Friday, April 23, 2010

Recaps, Championship Night!

The dust has finally settled on 293 East Broadway, the Henrietta Szold school. Every door has been locked and boarded. The bulldozers can finally make their fateful way to the red brick facade, and the wrecking balls can begin their slow, pendulous attack. But before the sun set on PS 134, a final night of glory played out; a rugged evening with nothing less than ultimate victory at stake.

3rd/4th Classification: Beast of Burden 49, The Hospital Bombers 33

In a game that was never truly in doubt, the Brothers Rodriguez led Beast of Burden to their strongest effort of the year and a 3rd place finish in the GABL. Combining for 38 points, the league's highest-scoring duo did not disappoint their fans in the consolation match.

Rafael Rodriguez got things off to a scintillating start with 3 three-pointers and 13 points in the first half alone. His aggressive style paid dividends against an unprepared Bomber team. When they did manage to contain him, Ismael Rodriguez filled the void, scoring 13 first half points of his own, including 3 from deep. But the brothers couldn't win the game on their own, and strong supporting performances from Kyle Pilkington (4 points), Pat Waldo (2), and Robin Luna (5). Pilkington and Waldo were particularly strong on the boards, while Luna's hard-nosed, high-intensity defense led to a string of crucial steals.

The Bombers were not without life. It wouldn't be a pressure game without a strong performance from Nate Purinton, and he lived up to expectations with a season-high 14 points. His two three pointers served as mini-sparks that could never quite ignite a rally, but had the fans and his teammates in a frenzy nonetheless. Jake Berkowitz had 7 points, including a big second half three of his own, and Bob Van Kolken scored 6 in another workmanlike performance underneath. Geoff Nelson tallied 4, but could never quite find his touch from long range, while replacement players Kyle Ervin and Noah Davis combined for two points.

But the story of the game was Beast of Burden's prideful team play. They turned in their most complete performance of the season and won the Battle for the Upper Tier going away. They finish their roller coaster season in third place, entrenched with the league's elite. The dynamic play of the Rodriguez brothers defined their fortunes in the GABL, and on Thursday they went out on the highest of high notes.

GABL Championship: Layup Line Heroes 45, The Cray's Nest 35

It was always going to be a difficult task for The Cray's Nest to take down the mighty Heroes, who came into Thursday's championship on a 6-game winning streak, but they certainly got started the right way. Hot shooting by Shane Ryan and Vance Tucker led the underdogs to a significant early lead, and for a few pregnant moments, the impossible suddenly started to seem likely.

Coming off the bench, Ryan gave The Cray's Nest their first lead with a three from the top of the key. Tucker followed this with 4 points of his own, and the team's 3-2 zone turned out to be surprisingly effective. Tucker and fellow All-Star Lars Rasmussen handled business efficiently in the paint, making every Heroes shot a difficult enterprise. On the perimeter, stand-out point guard Saulo Feliciano couldn't penetrate, and the staunch Cray's Nest defense took away the high post attack.

Offensively, TCN couldn't miss. Jordan Glickson nailed a foul line jumper, Ryan hit another three, Rasmussen scored down low, Jacob Craycroft connected on a foul shot, Tucker hit another ten-foot jumper, Ryan came away with a steal and a fast-break layup, and Rasmuseen hit one of two technical free throws.

It was a dream beginning for the regular season champions, and if not for the efforts of Keith Gormley and Amy Hauck, it could have become an unmitigated disaster for the Heroes. Gormley connected on two field goals, and hit all 4 of his foul shots, to keep his team in the game, while Hauck nailed two crucial bank-shots from the left wing. Aside from that duo, the Heroes only managed four points in the entire half (2 by Matt Brinkmann, and 2 by Feliciano).

With the score 20-12 in favor of The Cray's Nest, and only minutes left in the half, Vance Tucker stepped to the line with a chance to give his team a double digit lead. But both shots missed their mark, and a subtle alteration in the air currents, or something equally mystic and nebulous, began writing a new destiny for the warring teams. Because at that juncture, the momentum underwent a dramatic shift. The Heroes scored 4 points to close out the half, and pulled to within 20-16 when the buzzer sounded.

When the second stanza began, the Heroes completely regained their old form, and the blitzkrieg was on. Feliciano and Gormley scored early buckets, Matt Brinkmann hit a three, Colby Hall followed suit, and Steve Reiter got in on the action with a deuce of his own. Meanwhile, The Cray's Nest went cold in a hurry. Their offense went fallow, and for the first six minutes of the half, they couldn't so much as sniff the basket.

By the time Lars Rasmussen hit a foul line jumper to stem the tide, the score was 27-22. The utter reversal was accomplished by a 15-0 Heroes run, and the 20-12 lead The Cray's Nest once enjoyed was ancient history. From that point forward, the teams would play even, and the Heroes smartly waged their typical war of attrition, controlling the paint and the boards and making it extremely difficult for their opponent to notch an easy bucket. Ryan and Tucker continued their attempts to penetrate the zone, but they were continually met by an unending series of big bodies, as if stuck in a Herculean myth, facing progressively fierce beasts.

The Cray's Nest managed to keep it somewhat close, even getting within 5 at one point. Ryan hit two big three pointers, and Rasmussen scored twice on the interior, but otherwise the situation had deteriorated completely. Their shots were not falling, and it soon became evident that inside scoring was not an option. The chances they did create were often not capitalized upon; Ryan, normally an 80% free throw shooter, missed 1 of 4 in the second half, and also blew an open lay-up. Tucker and Rasmussen had trouble connecting when they managed to create space on the inside, and aside from Ryan's two threes, no perimeter shots were falling, regardless of the shooter.

For the Heroes, the second half belonged to Matt Brinkmann. Whenever the difference came down to 5 or 6 points, he seemed to step up with a huge basket that widened the margin back to a comfortable distance. He scored 12 of his 14 points after the intermission, including a season-high 3 from downtown (previously, he'd hit 2 three pointers all year, and came in averaging 4.5 points per game). The Cray's Nest was totally unprepared for this scoring threat, and continued to leave him open from deep, hoping the averages would correct themselves. They never did. Gormley hit two big jumpers, Hall added a pair, and Saulo Feliciano, having difficulty scoring at his usual clip, shifted into passing mode in the second half. The point guard only managed 7 points, but his quickness, defense, rebounding, and passing acumen were indispensable for the Heroes.

As Brinkmann, Feliciano, and Gormley kept the points coming, The Cray's Nest offensive well had dried up completely. With two minutes left, they were forced to resort to fouling, and Brinkmann made them pay by hitting 3 of 4. For the game, the Heroes nailed 8 of 10 from the line, while The Cray's Nest, best in the league during the regular season, hit only 3 of 10.

Ryan led all scorers with 15 points, while Tucker had 8 and Rasmussen 7 for The Cray's Nest. Jordan Glickson finished with 4, and Jacob Craycroft rounded out the scoring with 1 point. For the Heroes, Brinkmann finished with 14 and Gormley 12. Feliciano and Hall added 7 apiece, while Hauck had 4 and Reiter 2.

Things got chippy near the end, but tempers cooled as the outcome became clear, and the deserving victors dribbled the clock out to great fanfare. The jubilant team hoisted the Wooden Gavel, and Keith Gormley won the Eager Cager Award as the championship game MVP. That particular honor could easily have gone to Brinkmann or Feliciano as well, and the Heroes went off into the night having won the title with a true team effort. And so a valiant season came to a close.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Previews, Final Week!

It Culminates Tomorrow...

8:15: Beast of Burden (5-6) vs. The Hospital Bombers (6-5), 3rd/4th Place Classification

Though both teams will carry disappointment into tomorrow night's clash, they will also have great motivation. "The Battle For the Upper Tier" is one of the GABL's great traditions, distinguishing the elite from the mere average. One of the league's commonly held supersititions is that the winner of this game is the immediate favorite to win next year's title. In reality, this has only happened 46.8% of the time, but even so, pride is on the line.

Beast of Burden came out on top the last time these teams met, winning a hard-fought 40-35 contest. The Brothers Rodriguez combined for 25 of those points, but their teammates turned in one of their strongest contributing efforts of the season, tallying 15 to make the difference. In Week 3, meanwhile, players not named Rodriguez only mustered 9 points, and Geoff Nelson's hot shooting led The Bombers to a 45-44 win.

On the season, Beast of Burden boasted the second-strongest defense in the league, allowing only 38.7 points per game. They faltered somewhat in their semi-final loss to The Cray's Nest, but they should have a better time against the Bombers, who tend to score at a lower clip and whose offensive output has been severely limited of late. Rafael and Ismael Rodriguez will harass the Bomber guards, who will try to make up in crisp passing what they lack in ballhandling. The Bomber offense will live or die on constant motion, and it's not uncommon for an entire possession to go by in which the ball never touches the floor. If they can effectively overstretch the Beast of Burden rotation, they could see big points down low for Bob Van Kolken and Jake Berkowitz, and open shots for Nelson, Kerry Brown, and Steve Friedman. Nate Purinton, returning after a week off, will also contribute as a slasher, and Jeremy Forsythe's presence on the boards could prove crucial.

Offensively, Beast of Burden have nothing to hide; they depend on the Rodriguez attack, and it's up to the Bombers to stop them. But as in their Week 7 victory, they will need contributions from the likes of Kieran Valla and Brian Love, who can both hit from three when called upon. Underneath, Kyle Pilkington and Pat Waldo may have their hands full with Van Kolken, but if they can grab offensive boards and create second chances, things will progress a lot more smoothly for the BoB scorers. Robin Luna's scrappy defense will, as usual, have to tread a careful line between intensity and over-aggression. If he's not careful, he may find himself in foul trouble, a result his team will find difficult to overcome.

This game is likely to be close throughout. Whether the Rodriguez Brothers can carry their team back to .500, as they've done time and again this season, or the Bombers manage to eke out final victory, we should all expect a classic.

Favorite: Hospital Bombers (-2)

9:15: Layup Line Heroes (8-3) vs. The Cray's Nest (9-2), GABL Championship

The predicted match-up has come to pass, and anticipation has reached a fever pitch among GABL fans. And although many saw this confrontation coming, few can guess how it will end. Previous match-ups are little help; in Week 2, a 14-point Cray's Nest win, the Heroes hadn't yet acquired star guard Saulo Feliciano, while in Week 7, an 11-point Heroes win, TCN guard Shane Ryan had just returned from a sprained ankle and didn't have his full mobility. But though the outcome is in doubt, it can't be denied that the Heroes come in as the favorite. A 6-game winning streak has impressed even the most ardent doubters, and the 1-2 punch of Feliciano and Keith Gormley has yet to be stopped in league play.

In 5 regular season games, Feliciano averaged 13.2 points, and that total improved to 20 in last week's semi-final win. Gormly, a first team All-Star, was second in league scoring with 14.9 points per outing. Together, they form the honed point of the Heroes' attack, but they are far from the only weapons. Matt Brinkmann, Gormley's partner in the post, has helped the Heroes win the battle of the post in nearly ever contest. Last week was no exception, when his fierce play finally drove the Bombers from the lane. He's never seen a board he doesn't like. Greg Wyrick will return from last week's absence to provide yet another effective post threat, while Colby Hall averages 9 per game from a 3-guard position. The Steves, Krakauer and Reiter, provide solid guard presences, and their stability will be crucial to take some pressure off Feliciano.

Contending with the redoubtable interior of the Heroes will be Lars Rasmussen and Vance Tucker, All-Stars both. Rasmussen, considered one of the toughest players in the league, will not be cowed by the opposition's height, and Tucker has a history of containing Gormley, a feat he accomplished in Week 2. On the perimeter, the extened 3-2 zone will have to work overtime to limit Feliciano, and that responsibility falls largely on the shoulders of Ryan. He'll give up quickness, but that was true against Rafael Rodriguez in the semi-final, and his teammates picked up the slack on the wings to limit the damage. Jordan Glickson, Gene Walsh, and Jane Rizzo will fill those wing slots. Glickson in particular had a strong defensive effort againt Best of Burden, and Walsh is adept at leading fast breaks on changes of possession. Rizzo is scrappy, and deceptively quick; it will not be easy to drive on her side. Jacob Craycroft will have to wear many suits come Thursday; he'll be needed desperately on the boards, but will have to play a strong wing as well.

On offense, The Cray's Nest have the unenviable task of establishing an inside game. Tucker and Rasmussen are more than capable of scoring, but in Week 7 the guards had a tough time entering the ball inside. Feliciano's staunch, springy defense played a large role, as did Gormley's ability to assert himself at the top of the key, relying on Wyrick and Brinkmann below. Ryan could not connect from 3 in that game, and if The Cray's Nest has any hope of emerging victorious, that will have to change. It will also be incumbent on him to drive past the front of the zone and hope to draw defenders away from the big men. A repeat of Craycroft's 11-point performance from the semi-finals would also go a long way, as would the usual contributions from Walsh and Glickson. The latter has made a reputation for himself as a man to be counted on when the chips are down, and those nerves of steel could well be called upon in the jittery end stretches of the championship.

The Heroes will be running their usual zone, a 2-1-2 masquerading as a 3-2. It has served them well, and generally allows them to own the boards. Good thing, as rebounds may prove to be the most crucial factor. Unless a majority of shots are falling, an unlikely scenario since both have been stellar defensively in the season's second half, second chances will decide the game. If The Cray's Nest can carve their own space on the glass, they will be much better suited to make a run at the title. If they fail, another easy win will be in store for the Heroes.

One thing is guaranteed: neither team will lack for effort. The Cray's Nest have the league's best chemistry, and it has carried them through several close contests. The irrepressible will of the Heroes, meanwhile, has overrun any rumblings of discontent, and their killer instinct comes with sharpened teeth. It's a match-up truly fit for a championship, and the victor will deserve the spoils.

Favorite: Layup Line Heroes (-3)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Playoff Recaps, Week 1

5th/6th Classification: Team Fouls 37, Dunk-a Schoen 31

It's always been a GABL proverb that beating the same team three times in a single season is incredibly difficult, and these words of wisdom held up in Thursday's early game. Team Fouls, in last place at season's end by point differential, put together their best game of the season to post a narrow victory, 37-31. Andrew Weiner led the way with 13 points, including 4 of his trademark threes. Chris Bonastia had a strong second half as well, hitting all 4 of his foul shots and playing tough defense up front with Kyle Ervin. But it was Zach Smith's clutch three pointer from the wing that sealed the deal and put Team Fouls ahead to stay.

For Dunk-a Schoen, Whitney Warren and Ben Wietmarschen tallied 12 and 10, respectivey. Despite their height advantage, they could not achieve any more than a draw on the boards, and were forced to play Team Fouls' high-flying, long range style. It was a game they were content to play far too often this year, and it backfired once more. Toward the end of regulation, the team was heartily jeered by their own fans, many of whom held up signs reading "Achtung: Scheisse!," a German phrase meaning "Warning: Shit!" It was an oblique reference, of course, to their team name. Another memorable sign read "Dunk-a Schoen: Zero Dunks, Lotsa Shame." It will take quite an effort to win back these usually rabid supporters, an uphill battle made all the more difficult now that the team is relegated to the Coney Island Men's Rec League, where they must earn their way back into the GABL with a top finish next year.

Team Fouls finishes 5th and avoids relegation. After the game, good friends Andrew Weiner and Zach Smith were all smiles. "This one is for the little guy," said Smith. "For everyone who never thought they'd make it to the big time." Weiner echoed his sentiments. "This is the happiest I've ever been," he said. "And probably the happiest I ever will be."

Semi-Final #1: The Cray's Nest 45, Beast of Burden 27

When Shane Ryan hit two technical free throws for The Cray's Nest near the end of the second half, it tied the game at 14. From that point on, the regular season champions coasted, ending on a 31-13 run to reach the GABL championship. It will be the team's first time in the title game, but first team All-Star Lars Rasmussen was not content with merely making it this far. "We set out to win a regular season title, and we did that," he said. "Then we set out to win the championship, and we intend to do that too. Nothing is finished."

It was Rasmussen's brilliant stretch in the second half that ended Beast of Burden's hopes for good. On three straight possessions, TCN ran isolation plays for him in order to take advantage of their opponent's scrappy man-to-man. From the right side, Rasmussen scored 7 unanswered points, and when the dust had settled, the lead was up to 15. It seemed to break the spirits of Beast of Burden, who will try to salvage their season with a strong showing in the 3rd and 4th place classification game.

The Cray's Nest employed largely the same strategy they used to defeat Beast of Burden in Week 9. With an aggressive, extended 3-2 zone, they tried to box in the Rodriguez brothers, Rafael and Ismael. Rafael, the league MVP, had some success penetrating in the second half, and Ismael hit a pair of huge 3s in the first half, but each could only manage 10 points. The difference between Thursday night's blowout and the tight week 9 game was that Beast of Burden couldn't find a scoring punch anywhere else. Kyle Pilkington scored 4 pionts down low, and Kieran Valla hit a three in the second half, but that all they could muster against the fierce Cray's Nest Defense.

Another huge difference on Thursday was the offensive contribution of Jacob Craycroft, who scored a season-high 11 points, including 9 in the second half. It was his best shooting performance of the season, and it couldn't have come at a better time. "I'll admit it, the basket looked pretty big out there today," said an elated Craycroft after the game. "I felt like a free man." Then his eyes began to water, and he ended the interview prematurely.

Vance Tucker, a second team All-Star, added 4 points and a strong performance on the boards. Ryan scored 5, and wowed the spectators with a late full court behind-the-back pass, while Jordan Glickson added 4, Gene Walsh 3, and Jane Rizzo 2 to round out the Cray's Nest attack.

Semi-Final #2: Layup Line Heroes 47, The Hospital Bombers 37

The Heroes' spectactular run continued Thursday with an impressive win against a determinded Bomber side. As they've done all year, the victors slowly evicted their opponents from the paint; by the second half, they controlled the boards entirely. Their tight zone defense allowed no penetration, and eventually the Bombers had to rely on three-point shooting to mount a comeback. They came as close as six with minutes to play, but the strategy was ultimately doomed, and the Heroes posted their sixth straight win.

Saulo Feliciano led all scorers with 20 points, 18 of which came in the secnod half. He also added to his foul-shooting legend with an impressive 8-for-9 performance. He and center Keith Gormley accounted for 32 of the teams's 47 points, and nearly outscored the Bombers by themselves. Those two, along with Matt Brinkmann, were also primarily responsible for the brutal interior play that utterly cowed the opposition. It is a style best described as 'war of attrition,' where each enemy into the lane is punished in an effort to reduce all future campaigns. Even when an inside basket is scored, it's all too often a Pyrrhic victory, unlikely to be repeated. Some experts thought the Bombers would be well-suited to wage this type of battle, but within minutes it became clear that Bob VanKolken was the only player with the fortitude to brave the interior, and alone his accomplishments were minimal. By the second half, even he was reluctant to advance too deep into the Heroes' defensive territory.

Steve Friedman led the second half charge for the Bombers, scoring 12 points on a series of jump shots. VanKolken added 9, but only 3 in the second half, while first team All-Star Geoff Nelson could never find his shot, scoring only 2 for the game. Kerry Brown hit a pair of three pointers, but was otherwise a surprising non-factor, while Avi Kent had 6 second-half points to keep things close, and Jake Berkowitz added 2. "It wasn't our day," said a disappointed Nelson. "Those f*&#s are tough."

Colby Hall scored 7 for the Heroes, while Brinkmann had 6, and Steve Reiter 2. Gormley, always soft-spoken, would not offer a prediction for the title game. "We only have to succeed in our own hearts," he told reporters. Brinkmann was less diplomatic. "They'll be treated to hardship," he said. "Strife and Heroes are 6-letter words."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The GABL Awards!

For the first time in history, the Grand Army Basketball League congregated to honor its top performers (minimum 7 games played). The ceremony took place last night at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, under cover of darkness, and the winners were as follows:

Sportsmanship Award: Zach Smith, Team Fouls, for his good nature and frequent smiles.

The 6th Man Award: Kieran Valla, Beast of Burden, and Colby Hall, Layup Line Heroes: grinders who tipped the balance in many games.

Second-Team All-Stars:

PG: Chris Bonastia, Team Fouls
SG: Ismael Rodriguez, Beast of Burden
SF: Vance Tucker, The Cray's Nest
PF: Zach Heinzerling, Dunk-a Schoen
C: Bob Van Kolken, The Hospital Bombers

First-Team All-Stars:

PG: Geoff Nelson, The Hospital Bombers
SG: Andrew Weiner, Team Fouls
SF: Ben Weitmarschen, Dunk-a Schoen
PF: Lars Rasmussen, The Cray's Nest
C: Keith Gormley, Layup Line Heroes

The 2010 GABL MVP: Rafael Rodriguez, Beast of Burden

Congratulations to all!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Playoff Previews!

Whoa baby, the playoffs are here! The whole season has come down to this, and one mistake could cost EVERYTHING! Let's get right to it!

5th and 6th Place Classification Game: Team Fouls (2-8) vs. Dunk-a Schoen (2-8)

When the early game ends, one of these teams will have earned their third win of the season. On paper, Dunk-a Schoen is the clear favorite. The last time these teams met, in Week 6, the Schoeners asserted their will in a 59-32 victory. With newcomer Kevin Felder leading the way, the team seemed poised to turn their season around from a rough 1-4 beginning. Four weeks later, things have not worked out in their favor. Dunk-a Schoen has dropped 4 straight, missing the playoffs and disappointing one of the GABL's most rabid fanbases.

While Dunk-a Schoen earned both of their victories against Thursday's opponent, Team Fouls can actually boast wins over playoff teams. In week 3, they beat the Layup Line Heroes, and followed that up with a week 7 win against Beast of Burden. Week 5 saw them lose a close call to league champions The Cray's Nest, after Jordan Glickson hit a game-winning three pointer. Andrew Weiner led the league in three-point shooting with 31 on the year, and backcourt mate Zach Smith hit 13 of his own. Chris Bonastia and Kyle Ervin play a similar style of game, with hard-nosed defense and the ability to penetrate against any defender, while Trista Sordillo and Dave Polen are slasher types who can hit the open jumper with consistency. Unfortunately, former members David Saie and Allison Cline seem to have jumped ship, and are not expected to play on Thursday.

Unfortunately for Team Fouls, their style of play matches up poorly with Dunk-a Schoen. The biggest team in the league by far, six players on DS's entire roster are taller than any Team Foul player except Zach Smith. Kevin Felder, Whitney Warren, Ben Weitmarschen, Tom Fleischman, Katie Stokien, and Zach Heinzerling are the sextet in question, and they play very similar games. Warren and Weitmarschen tend to drive the most, Heinzerling and Felder have strong outside shots, and Fleischman and Stokien crash the boards. Mark Lee, their point guard, is also accurate from three, and plays pesky defense. The main weakness of Dunk-a Schoen is that despite their size, they seem content to stay out of the paint and concede the rebounding edge to their opponent. Against Team Fouls, though, this shouldn't be a problem, a fact which explains their two victories to date.

Favorite: Dunk-a Schoen (-9)

Semi-Final #1: The Cray's Nest (8-2) vs. Beast of Burden

The most interesting stat in this clash of the GABL's two top scoring offenses is point differential. After every game was tallied, they finished with the exact same regular season mark: +31. So why were The Cray's Nest 8-2 while Beast of Burden had to win their final game just to reach .500? The answer is obvious, and telling: The Cray's Nest won close games, while Beast of Burden typically did not. TCN's regular season championship run included final second wins against Team Fouls, Dunk-a Schoen (twice), and The Hospital Bombers, and Beast of Burden themselves. That amounts over half of their regular season wins. On the flip side of the coin, 4 of Beast of Burden's 5 wins came by margins of 7 or higher, while their loss margins were as follows: 1, 1, 5, 9, 4.

The teams are 1-1 on the year, and the last time they met, in week 9, The Cray's Nest held on for a tight victory after controlling most of the game. TCN relies on the post play of Lars Rasmussen and Vance Tucker, who will have a distinct edge on Thursday. Rasmussen's 13.4 ppg were good for 4th in the league, while Tucker finished just under double digits at 9.8. After an ankle injury sidelined guard Shane Ryan during the season's middle stretch, he came back to score in the 20s twice, and should factor into the offensive attack. Guards Jordan Glickson and Gene Walsh combined to contribute over 10 per game, while Jacob Craycroft adds a third head to the post attack, and Jane Rizzo functions well in their 3-2 zone.

For Beast of Burden, MVP candidate Rafael Rodriguez led all GABL scorers with 16.9 per game. His brother, Ismael, was third with 14.1, making them the most prolific tandem in the league. The offense centers around the brothers, but guards Brian Love and Kieran Valla are capable of hitting from three, and the Pat Waldo/Kyle Pilkington interior combination has been a key factor in the team's victories. On defense, guard Robin Luna is more than willing to mix it up, and his tenacious style has given opposing guards headaches all year. They will need to be particularly strong on the defensive end in order to contain the league's best scoring offense. TCN averaged 44 points per game, while Beast of Burden allowed only 38. On Thursday, something's got to give.

Favorite: The Cray's Nest (-2)

Semi-Final #2: Layup Line Heroes (7-3) vs. The Hospital Bombers (6-4)

These teams met last week in what figured to be a preview of the second and most anticipated semi-final. But in a stunning display of gamesmanship, captain Jake Berkowitz rested three of his top players- Bob Van Kolken, Steve Friedman, and Kerry Brown- in order to disguise his playoff strategy. Instead, they ran a wheel offense that often resulted in a three pointer by sharpshooters Geoff Nelson or Nate Purinton, and the Heroes ran away with a 14-point win. The move was not appreciated by the Heroes, but Berkowitz was unapologetic. "We care about playoff wins. The regular season can kiss my a**."

The first time these teams met, in Week 5, the Bombers won by 13. But two regular season blowouts don't figure to predict the third meeting; all indications point to a close game. Since adding point guard Saulo Feliciano, the Heroes have rattled off a 5-0 second half run, a stretch which included an 11-point win against The Cray's Nest. Feliciano averages 13.2 points per game, and brings a level of stability to an offense that features MVP candidate Keith Gormley (14.9 ppg) and league bad boy Colby Hall (8.9 ppg). The Heroes' unsung hero has been Matt Brinkmann, whose strong inside defense has helped the team become the GABL's best defensive unit, allowing only 37 points per outing. Captain Greg Wyrick rounds out the trio of excellent big men, who ensure that any points in the paint are duly earned. The guard play of Steve Krakauer, Amy Hauck, andSteve Reiter has improved all season, and Reiter's passing theatrics are a favorite with the 'heroines,' the team's all-female cheering section. Their frontcourt is now among the strongest in the league, and this, combined with their superior inside play, makes them a tough opponent.

Whereas consistency has been the Heroes' trademark of late, the Bombers can only be called mercurial. They've won close games, they've lost close games, they've looked unbeatable, they've looked horrid. It's a season of ups and downs for Berkowitz's squad. Geoff Nelson is the team's leading scorer, with 10.9 per game, but this average seems to be a combination of 20-point games and total shutouts. Van Kolken is next with 10.7, and his year-long battle on the inside has been something to behold. He'll have to bring his best against the Heroes, but if he does, it could be the toughest challenge they've faced. Nate Purinton will be out on Thursday, but the Bombers regain Steve Friedman and Kerry Brown, both of whom average 9 points per game. Berkowitz is a slasher who averages 4 points and crashed the boards consistently, while big man Jeremy Forsythe is a pounding presence inside who will need to assert himself early to ensure that his team isn't cowed by Brinkmann and Gormley.

This game shapes up as one of the year's best, and how it plays out is anyone's guess. If Feliciano can be contained by the Bomber guards, the Heroes may have a tough time scoring. At the same time, the Heroes' could easily control the paint and make life hell for the Bomber motion offense. It should be a doozy.

Favorite: Layup Line Heroes (-1)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stats, Standings, Features - Regular Season

It's complete! An exciting regular season came to an end with a surprising lack of drama in Week 10. Call it the calm before the storm. This post will be jam-packed with features, so hold on to your hats.

First, congratulations to THE CRAY'S NEST, your regular season champions!

The Cray's Nest were also the league's best offensive team, while the Layup Line Heroes take defensive honors. The Nest just surpassed the Heroes in free throw shooting, with a great mark of 62.1%. Team Fouls led the GABL in three-point shooting with 4 per game.

And then the individual stats:

Let's congratulate the GABL's first ever scoring champion, Rafael Rodriguez! With an average of 16.9 points per game, he truly lit up the scorebook.

And how about a hand for the three point king, Andrew Weiner! Weiner's 31 threes easily set a league record. It may never be broken.

The free throw shooting champion came down to a controversial finish. There were three different winners, according to the coaches' poll, the Associated Press, and the fan's choice.

Associated Press winner: Shane Ryan, 19-24, 79.2%
Coaches' Poll winner: Lars Rasmussen, 40-55, 72.7%
Fan's Choice winner: Saulo Feliciano, 12-14, 85.7%

It takes 15 free throws to qualify, so Feliciano fell just short. But the fans took pity, bestowing their favor upon him. Meanwhile, the pure volume of Rasmussen's free throws made him a favorite of the coaches, and his sustained excellence earned their highest honor. But in the history books, Ryan will go down as the shooter who both qualified and turned in the highest mark. What a finish!

The GABL would not be what it is without those stalwarts who show up every evening, ready to do battle, win or lose. It's time now to honor the members of the 2010 Perfect Attendance Club. The following players made all 10 games:

Keith Gormley
Ismael Rodriguez
Vance Tucker
Zach Smith
Chris Bonastia
Kieran Valla
Kyle Pilkington
Trista Sordillo
Jeremy Forsythe

And the award for best team attendance goes to Beast of Burden. They put three members on the PAC list, and of their remaining members, three were present for 9 games, and one was present for 8. Out of 70 possible attendance chances, they made good on 65. That's an astonishing 93% attendance rate. Well done!

It's time now for the Week 10 features...

Player of the Week: Ben Weitmarschen

Weitmarschen scored 26 points, including an exciting barrage at the end of the game, in Dunk-a Schoen's 50-43 loss to Beast of Burden. With nothing on the line except pride, Weitmarschen showed incredible heart and fought to the last breath. He's a testament to the spirit of the GABL, and his season high nearly earned his team a thrilling win. Weitmarschen's picture will be featured in the Spring Issue of the Manhattan Senior Citizen's Guide to Recreation.

Honorable Mention: Geoff Nelson and Ismael Rodriguez

Nelson made a breathtaking run at his own record for most three-pointers in a single game. At the half, he had hit 4 and was on pace to surpass his old total of 7. But the Layup Line Heroes knuckled down in the second half, and Nelson could only hit two more before time expired. He finished with 20 points, and raised his ppg average into double digits.

Rodriguez, excellent as usual, scored 21 points and helped Beast of Burden earn a .500 record. His steals and conversions in the final minutes helped stave off the Dunk-a Schoen comeback. The victory gives them positive momentum going into their playoff match-up against The Cray's Nest.

Both players will be awared the Tin Credential, a sheaf-like medal given out once per year by the Brotherhood of the Lower East Side Community Preservation Committee.

Past Players of the Week:

Week 1: Lars Rasmussen (retroactive)
Week 2: Ismael Rodriguez (retroactive)
Week 3: Geoff Nelson
Week 4: Rafael Rodriguez
Week 5: Jordan Glickson
Week 6: Keith Gormley
Week 7: Bob Van Kolken
Week 8: Vance Tucker
Week 9: Shane Ryan

The King's Court: Week 10

A scoreboard! A scoreboard! My kingdom for a scoreboard!

Sir Prolificus (points): Ben Weitmarschen and Rafael Rodriguez, 26

Dr. Charity (foul-shooting): Shane Ryan, 6-6

Narrowly edges out Lars Rasmussen (3-4), Saulo Feliciano (2-2), Jordan Glickson (2-2), and Andrew Weiner (2-2).

Captain Long-Range (three-point shooting): Geoff Nelson, 6

The Earl of Baskets (field goals): Weitmarschen, 11

The Duke of D: Kyle Pilkington and Pat Waldo, for holding their own on the glass against a taller Dunk-a Schoen team.

The Dime Baron (week's best pass): Steve Reiter, for a seeing-eye whip of a dish to Ben Weitmarschen in the late game.

The Marchioness (best female performance): Amy Hauck, who had 4 big points in the second half to help secure the Heroes' victory.

Later next week: Week 10 recaps, Playoff Previews, and the announcement of the GABL All-Stars!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Previews, Week 10

As the teams prepare for the final week of the regular season, the playoff picture is nearly complete. But the regular season title is still up for grabs, and the GABL's Week 10 match-ups should provide a fair amount of drama with substantial postseason implications.

8:15 - The Cray's Nest (7-2) vs. Team Fouls (2-7)

On the surface, this seems like a game with no stakes. The Cray's Nest have already clinched a playoff spot, and with their loss last week to The Hospital Bombers, Team Fouls must resign themselves to the 5th/6th place game. But all season, TCN has insisted that their primary goal is a regular season championship. A win on Thursday will secure that title, while a loss opens the door for the Layup Line Heroes to win on point differential. Losing first place would be bad enough, but it would also force them to play The Hospital Bombers in the semifinals. Both meetings between the teams ended in narrow victories for The Cray's Nest, but you can bet they don't want to give their rivals a second chance unless a championship is on the line.

Team Fouls has suffered from a lack of rebounding ability, and they'll rely on the three point shot to stay close tomorrow. League leader Andrew Weiner is capable of catching fire in a heartbeat, and Chris Bonastia and Zach Smith add strong play from the frontcourt. They'll have to face a strong perimiter defense, and will be severely outmatched on the glass. On defense, The Cray's Nest will attempt to feed the ball into the post, where Lars Rasmussen and Vance Tucker should operate with impunity. Jordan Glickson, Shane Ryan, Jane Rizzo, and Gene Walsh will rotate at the guard positions, while Jacob Craycroft adds yet another rebounding element. For Team Fouls, the point production of Trista Sordillo could prove crucial.

9:00 - Layup Line Heroes vs. The Hospital Bombers

If The Cray's Nest win the early game, this clash of the titans will be a preview of the 2/3 semifinal game. The Bombers, darlings of the league in the middle weeks, have given way to the Heroes in the national limelight. Ranked first in the latest power poll, the Heroes have been the most impressive unit in the league in the last four weeks, defeating all comers regardless of rank. Keith Gormley will lead the scoring attack, and guard Saulo Feliciano adds a potent spark from the point guard position. Matt Brinkmann and Greg Wyrick have a rough and tumble style that helps the Heroes control the boards, while Colby Hall, Steve Reiter, and Steve Krakauer contribute from the outside.

The true strength of the Heroes is their interior defense, but if any team can break it down, it's the Bombers. Their crisp passing offense is adept at getting to the heart of the opposition and finding the chinks in its armor. Kerry Brown runs the show from the top of the key, while Steve Friedman, Geoff Nelson and Nate Purinton live on the wings, looking for their three point shot. Bob Van Kolken has been solid all season in the post, and he'll work with Jeremy Forsythe and Jake Berkowitz to try and establish an inside presence to match the redoutable Heroes. Oddsmakers will be watching this game with close attention, attempting to divine which team will have an advantage if they meet next week in the playoffs.

9:45 - Beast of Burden vs. Dunk-a Schoen

For Beast of Burden, their last game of the regular season serves two functions. First, they'd like to get back to .500. Second, as a tune up for their semifinal. They've clinched the last spot in the playoffs, and will face the #1 seed. The Cray's Nest are their likely opponents, and they'll need to formulate a game plan that functions more effectively than its equivalent in Week 9, when they seemed out of sorts against a tough perimeter defense. Point guard Rafael Rodriguez comes into the last week averaging 15.8 points per game, slightly higher than Keith Gormley's 15.2. He'll be vying for the scoring title, while backcourt mate Ismael Rodriguez attempts to take second place in the three point field goal race. The brothers are the GABL's top scoring duo, and they'll need to reach at least their average of 29 points per game to lead their team to a 5-5 mark.

Dunk-a Schoen has been almost resurgent, almost contenders, since Week 5. Their penchant for losing close games has stranded them at 2-7, with no hope of playoffs, but they're still a dangerous team. They'll be looking to play spoiler to Beast of Burden, and their team of slashers should be difficult to contain underneath. Kevin Felder, Whitney Warren, Ben Weitmarschen, and Zach Heinzerling play similar styles, and the homogeneity may have hurt them at times. But it could serve well against a smaller opponent, which is what they'll face Thursday. They'll need to shut down the secondary three point shooters like Brian Love and Kieran Valla, as well as contain Pat Waldo and Kyle Pilkington inside. If they can manage this, and get rebounding production from Tom Fleischman and Katie Stokien, they could finish the season with positive momentum.