming or double-dribbling. He is also allowed two layups, at two points apiece and receives a three-point bonus for attempting a shot from each of the "hot spots."
Finalists competed two at a time. Surprisingly, the steadiest performance in front of the massive audience came from the 9-12 boys. Arnold, with a 36-25 lead after the two preliminary rounds shot earlier Saturday evening, piled up 22 more points, which tied for the best final round. But it was the loser, 12-year-old Vernon Smith of 1150 Summer Rd. SE, Washington, who earned the greatest roar from the crowd by sinking four straight shots near the end of his 18-point routine.
Arnold said the large crowd didn't bother him. "I was sort of used to it because I was here Nov. 4 (for earlier competition)," said the Kettering Junior High School student. "I just tried my best. I was up by 11 (points), but I didn't want to lose my cool."
In all, the spectre of the capacity crowd did take its toll. Half of the twelve contestants made their worst scores in the third round.
Keller piled up 52 points in his first two efforts for a 21-point advantage, but could manage only 10 points in his finale. This was still plenty to hold off a fine 20-point effort by Lusk Penn of 7-61st St. NE.
"I just messed up, that's all," said Keller, who at 5-foot-7 didn't bother to try out for the Herndon High School basketball team. "I was just so far ahead, I let it get to me."
Ratiff was another who suffered through a 10-point final round. However, with a 50-29 lead going into the final, he still had a comfortable nine-point margin after a 22-point routine by 13-year-old Thomas Calloway of 760-F Prospect Ave, Charlottesville, Va.
Ratiff still has to grow some if he plans to have a face-to-face conversation with the other basketball standouts in his family - cousin James Ratiff, a 6-foot-8-inch high school All-American at Eastern in Northeast Washington, now playing at the University of Tennessee, and 6-foot uncle Fatty Taylor, a former American Basketball Association and NBA player.
Wilson was the only competitor who needed a strong final performance to prevail. She outscored Connie McDonough of 1212 Argonne Dr., Baltimore, 9-7, in their third effort for a final 32-26 margin.
You look at all those faces looking at you and it kind of scares you," said the Sykesville Middle school student, who added she was looking forward to her trip to New Orleans. "I've never been on a plane before . . . I'll probably be shaking the whole time I'm out there."
In the other competitions, Ho outpointed Robin Langhorn of 1006 Shellbanks Rd., Baltimore, 48-29, and Margie McClure, a student at Wilson High School in Northwest Washington, defeated Jodi Narowanski of 4532 Ruggles Rd., Taneytown, Md., 59-46.
While the competition was billed as a breeding ground for future Bullets, the Washington hoop squad will have to get in line with everybody else if they hope to sign the players when they develop to NBA quality.
"No way," said Keller when asked if he'd like to play for the Bullets. "If I grew about a foot taller and two feet wider, I'd play for New York."