Flying high at Peach Basket

Slam dunk champion DJ Johnson flies toward one of his winning dunks on Main Street on Saturday afternoon.

Slam dunk champion DJ Johnson flies toward one of his winning dunks on Main Street on Saturday afternoon. Photo by Jeff Horner.

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WALLA WALLA — Several hundred players soared across dozens of basketball courts on Main Street Saturday that were set up to accommodate 262 three-player teams taking part in the 20th annual YMCA Peach Basket Classic.

But none soared higher than David “DJ” Johnson, 26, the winner of this year’s slam dunk contest.

“I love it. In Chicago they don’t do these. It would be too violent. They don’t do these,” Johnson said, still sweating from the competition.

A total of nine contestants entered the dunking contest held Saturday a 2 p.m.

A couple of the dunkers, like Johnson, were members of the Lewis-Clark State College basketball team.

Though all the contestants could dunk, as was seen during their warm-up, there were plenty of failed attempts during the 20-minute contest that was viewed by at least 200 spectators.

In each round, the contestants were given 45 seconds to make a dunk. If satisfied with the dunk, the contestant would stop trying and see what score his dunk got from a panel of judges.

One of those judges was Walla Walla Community College basketball head coach Jeff Reinland, who explained the reason there were a lot of failed attempts was that the players lacked the home court advantage and thus were unaware of the unevenness of Walla Walla streets.

“One mistake they make is they try and do dunks bouncing the balls. And you don’t get a straight bounce here,” Reinland said.

Even some attempting straight dunks couldn’t score. Still, there were more slams than rim checks.

And a few of the players managed to put some flair into their dunks, like doing a 360 before slamming it in.

By the end of the second round, the red, white and blue net was torn and hanging by two hooks, and a couple players managed to get near-perfect scores.

“I look for a little creativity and a lot of athleticism. The higher and quicker, the more impressive your dunk,” Reinland said.

In the end it was consistency that earned Johnson the first-place trophy and $100.

“All I can do is try and make the dunks I can make,” Johnson said.

The second day of Peach Basket takes place today between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Main Street between Second and Sixth avenues.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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