Team Turean Conner 48
Team Laquinn Parks 36
While some might point to Xavier O'Neal airballing two free throws as the highlight of this game (He pulled even with Marques Hudson for league lead), the real story was Chris Pride putting Mario Sawyer on lockdown. Granted, Sawyer did not have the weapons at his disposal like he normally does (Ealy was a no-show), but Chris showed some Pride on the defensive end and made it his mission to make it a long night for Sawyer. Super Mario looked more like Luigi tonight as he struggled to a season low of 8 points and four assists in the losing effort for Team Parks (5-3). You would think that with Pride expending so much energy on defense that he wouldn't have anything left in the tank for the offensive end. Much to the contrary, Pride was still able to drop ten points and seven assists on the sinking ship that is Team Parks. Team Conner (5-2) received solid contributions from Xavier O'Neil (Despite aforementioned airballs), Daniel Palm, and Turean Conner. X recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Daniel Palm had 10 points, 7 rebounds, and one of the worst displays of ball hogging I have ever seen. On a 3 on 1 fast break, with both O'Neil and Conner ahead of him for wide-open layups (maybe even dunks depending on how O'Neil and Conner were feeling), Palm took it upon himself to take 4 more dribbles and try to finish it himself. Instead of his teammates having an easy bucket, Palm was absolutely clobbered to the floor on the way to the rim. Coach Rodgers and Coach Maley proved that they are Coaches 1st, Referees 2nd, and Impartial 3rd, as Daniel received no whistle on the foul. Teammate Turean Conner (10 points) had a late second half surge that spoiled a solid comeback effort by Team Parks, culminating in a step-back 3 which put the game completely out of reach with 1:26 left.
Team Parks was destined to win it all. They drafted a solid nucleus who was clicking on all cylinders. Then, their general manager decided that he needed to make a move just so he could say that he made a move. As a result, the team that used to work well together, has lost all the chemistry that made them great. Sawyer looked unSawyer-like, while Mister Mister struggled to find his shot. The only person who eclipsed any of their season averages was Parks who had 12 points and 8 rebounds. This makes me think. Was there an ulterior motive to the Begusa trade? It's quite possible that Laquinn knew he would get more touches with Begusa gone and thus he was willing to sacrifice a KBA championship so that he could make a run at an All-KBA 2nd Team Award. While we may never know what his motivation was, we do know that it was about as nonsensical as deciding to not dress for gym. As previously stated, super-star Ealy was not at the game, most likely in attempt to voice his displeasure at the direction that his team is headed or it could have just been his bi-weekly trip to the barber. Whatever the case, without him, Team Parks had no chance.
Team Glostner able to Hold On at the End
Team Patrick Glostner 53
Team Denzell Smith 50
The first defensive possession of this ball-game for Team Glostner (7-2) signified to me that they are for real. Each player on the floor was talking, calling out screens, and using other verbal directions to play solid team defense. While it only lasted a possession, the effort for those 13 seconds is what champions are made of. Team Glostner was able to stake themselves to a big second-half lead thanks to "Mr Consistent", Remy Price, who had 16 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Despite this, they began to squander the lead late in the second half due to some careless turnovers, bad shots, and another called timeout by Glostner in the midst of a Remy Price fast break (This was Deja Vu from their last game). Luckily, Jamal Sykes was able to save the day for Team Glostner with some late-game heroics. With the scored tied at 49, with under two minutes to play, Sykes converted a lay-up courtesy of a Price assist. On the ensuing possession, a phenomenal Cash Jones save found Sykes underneath the basket for another two, giving them a four point lead, and for all intensive purposes, ended the game. Korey Williams complimented Price well in the backcourt with 8 points and five assists. Cash Jones reluctantly finished with ten, while Patty Glostner added 11.
If it were not for a terribly slow start and a missed dunk by Denzell Smith (almost at Cartier Brown's level), Team Smith (4-4) could have just as easily won this game. Instead, they find themselves in the midst of a two game losing streak and searching for answers. One answer might come in the form of Demarrio Lofton who looked to be coming into his own today. He had a season high 11 points and 13 rebounds. Even though 6 of those rebounds came on one possession in which Lofton simply could not get a lay-up to go down, his numbers were impressive. Jeremy McClendon was absolutely killing it in the second half, igniting the comeback, and putting fear into the eyes Team Glostner. Of his twenty points, 16 came in the second half. In the end, they did not have enough, as they fell 4 points short of a victory.
Big Pay Day: I feel for Team Owners in the 2011 KBA season. Every time Jamal Sykes grabs a key offensive rebound or hits a big shot, I can hear the cash registering ringing and see the $ signs forming in Jamal's eyes. While Sykes is currently signed for the league minimum this year, his value has sky-rocketed after his last two games. While he may not be a max contract type player like Remy Price will be next year, expect this young man to get paid and get paid well.
Speaking of Cash: Is a ten points per game average since being traded to a contender good enough for Cash Jones' appetite? I'm still not sold. Being the third option does not sit well with Cash in my opinion. Look for him to be more aggressive in the next couple of games, even if it may mean taking a loss or two.
Hargrovians Decide to Try in Second Half
Team Denzell Hargrove 40
Team Jeff Jones 33
After a sluggish first half which had them trailing by three at intermission, Team Hargrove (5-2) decided that enough is enough, and took control in half two. Phaelen Lewis was the hero today, scoring 12 second half points with a couple of huge threes which put the game out of reach for Team Jones (2-5). Denzell Hargrove was quiet from a scoring standpoint (only 4 points), but his contributions on the defensive end and as a facilitator were crucial to his team's success. Travis McBride (10 points, 4 steals) and Red Washington (9 points and 5 rebounds) rounded out the attack, demonstrating the tremendous balance that this team has. Barring a loss on Friday, I'd have to expect that these guys will be ranked the number one team in the league come Monday morning. Beware though guys, you will now be the hunted, instead of the hunters. No team this year has been able to hold the #1 ranking for more than a week. Maybe you guys will be the first. With the parity in this league however, I'd have to think that an upset will be a brewing.
Team Jones had its best first half of the season, considering the competition that they were facing. Even with turnover happy Hassan Hall forcing Commissioner Rodgers to put a "No more no-look passes, you might poke someone's eye out" rule into effect, Team Jones led 18 to 15 at halftime. A large reason for this was a solid first half put together by Kevin Swanson, who clearly was out to prove that he should have gotten more PT this year over Kyle Begusa. While their first half output was very impressive, Team Jones' second half was equally disappointing. The unselfishness and sharing of the ball which triggered their early success in the game was replaced with a lot of 1 on 1 play. Some say that it may have been the ghost of former teammate Cash Jones at work, but I'm not entirely sold. Nonetheless, a more focused Team Hargrove capitalized on the change in mentality and ran away with the game in the closing minutes. Hassan Hall finished with 9 points and Kevin Swanson added 13 to pace Team Jones.
Early Predictions for Post-Seasons Awards:
All-KBA First Team
PG: Mario Sawyer
G: Remy Price
SF: Patrick Glostner
PF: Tarik Martin
C: Denzell Smith
All-KBA Second Team
PG: Travis McBride
SG: Cartier Brown
SF: Courtney Ealy
PF: Xavier O'Neal
C: Kyle Begusa
All-KBA Third Team
PG: Denzell Hargrove
SG: Jeremy McClendon
SF: Marques Hudson
PF: Kevin Swanson
C: Jermaine Johnson (I know he's only played one game, but that one game was huge)
Rookie of the Year: Remy Price
Most Improved Player: Dimitri Baker
6th Man of the Year: Jamal Sykes
Coach of the Year: Denzell Hargrove
General Manager of the Year: Denzell Hargrove
Co-League MVPS: Patrick Glostner and Remy Price
League Runner-Up: Team Denzell Hargrove
League Champions: Team Patrick Glostner
Note: There is still a lot of time left in the season. This could all change in the blink of bad game or in a fraction of a suspension.