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.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Recaps, Week 9

Before we get to the recaps, here's the upcoming playoff schedule:

Thursday, April 8th:

8:15: 5th/6th place classification game (Dunk-a Schoen vs. Team Fouls)
9:00: Semifinal #1: #1 vs. #4 (TBD vs. Beast of Burden)
9:45: Semifinal #2: #2 vs. #3 (TBD vs. Hospital Bombers)

Friday, April 15th:

8:15: Bronze Medal Game
9:15: The Grand Army Cup Championship

Week 9 Recaps:

The Cray's Nest 48, Beast of Burden 44

Shane Ryan's break-out game propelled The Cray's Nest to a 4-point win, putting them in position to win the regular season championship with one more victory. Ryan, who has been bothered by a sprained ankle for much of the season, scored 18, including two foul shots with 7 seconds remaining to clinch the game. He was joined on the score sheet by Vance Tucker and Lars Rasmussen, who each contributed 10 points while dominating the paint, and Jacob Craycroft, who added 6.

The Cray's Nest employed an extended 3-2 zone, and the results were favorable. For the first time this season, guards Rafael and Ismael Rodriguez seemed to be retreating on the perimeter, bothered by advancing guards and the occasional trap. Rafael managed to score 14, while Ismael had 13 in the losing cause. After holding a slim halftime lead, bolstered by Brian Love's two three-pointers, Beast of Burden lost steam in the second half, and only a furious late-game charge kept this one close. Down by 5 with ten seconds remaining, Ismael Rodriguez was fouled shooting from long range, and he converted all three free throws. Ryan received the inbounds, was quickly fouled, and made both ends of the 1-and-1. Rasmussen's harassing defense prevented BoB from getting a quick shot off, and the game ended with their desperation three coming up short.

The Cray's Nest lead the league with a 7-2 record, and can secure the title with a Week 10 win over Team Fouls. Beast of Burden slip to 4-5, but now own the fourth playoff spot by virtue of Dunk-a Schoen's loss.

Layup Line Heroes 39, Dunk-a Schoen 31

The Heroes showed why they were ranked first in the latest power rankings with this convincing win over a desperate Dunk-a Schoen team. Saulo Feliciano led all scorers with 15 points, and controlled the game from the point guard position. His steady hand ensured that the contest would be fought in the half-court set, where the Heroes excel. Keith Gormley, in a tight contest for the league's scoring title, finished with 10 points, while back-court mate Matt Brinkmann added 7. Greg Wyrick and Colby Hall rounded out the scoring with 5 and 4, respectively.

Despite a balanced scoring attack led by Ben Weitmarschen's 10 points, Dunk-a Schoen could never find an offensive rhythm. It's been a recurring problem for the team, and Thursday provided no solutions. They were continuously stymied in their forays into the paint, a credit to the defense of Gormley, Wyrick, and Brinkmann, and the resulting three point shots would not fall. Zach Heinzerling had 7 points, while Mark Lee and Kevin Felder added 6 apiece. Whitney Warren, a member of last season's championship squad, was held to 2.

The Heroes upped their record to 6-3, and can win the title with a victory over The Hospital Bombers and a Cray's Nest loss in Week 10, provided they gain 13 differential points in the process. Dunk-a Schoen had a chance to keep their playoff hopes alive with a win, but the loss relegates them to the fifth place classification game. They finish the regular season against Beast of Burden.

The Hospital Bombers 41, Team Fouls 38

A slick passing game helped the Bombers secure a slim victory over Team Fouls in the late contest. Nate Purinton had his best game of the year, scoring 11 points and connecting on 4 of 6 from the line, to lead the winners. Kerry Brown, the keystone of the motion offense, added 11 of her own, including 3 from downtown. This strong perimeter tandem drew Team Fouls forward, enabling Bob Van Kolken to score 10 points in the paint.

In the end, it was all too much for Team Fouls, who put forth a game effort nonetheless. Andrew Weiner scored 12 points, all from long range, and Zach Smith, Trista Sordillo, and Chris Bonastia added 4 each. They had several chances to take the lead late, but their three point attempts against the Bomber zone would not fall. With ten seconds remaining, down two points, Purinton was sent to the line. He hit the front end of the 1-and-1, but missed the second, giving Team Fouls one last chance to tie. Unfortunately, Chris Bonastia was harrassed from the get-go, couldn't find an open man, and was forced into a bad shot as time expired.

The Bombers move to 6-3 on the year, and stand in second place going into Week 10's match with the Layup Line Heroes. Because they've lost both games to The Cray's Nest, they cannot win the regular season title. Team Fouls falls to 2-7, and will meet The Cray's Nest in Week 10 before facing Dunk-a Schoen in the 5th place classification game.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stats, Standings, Features After Week 9

Fantastic night. Today's post is sponsored by Kyle Singler's heart. He hurts for the greater good.

First off, congratulations to Beast of Burden for clinching the 4th and final playoff spot.

Fun fact: Last night, the league was 39/60 from the foul line, a 65% mark. Impressive stuff.

There may be a lack of playoff drama next week, but here are some things to look out for:

*The race for the scoring crown has come down to Rafael Rodriguez and Keith Gormley. Rodriguez has a slight lead at the moment, averaging 15.8 to Gormley's 15.2, but the big man is still within reach. It's coming down to the wire!

*Speaking of coming down to the wire, Lars Rasmussen maintained his slight lead in the free throw race with a 2-4 performance last night. He's currently shooting 72.5% from the stripe on the year. Shane Ryan is in second place at 72.2%, while two players who are almost eligible are within striking distance. Kevin Felder is 10-14, and 71.4%, while Saulo Feliciano is 10-12, and 83.0%. Both players need 15 attempts to qualify.

*The team scoring title is also neck-and-neck going into the last week. After week 8, The Hospital Bombers took an incredibly slight lead for the first time all year, but The Cray's Nest ripped it back with a 48-point performance last night. TCN has 386, and the Bombers stand at 381.

*On team defense, the Layup Line Heroes hold a 7-point edge on Beast of Burden. They've allowed only 337 on the year.

*The Cray's Nest is one win away from taking the coveted regular season title. A win against Team Fouls, and it's theirs. If they lose and Layup Line Heroes win, the title will come down to point differential.

On to the features...

Player of the Week: Shane Ryan

Controversy! Bias! 18 points, 5-5 at the line, and some heady D at the top of the 3-2 zone secured this one. The ankle shenanigans look to be officially over. It is fucking go time. For his efforts, Shane will get to watch Duke make the Final 4 and punish John Wall for choosing Kentucky over the Blue Devils.

Honorable Mention: Nate Purinton and Saulo Feliciano

Purinton scored 11 points, hit two threes, and was 4-6 from the line in the Bombers' tight 3-point win. His clutch foul shot at the end pushed the lead to 3, and allowed his team to play swarming perimeter defense without worrying about the 3. Team Fouls couldn't get a shot off, and the Bombers positioned themselves to take second place outright in week 10.

Feliciano scored 15, and hit 3 of 4 from the stripe on the way to dismantling Dunk-a Schoen 39-31. His steady point play and driving ability kept the Schoeners off guard all night, and his play has helped elevate the Heroes to the top of the power rankings.

Both players will receive posters of Greg Zoubek screaming at the camera after laying down a furious jam on that total asshole Chris Kramer.

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

The King's Court: Week 9

Rule, GABL! GABL rules the waves! G-A-B-L never will be slaves!

Sir Prolificus (points): Shane Ryan, 18

Dr. Charity (foul-shooting): Shane Ryan, 5-5

Narrowly edges out Ismael Rodriguez (4-5), Matt Brinkmann (4-6), Nate Purinton (4-6), Bob Van Kolken (4-6), and Saulo Feliciano (3-4)

Captain Long-Range (three-point shooting): Andrew Weiner, 4

The Earl of Baskets (field goals): Ryan, Feliciano, R. Rodriguez, 6

The Duke of D: Matt Brinkmann, Greg Wyrick and Keith Gormley, for containing the big bodies of Dunk-a Schoen and owning the interior.

The Dime Baron (week's best pass): Bob Van Kolken, for a quick no-look dump pass to Jeremy Forsythe in the paint.

The Marchioness (best female performance): Kerry Brown, who connected on 3 treys, played inscrutable point, and collected 11 points in a win over Team Fouls.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Power Rankings! Previews! Week 9!

The latest power rankings have just been released, and I think you'll all be astonished to find out that the #1 team is...

1) Layup Line Heroes

Coming off three straight wins, including two against playoff teams, the Heroes are riding high. Their fanbase has never been more confident, and autograph requests are pouring in by the thousands. Center and spiritual leader Keith Gormley is in a tight race for the scoring crown, and new addition Saulo Feliciano has charmed an entire nation while giving the team an extra punch from the perimeter. Meanwhile, the Double Steves, Krakauer and Reiter, continue to contribue solidly from the guard positions, and psychological warrior Colby Hall plays the Dennis Rodman role, getting in the heads of opposing stars. And let's not forget Dan Abrams, the tough-nosed guard who sacrificed parts of three different teeth in last week's overtime thriller against Team Fouls, or Amy Hauck, the gritty defender who takes pride in closing down the top of the zone.

But perhaps the most underrated story of the year for the Heroes is the emergence of Matt Brinkmann, whose point and rebound production have skyrocketed over the season's second half. His heroics and interior muscle have redefined the team dynamic, and will continue to propel the Heroes throughout the postseason. Yes, all is good in Layup Line Land. It seems like there's no way they can ever lose.

2) The Cray's Nest

You can't argue with winning. Try, and you'll just get frustrated. Seriously, form your best arguments, bring them to me, and I'll just find the nearest computer, load up this blog, and start chanting "Stannnnn-dings! Stannnn-dings!" while pointing at the screen. At 6-2, TCN are atop the GABL, though almost none of their wins have been pretty. In fact, their team slogan is "screw around for thirty-five, call timeout and come alive." This refers to the team's seeming ability to play raggedy games, find themselves facing a deficit, only to come back in the final minute and win in crunch time. Jordan Glickson has two game winning shots with under ten seconds remaining, Vance Tucker has one, and last week Tucker upped the dramatics a notch with the league's first buzzer beater against Dunk-a Schoen. Another early win against the Hospital Bombers was close throughout, and only one win, early against the Layup Line Heroes, wasn't a nailbiter.

Lars Rasmussen spearheads the Nesters attack, averaging 14.6 points per game, and he and Tucker have been largely responsible for the team's success. Jacob Craycroft adds a third powerful presence underneath, and most teams have been incapable of contending with this fierce trio. Gene Walsh has been a steady hand at point guard, and Glickson's last second theatrics are well known across the eastern seaboard. Jane Rizzo, who will miss her first game of the season tonight, has been a constant defensive nuisance to opponents, and won the Marchioness Award in Week 6. The success of The Cray's Nest may well depend on Shane Ryan, who has struggled in a season marred by injury. In 5 games, he's only managed to average 8.2 per game, and his three point shooting has been inconsistent. Team reports indicate that coaches and players are optimistic that his ankle has healed, and tonight will be a breakout game.

3) Beast of Burden

Semi-comfortably entrenched in the fourth and final playoff spot, Beast of Burden are a team on the rise. The mid-season doldrums appear to be over as Rafael Rodriguez and his brother Ismael are back to their old selves, scoring a blue streak and harassing opposing guards nonstop. Rafael is the league's leading scorer, averaging 16.0 per game, while Ismael averages 13.4. Both players have hit 12 3-pointers over the course of the season. The rest of the unit seems to be gelling both offensively and defensively. Kyle Pilkington and Pat Waldo do the heavy lifting down low, while Brian Love and Kieran Valla provide outside threats and smothering defense. Robin Luna, one of the league's most intense defenders, has been hell for opposing guards.

Beast of Burden is at its best when Ismael is hitting from long distance. His high arcing shot can be deadly, but at times this season it's had such an extreme trajectory that it hits the support beams above the basket. His success will determine whether BoB can find their way past the first round of the playoffs.

4) The Hospital Bombers

Ranked #1 in a previous power poll, the shine has come off the Bombers as the season wears on. In the past three weeks, they've lost to The Cray's Nest and Beast of Burden, and many think they were extremely lucky to beat Dunk-a Schoen. In last week's loss to BoB, it became abundantly clear how much they depended on Geoff Nelson's 7 threes in their win the first time those teams met. Despite strong performances from guards Steve Friedman and Kerry Brown, it has been difficult for them to generate consistent offense.

That offense hinges on the play of Bob Van Kolken, one of the league's top centers. Usually a reliable force underneath, Bob won Player of the Week Honors against Dunk-a Schoen. But he had a quieter performance in the loss to Beast of Burden, and it affected the larger team. Defensively, they allow only 40 points per game, aided in large part by the constant hustle of Jake Berkowitz and Nate Purinton, along with the resilient board presence of Jeremy Forsythe. The path ahead is unclear for the Bombers, who seem to need explosive offensive performances to win ballgames. The question of who will fill that role in the near future is an unsolved mystery.

5) Dunk-a Schoen

In many ways, Dunk-a Schoen are a mirror image of The Cray's Nest. They have plentiful tall bodies, are strong inside, have players who can drive and players who can shoot. But in other ways, they are completely opposite. Instead of 6-2, their record is 2-6. Instead of winning multiple close games, they have lost multiple close games. And instead of perching atop the standings, they dwell in the cellar.

The story of Dunk-a Schoen is a classic tragedy; a team full of potential, who even still inspire fear in the hearts of 'superior' teams, but who could never pull it together when it counted, and who succumbed to bad timing and bad luck. But the epic downfall was not for lack of talent. The roster is full of great athletes with more than enough basketball skill to succeed. Whitney Warren, Tom Fleischman, and Zach Heinzerling are intimidating presences down low, while Kevin Felder and Ben Weitmarschen can light up the scoreboard on a whim. Katie Stokien excels at inside defense, and Mark Lee functions as an extremely competent point guard and occasional three-point threat. But aside from an outstanding performance against Team Fouls in Week 6, the pieces haven't quite clicked. They have two weeks left to earn respect and an outside shot at the playoffs.

6) Team Fouls

It's been a rocky road for Team Fouls, who an enraged fanbase has dubbed "the little team that couldn't." At 2-6, they are tied for last place, but their point differential of -40 has effectively eliminated them from playoff contention. Like Dunk-a Schoen, though, some of those losses have come in heartbreaking fashion. Glickson's famous three pointer ruined them in Week 5, while last week's valiant effort against the Layup Line Heroes fell short in overtime.

Though they are perhaps the league's most entertaining team, playing a wide open style featuring the assassin-like shooting of Andrew Weiner (25 threes on the year, almost double any other player), it has not proved sustainable. They allow 44 points per game, worst in the league, and have only been to the free throw line 41 times, fewer than half the total of any other team. Chris Bonastia and Kyle Ervin play intense perimeter defense and are threats on the drive, Zach Smith can shoot the long ball and hold his own down low, Trista Sordillo is a sharpshooter from close range, and Dave Polen's jump shot has been pinpoint all season, but they lack a true post presence. This hurdle has been too much to overcome, especially in the nailbiters. They'll have to settle for a good finish in the 5th/6th place game, and hope 2011 brings happier conclusions.

Note: Power Rankings aside, the parity in the league has been pretty astonishing this year. No team is unbeatable, and no team is a walk-over. Close games have far outnumbered blowouts. Competition is king. Kudos to all.

Week 8 Previews

8:15: Beast of Burden vs. The Cray's Nest

Fighting for their playoff lives, Beast of Burden will need strong guard play to overcome the post advantage of Lars Rasmussen and Vance Tucker. TCN will be missing guards Jordan Glickson and Gene Walsh, so Shane Ryan's play will be critical.

Favorite: Beast of Burden (-4)

9:00: Layup Line Heroes vs. Dunk-a Schoen

Going into the game, Dunk-a Schoen will know whether they still have a shot at the fourth playoff spot, and this knowledge could influence their play. Regardless, they'll want to prove something to themselves and the league, and their size should limit Gormley's scoring production. The upset radar is on and blinking.

Favorite: Layup Line Heroes (-2)

9:45: Hospital Bombers vs. Team Fouls

A win here will ensure that the Bombers avoid seeing The Cray's Nest in round one. It's unclear how much Team Fouls will have left in the tank, and they will likely have trouble with Van Kolken, Forsythe, and Purinton underneath.

Favorite: Hospital Bombers (-7)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recaps, Week 8

MANHATTAN - The playoff race began to look clear as the lights dimmed on week 8 of the GABL. March Madness extended its flaming hand into the lower east side, and three close games led a breathless league into the home stretch.

Layup Line Heroes 42, Team Fouls 38, OT

Keith Gormley and Saulo Feliciano have become quite the two-headed monster. The two combined for 31 of the team's 42 points in a thrilling battle that secured a playoff berth for the Heroes. In the first half, Feliciano couldn't be contained, and he tallied 10 points as his side took an 18-14 lead into the half. But coming out of the break, Team Fouls stormed back. Despite missing captain Kyle Ervin, they were able to ride Andrew Weiner's hot hand back into contention. Weiner had 18 points, including 4 threes, and Team Fouls played their hearts out to salvage some hope of postseason play. But Keith Gormley was up to the task, scoring 9 second-half points to keep the Heroes afloat.

As time wound down, Team Fouls had the ball with only seconds on the clock. Unfortunately, they couldn't muster a good look, and both teams took a brief rest before the extra session. There, the Heroes scored twice, courtesy of Gormley and captain Greg Wyrick. Team Fouls could not muster any offense, and after 2 minutes, their dream had ended.

The Heroes move to 5-3 on the year, and are tied with the Hospital Bombers for second place, and will have a chance to take it outright in their Week 10 match-up. Team Fouls falls to 2-6, and though they aren't yet mathematically eliminated from the postseason, the road ahead is daunting.

The Cray's Nest 32, Dunk-a Schoen 30

In what has become a theme for both teams, points were awfully difficult to come by for the majority of the game. Dunk-a Schoen's tall lineup stymied the Cray's Nest offense, which was out of synch from the very beginning. But on defense the league's top team were equally staunch, shutting down the three-headed monster of Zach Heinzerling, Kevin Felder, and Ben Weitmarschen. The three combined for only 23 points, thanks in large part to the interior defense of Vance Tucker. For the Cray's Nest, Lars Rasmussen turned in his usual workmanlike performance, scoring 13 points and hitting 5 of 6 from the line. Jordan Clickson tossed in 8.

The Cray's Nest held a slight lead for most of the game, but that changed in the final five minutes, as Kevin Felder hit four big foul shots and scored another field goal. With 30 seconds left, Dunk-a Schoen held a 30-27 lead. On the ensuing offensive possession, Jordan Glickson nearly stepped out of bounds before finding Shane Ryan on a crosscourt pass. Ryan, who had been rendered useless to that point, hit the game-tying three. A Dunk-a Schoen turnover gave The Cray's Nest the ball with 3 seconds remaining. After a failed inbounds play, Glickson lofted a perfect pass over the defense, finding Tucker open underneath the basket. He converted the lay-up as time expired, and The Cray's Nest had pulled out yet another thrilling win. Tucker pranced to the far sideline as teammates mobbed him and the crowd shouted their approval.

The Cray's Nest are all alone in first place at 6-2. A win next week would likely clinch the regular season title. Dunk-a Schoen falls to 2-6, and will have to hope for a lot of help if they dream of a playoff run.

Beast of Burden 40, The Hospital Bombers 35

The Hospital Bombers are suddenly looking quite vulnerable, while Beast of Burden seem to have emerged from the mid-season doldrums. Led by Rafael Rodriguez, returning from a one-game suspension, they avenged a week 3 loss by dominating the Bombers on both ends. Rodriguez scored 14, while brother Ismael Rodriguez had 11 and three treys, but the big story was the point production elsewhere. Kyle Pilkington, Brian Love, and Pat Waldo combined for 14 points of their own, and their strong interior play stunned the ineffectual Bombers.

Kerry Brown led the losers with 10 points, but center Bob Van Kolken had an unusually quiet game, mustering only 5 points on limited touches. Nate Purinton and Steve Friedman scored 6 apiece, but neither could make a lasting dent in the Beast of Burden defense, which is statistically the league's best. Even Geoff Nelson, the sharpshooter who hit 7 3s the last time these teams met, could only muster one from long distance. On the other end, Rafael Rodriguez could not be stopped from penetrating, and when they managed to contain him, a kick-out to Ismael or Love usually produced points.

The crucial win moves Beast of Burden back to .500 at 4-4, and only one win away from making the playoffs. The Hospital Bombers fall to 5-3, but clinch a postseason spot by virtue of losses by Dunk-a Schoen and Team Fouls. However, they now find themselves in danger of slipping to fourth, and having to face The Cray's Nest in roud one, a team they typically have great trouble against.

Stats, Standings, Features After Week 8

This edition sponsored by Nolan Smith's crossover.

Quite a week in stats! The race for scoring king is heating up, as Keith Gormley gets to within one tenth of Rafael Rodriguez at the top of the charts. Meanwhile, Andrew Weiner is running away with the three-point shooting title, while Lars Rasmussen stays atop the free throw shooting ranks as Kevin Felder and Saulo Feliciano struggle to become eligible (minimum 15 attempts).

On to the features...

Player of the Week: Vance Tucker

Along with post-mate Lars Rasmussen, Tucker managed to stave off a daunting Dunk-a Schoen front line. While controlling the boards and preventing easy shots, he played a big part in holding the league upstarts to 30 points. Then, on the last possession of the game, he received a pass from Jordan Glickson and scored the league's first true buzzer beater, giving The Cray's Nest a 32-30 victory. For his heroics, Tucker will receive a set of leftover McDonald's hamburger wrappers once touched by Knicks legend Larry Johnson.

Honorable Mention: Saulo Feliciano and Rafael Rodriguez

Feliciano, in just his third game in the GABL, scored 16 points to lead the Layup Line Heroes to an overtime win over Team Fouls. His two threes in the second half proved to be daggers, and the victory ensures that the Heroes will be in this year's playoffs.

Rodriguez, returning from a one-game suspension, controlled the pace of play at point guard, scoring 14 points and playing strong perimeter defense. His strong play enabled Beast of Burden to avenge their week 3 loss to The Hospital Bombers, and takes them one step closer to clinching a postseason berth.

Both players will receive New Jersey nets keychains, and a gift certificate good for one tour of the Nets home arena, whatever it may be called.

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

The King's Court: Week 8

And the GABL shall reign forever and ever!

Sir Prolificus (points): Andrew Weiner, 18

Dr. Charity (foul-shooting): Kevin Felder, 5-6

Narrowly edges out Lars Rasmussen (5-7) and Matt Brinkmann (3-4)

Captain Long-Range (three-point shooting): Andrew Weiner, 4

The Earl of Baskets (field goals): Gormley, Weiner, Feliciano, 7

The Duke of D: Brian Love, for tenacious perimeter D on The Hospital Bombers.

The Dime Baron (week's best pass): Jordan Glickson, for a gutsy over-the-top pass to Tucker on the final possession.

The Marchioness (best female performance): Kerry Brown, for a double-digit performance in a loss to Beast of Burden.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Recaps, Week 7

MANHATTAN - It was a week for the grinders in the GABL. Hot offenses were shut down, while the D-units circled the wagons. This was Big-10 style basketball, circa 1997. No frills, no fuss, no fancy frolicking. And not much scoring.

Hospital Bombers 35, Dunk-a Schoen 33

Are Dunk-a Schoen cursed? The GABL world is abuzz with the idea of hexes and voodoo and other mystical phenomena as Dunk-a Schoen missed layup after layup in what will forever be known as 'the game that got away.'

Coming off a dominant victory over Team Fouls, the Schoeners had a chance to storm back into the playoff race with a win over the undermanned Bombers. Geoff Nelson, Nate Purinton, and Steve Friedman were all absentee, and the game set up as a wonderful opportunity. But staunch defense by the Bombers, tough inside play by Player of the Week Bob Van Kolken, and a slew of missed gimmes by Dunk-a Schoen doomed them to this close loss.

Zach Heinzerling and Ben Weitmarschen both reached double digits for the losing side, scoring 13 and 12 respectively. But stars Whitney Warren and Kevin Felder were held in check for most of the game, and Van Kolken's 13 points, along with 6 each from Jake Berkowitz, Avi Kent, and Kerry Brown, were enough to secure the win. After last week's narrow loss to The Cray's Nest, the Bombers are back in a tie for first place, though the tiebreaker favors their rivals.

Team Fouls 33, Beast of Burden 24

Without star point guard Rafael Rodriguez, Beast of Burden looked lost. Their offensive options were fairly limited, and a stolid defensive effort by Team Fouls kept them mired in a game-long slump.

Andrew Weiner, shooter extraordinaire, led Team Fouls with 12 points, including 3 from behind the arc. Chris Bonastia added 6, and sub Brian Filiatraut dominated the boards and scored 6 of his own. For Beast of Burden, Robin Luna had a season-high 9 points on several nice drives, while Ismael Rodriguez was double-teamed on the perimeter and could only muster 6. Brian Love had a three in each half to round out the scoring.

The win brings Team Fouls to 2-5, only one game out of playoff contention. Beast of Burden falls to 3-4, holding on to the fourth and final post-season spot.

Layup Line Heroes 46, The Cray's Nest 35

Led by Keith Gormley and Matt Brinkmann, the Heroes owned the interior against the league's top rebounding team, a feat never previously accomplished. Despite strategizing at length, The Cray's Nest could not find a foothold inside, and cold outside shooting doomed them to their second loss.

Gormly led all scorers with 17 points, including a crucial 3-pointer late in the game, and Brinkmann had 11 to go along with his many rebounds. On the perimeter, Saula Feliciano played an impeccable point guard, setting up his teammates and scoring 12 points of his own. A late surge from The Cray's Nest threatened to narrow the gap, but excellent free throw shooting kept them at bay; as a team, the Heroes were 13-15 from the line, far in excess of their usual 54% mark.

Lars Rasmussen led the Nest with 8 points, and worked hard underneath, while Shane Ryan and Gene Walsh scored 7 apiece. But Ryan and Vance Tucker, who came in averaging over 10 points per game, were held in check throughout, and seemed sluggish at times. Jacob Craycroft, team captain, added 6 points in the losing cause.

With the win, the Heroes are alone in third place. The Cray's Nest falls to 5-2, but remain in first by virtue of the tiebreaker.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stats, Standings, Features After Week 7

This post sponsored by Jon Scheyer!

Feature Time!

Player of the Week: Bob Van Kolken

This was certainly a tough decision, but Bob's dominating inside presence led The Hospital Bombers to a grueling 35-33 win over Dunk-a Schoen. The crucial win moved them to 5-2, and away from the middle of the pack. Bob had to contend with the superior size of the opponents and establish the post game almost on his own. He managed 13 points and a lot of rebounds, and forced Dunk-a Schoen to play a perimeter offense. For his hard work, Bob will be invited to a June 7th meet-and-greet with Duke legend JON SCHEYER. The event will take place at the Asheville, North Carolina Knights of Columbus.

Honorable Mention: Matt Brinkmann and Andrew Weiner

Like Van Kolken, Brinkmann slugged it out underneath against a strong back line. For the first time this season, The Cray's Nest lost the interior battle, and Brinkmann takes much of the credit. He also scored 11 points, doubling his season total, and helped keep the Layup Line Heroes in third place.

Weiner continued his hot shooting, hitting 3 treys to increase his league leading total to 21. Two came at crucial junctures in the second half, holding off Beast of Burden rallies and spurring Team Fouls to their second win of the year.

Both players will be awarded a first edition copy of "Where's Jon Scheyer?", a book inspired by the "Where's Waldo?" series.

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

The King's Court: Week 6

Long Live the GABL!

Sir Prolificus (points): Keith Gormley, 17

Dr. Charity (foul-shooting): Zach Heinzerling and Saulo, 6-7.

Narrowly edges out Shane Ryan (4-5).

Captain Long-Range (three-point shooting): Andrew Weiner, 3

The Earl of Baskets (field goals): Gormley, 7

The Duke of D: Chris Bonastia, for his effort shutting down Ismael Rodriguez.

The Dime Baron (week's best pass): Kevin Felder, for several passes that sprung Dunk-a Schoen fast breaks.

The Marchioness (best female performance): Trista Sordillo, who scored 4 points, took some hard fouls, and played smothering D in Team Fouls' win.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Week 7 Previews!

8:15 – The Hospital Bombers vs. Dunk-a Schoen

Following a close loss to The Cray’s Nest, The Hospital Bombers may be particularly vulnerable against their long-time rivals. Dunk-a Schoen, though only 2-4, seem to be peaking at the right time. Last week’s rout over Team Fouls marked the emergence of a more cohesive unit, and the addition of Kevin Felder may be the spark they needed to contend with the league’s elite. But the journey is only beginning, and every win is important if they hope to make up for lost time.

Felder, Whitney Warren, Ben Weitmarschen, and Zach Heinzerling provide the main offensive threats for Dunk-a Schoen, and all play a similar slashing style. Ball-handling and height should not be a problem. Defensively, they’ll have much to contend with. The Hospital Bombers boast one of the league’s more efficient offenses, spearheaded by Steve Friedman and Geoff Nelson. Last week’s poor performance figurs to be an anomaly, and Dunk-a Schoen will need to find a defensive answer for their scoring prowess. Experts speculate that they may utilize a 3-2 zone, with tall defenders spread across the perimeter to discourage three-point shooting. The Bombers, meanwhile, are known for a tough man-to-man defense that will be challenged by the athleticism and size of their opponents tonight.

In the latest power rankings, the Bombers slipped to second while Dunk-a Schoen leaped to third place. But the Vegas odds may be more indicative of what the public is thinking; in a move nobody could have foreseen even a week ago, Dunk-a Schoen is actually favored by two points.

9:00 – Team Fouls vs. Beast of Burden

The 1-game suspension of leading scorer Rafael Rodriguez is sure to take its toll on Beast of Burden as they face the GABL’s last-place team. Ismael Rodriguez will have to pick up the slack, but scoring may become more difficult in the absence of a true point guard. The play of Kieran Valla, Brian Love, and Robin Luna will play a big factor in tonight’s game.

Team Fouls is known for its passive offensive style, which hurts them against teams who control the boards. Tonight, though, they may have a shot to at least break even. Kyle Ervin plays bigger than his height, and Zach Smith and David Saie have been known to mix it up on the glass when necessary. If they can assert some kind of presence against the Beast of Burden interior, they’ll have a shot to pull off the upset.

In the absence of second-chance points, this game may come down to the long distance attacks. Ismael Rodriguez and Andrew Weiner are two of the best three-point shooters in the league, and if one goes cold while the other stays hot, it could be the difference in the game. Due to Rafael’s suspension, the spread is much closer than it would otherwise be. At the moment, Beast of Burden is favored by a single point.

9:45 – The Cray’s Nest vs. Layup Line Heroes

The Heroes have shown a knack to earn the big win when it really counts, and at 3-3 they’re still very much in the playoff discussion. Tonight, though, they will have their hands full with a Cray’s Nest team who matches up very well against their offense. In their first match-up, TCN employed a tough 2-3 zone that limited the Heroes to outside shots, which was never their strength. Keith Gormley managed to score on precise foul-line jumpers, but it was nowhere near enough to overcome the onslaught on the offensive end.

Lars Rasmussen, Vance Tucker, and Jacob Craycroft are pure danger on the boards, and have led The Cray’s Nest to first place in the league. Gene Walsh, Jordan Glickson, and Shane Ryan are capable of scoring from the perimter, and Jane Rizzo’s perimeter defense was good enough to earn Marchioness honors last week. A win tonight will clinch a playoff spot, and unless they suffer a severe let-down after last week’s dramatic victory, they should have an easy time.

As of post time, The Cray’s Nest was favored by 13 points, the highest spread yet this year.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Recaps, Week 6

MANHATTAN - A lively week in the GABL saw The Cray's Nest assert themselves as the league's best team, Beast of Burden suffer a disastrous meltdown, and Dunk-a Schoen take steps to fulfill their early potential.

The Cray's Nest 37, Hospital Bombers 35

In a grinding, punishing, pugilistic battle, The Cray's Nest outlasted The Hospital Bombers in a clash of the league's best. Though they only trailed once, at 22-21 in the second half, the Nesters were never far in front, and it was all they could do to hold on for victory. Lars Rasmussen turned in another stellar performance, scoring 13 points and teaming with Vance Tucker to form a stolid defensive interior. For the Bombers, Bob Van Kolken gave as good as he got, scoring 14 points underneath and leading a fierce challenge for control of the boards. With 30 seconds remaining, Shane Ryan (9 points) drove by an unidentified player who may have been an illegal ringer for the go-ahead layup. The Bombers responded with a baseline jumper by legal ringer Noah Davis to tie the game at 35. After a timeout, Lars Rasmussen could not find Vance Tucker on a set play, and was forced to throw the ball deep to Shane Ryan. The pass found its mark, and Ryan whipped the ball to a cutting Jordan Glickson (6 points), who laid it in for the winning bucket. The Bombers had 4 seconds remaining, but Van Kolken's missed shot came after the buzzer, and The Cray's Nest moved to 5-1, and first place outright.

The Bombers will have many regrets looking back. Coming into the game, they'd been averaging 4 3-pointers a contest, but they could only muster one Thursday, a bank shot by Nate Purinton. Their normally prolific offense was shut down by the Nest, and Geoff Nelson and Steve Friedman, each averaging over 10 points per game, were held to 6 combined. The Cray's Nest answered some questions about their toughness after a series of close contests saw their early shine somewhat diminished. They'll have a chance to increase their momentum this week, when they'll be heavy favorites against the Layup Line Heroes.

Layup Line Heroes 33, Beast of Burden 28

In what may be a turning point of the season, the Layup Line Heroes moved back to .500 and defeated Beast of Burden for the second time this year. They scored over half their points on the line, shooting an impressive 17-25 in a game full of controversy. In the first half, the referee called it tight, and Beast of Burden's aggressive style began to work against them. It was tied 17-17 at the half, but as the second half began, Beast of Burden began to pull away. Kieran Valla hit two three-pointers, Robin Luna hit two from the foul line, and the result everyone expected seemed to be transpiring.

Then all hell break loose. After arguing a foul call, Rafael Rodriguez was given a technical. He proceeded to sprint down the floor and slap the opposite backboard, at which point he was ejected from the game. Incensed, he sprinted at the referee and had to be held back by several players. The game was delayed, and when the dust had settled, Keith Gormley hit three of four foul shots to eat into Beast of Burden's lead. Without Rodriguez, that lead quickly vanished. Ismael Rodriguez, normally one of the league's best shooters, went cold from the floor, and Beast of Burden couldn't muster any offense for the remainder of the game. Meanwhile, Gormley excelled underneath, scoring 14 points to help the Heroes pull away. Greg Wyrick added 10, including 6-7 from the line, in his best performance of the year. Those two, combined with Matt Brinkmann, dominated the interior and led the Heroes to a crucial win. Their playoff hopes are alive and healthy at 3-3, while Beast of Burden drops to the same mark.

For the altercation, Rodriguez was given a one-game suspension, which is incredibly poor timing for Beast of Burden, who face the woebegone Team Fouls in what might be a must-win game this week.

Dunk-a Schoen 59, Team Fouls 32

When the year began, many experts predicted that Dunk-a Schoen would be one of the two best teams in the league. Their first half, though, was an utter disaster, full of embarrassing losses and chemistry issues. But after annihilating Team Fouls in Week 6, those initial predictions are looking a lot less ridiculous. Whitney Warren scored 15 points and looked like the championship-winning star from last season, while newcomer Kevin Felder and Ben Weitmarschen added 11 each for the victors. Zach Heinzerling and Mark Lee scored 10 and 8, respectively, and Tom Fleischman played a strong game on the boards, adding 4 points of his own. It was a total team effort for Dunk-a Schoen, and they hope it will serve as a springboard for a late-season run and a playoff berth.

For Team Fouls, a tough year just got worse. Kyle Ervin and Chris Bonastia played valiant games in the frontcourt, scoring 9 and 8, but sharpshooters Andrew Weiner and Zach smith could never really find their form, and the team had little to no presence on the interior. The loss dropped them to 1-5 on the year, and they currently sit in last place. Redemption may be possible this week against Beast of Burden, who will be missing the GABL's leading scorer, but crawling back into playoff contention may be a Herculean task.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stats, Standings, Features After Week 6

Here we be.


Player of the Week: Keith Gormley

Let's face it: the media does not go easy on the Layup Line Heroes. It's a hostile city, and they've faced some fire, but one or way another these dudes find a way to win the important games. Keith Gormley has led the way all season, and yesterday's 14-point performance gave them a huge 33-28 win. His 6-7 performance from the foul line was the difference in the game, and his defense nullified the Beast of Burden interior attack. For his efforts, Keith will be presented with a stick of chewing gum from an early 90s Fleet basketball cards package which featured Manute Bol (cards not included).

Honorable Mention: Bob Van Kolken and Whitney Warren

Van Kolken, facing a difficult task against Cray's Nest bigs Lars Rasmussen and Vance Tucker, proved himself to be one of the league's premier post players with a strong 14-point performance. Though his team lost by two, Van Kolken left it all out on the floor.

Warren regained his form from last year's championship season in Dunk-a Schoen's break-out win against Team Fouls, scoring 15 and wreaking all kinds of terror in the lane.

Each player will be allowed to share a YMCA locker room shower with former Arkansas Razorback great Scotty Thurman.

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

The King's Court: Week 6

Let subjectivity reign!

Sir Prolificus (points): Whitney Warren, 15

Dr. Charity (foul-shooting): Keith Gormley, 6-7.

Narrowly edges out Greg Wyrick (6-8), Lars Rasmussen (4-5), and Matt Brinkmann (4-5).

Captain Long-Range (three-point shooting): Kevin Felder, 3

The Earl of Baskets (field goals): Van Kolken and Warren, 6

The Duke of D: The Cray's Nest, for holding The Hospital Bombers to one 3-pointer (a bank shot).

The Dime Baron (week's best pass): Two passes this time. To quote GABL play-by-play announcer Ted Sherlock: "Rasmussen running out of time, nobody's open...he hurls it downcourt! It's long to Ryan...he whips it to a wide open Glickson,'s good! OH MY! WHAT HAVE MY EYES JUST WITNESSED?!"

The Marchioness (best female performance): Jane Rizzo, for a full game of smothering defense on the wing of the zone, and several surprising rebounds among the tall trees.

Recaps Monday!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Week 6 Previews

8:15 - The Hospital Bombers (4-1) vs. The Cray's Nest (4-1)

After tonight, there will be an undisputed top team in the GABL. Can The Cray's Nest enact a repeat of their week one victory, or have the Bombers improved beyond the point of defeat? In the latest power poll, experts chose the Bombers as the top team, while The Cray's Nest was dropped to third, despite owning the tiebreaker for the #1 seed. Results in the past three weeks seem to confirm this analysis, and the Bombers' dominance stands in stark contrast to TCN's escape acts. In the night's marquee match-up, questions will be answered.

If the Bombers have a weakness, and they may not, it's in the ballhandling realm. The Cray's Nest will look to exploit their lack of a true point guard. Shooting guard extraordinaire Geoff Nelson may find himself with more dribbling duty than usual, while Steve Friedman and Kerry Brown will have to carry a heavy frontcourt load. On the boards, Jeremy Forsythe, Bob Van Kolken, and Nate Purinton will have to contend with two of the league's best rebounders in Vance Tucker and Lars Rasmussen. Defensively, they'll have to shut down those two and contain the shooting prowess of guards Gene Wash and Jordan Glickson, who have been improving each game. The possible return of Shane Ryan could also add a new wrinkle to the Cray's Nest offense. Jacob Craycroft adds a third body to the rebounding equation, while Jane Rizzo will provide pressure from the defensive wing. On the offensive end, the Bombers will look to Van Kolken to assert his presence inside in order to create open looks beyond the arc for Nelson and Purinton. It will be crucial for The Cray's Nest to prevent penetration by Friedman and Brown, and to guard the middle of the zone without conceding the easy outside shot.

Favorite: Hospital Bombers (-4)

9:00 - Beast of Burden (3-2) vs. Layup Line Heroes (2-3)

Beast of Burden will be looking to avenge their week one loss, while the Heroes desperately need to create some distance between themselves and Team Fouls in the standings. While the Brothers Rodriguez will be leading their team on a quest to take second place, Gormley and Colby Hall will be trying to maintain an unsteady grip on the fourth and final playoff spot.

In week one, the Heroes were able to contain Ismael and Rafael Rodriguez, holding the entire team to 32 points. But as they've found their rhythm, the entire Beast of Burden team has gelled, and this low point total should be exceeded easily. The Heroes need to take advantage of their superior height; if Gormley and Colby Hall can mix it up down low, they should be able to at least achieve a healthy rebound margin. But the glaring question for the Heroes is how well they can handle the intense defensive pressure from the BoB frontcourt. If they discover an effective method for beating the press, their size gives them a fighting chance to win. If not, the mission becomes impossible.

Favorite: Beast of Burden (-8)

9:45 - Team Fouls (1-4) vs. Dunk-a Schoen (1-4)

Though neither team can be pleased with their first half performance, they can take solace in the fact that they're still very much in the playoff hunt. Team Fouls, in particular, needs only to defeat Dunk-a Schoen and the Heroes in order to earn the 4th seed. But the stakes tonight are high; a loss makes the journey all but hopeless.

Dunk-a Schoen have yet to find offensive chemistry, but they'll own a distinct size advantage tonight. Ben Weitmarschen, Zach Heinzerling, Whitney Warren, and Kevin Felder have the potential to make things miserable for the Team Fouls interior. On the flip side, Kyle Ervin, Andrew Weiner, and Chris Bonastia may give Dunk-a Schoen headaches in transition. It's an interesting clash of styles, and one that ended in an overtime victory for Dunk-a Schoen in week one. Tonight's outcome is utterly unpredictable, and a win, for both teams, is utterly imperative.

Favorite: Pick 'em

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Mid-Season Report: Part Two

Part One is here. We're doing reverse order power rankings. On to the top 3...

3. The Cray's Nest (4-1)

After a blistering start, the league's top seed has come back to Earth in the past three games, holding on for two close wins and dropping a third to Beast of Burden. Despite their knack for winning, this stretch has exposed some weaknesses in their varied arsenal. One of the league's top rebounding teams, they benefit from the strong play of Lars Rasmussen and Vance Tucker, who typically dominate the boards, and average 17 and 12 points per game, respectively. Jordan Glickson, who hit the game-winning 3 against Team Fouls last week, averages 7.8, while point guard Gene Walsh contributes 7 per game. Shane Ryan chipped in with 11 ppg before going down after week 2 with an ankle injury. His return this week is doubtful, though he expects to be back for week 7.

As a team, The Cray's Nest are one of the top offensive units, averaging 46.8. But this total is a bit deceptive; after two weeks, they averaged 55, and have had trouble scoring since. Meanwhile, their somewhat lackadaisical approach to defense in the first two weeks cost them when the offense dropped off; the loss to Beast of Burden came about because of difficulty stopping the Brothers Rodriguez. Still, there are positives for the team to build on. They make it to the line 14 times per game, second only to Dunk-a Schoen, and they make those chances count. They have the highest free throw shooting percentage in the league, at 61%, thanks in large part to Rasmussen's remarkable 77% rate (best in the GABL). And rebounds should win them enough games to stay comfortably inside the playoff race. But their resolve will be tested in the season's second half, and it won't take long- week six's game against The Hospital Bombers is a rematch of their opening win, and promises to be a much harder journey this time around. And due to the recent vulnerability, the target on their back widens with each passing game.

2. Beast of Burden (3-2)

The Brothers Rodriguez, Ismael and Rafael, are the league's stop scoring duo, and they undoubtedly anchor this surging team. But though no other player averages in double figures, Beast of Burden are a cohesive unit from spots one through seven. In fact, they are the only team in the league to boast a perfect attendance record. This unity has paid dividends; after a rough beginning, featuring two close losses to the Layup Line Heroes and the Hospital Bombers (one point apiece), they have congealed into a basketball machine wherein each cog performs its assigned role to perfection.

Ismael and Rafael vie each week for leading scorer (Rafael currently leads the GABL with 18 ppg), but the true strength of BoB is their defense. They allow 39 points per game, tops in the league, and the pressure from their guards has been particularly upsetting to opposing frontcourts. They also excel at the line, hitting 59% of their free throws while averaging 4.0 3s per game and scoring 46 points. Their point differential is by far the league's best, and they're a mere two points from an undefeated record. Still, those two losses are not insignificant. In both cases, Beast of Burden started slow, and their late surge fell short of victory. Did intimidation play a role, or does it just take them more time to find their rhythm? If a championship run is in the cards, this question requires an emphatic answer.

1. The Hospital Bombers (4-1)

The Bombers' week one loss to The Cray's Nest seems, a month later, like ancient history. At 4-1, they are technically in second place, but nobody would argue for anybody else as the league's top team. They've now notched four wins in a row, and have done so with great shooting, a strong board presence, and tireless defense. This may be a team without a superstar (Geoff Nelson and Steve Friedman both average 12 points per game, while Bob Van Kolken has lately emerged as a legitimate post threat with 10.8 ppg), but they benefit from a total lack of weakness. Of their 8 players, any 5 can take the floor at a given time and fulfill the necessary functions of an elite basketball team. This depth makes it difficult for opponents to find any breathing room, and simultaneously ensures that no single Bomber will succumb to fatigue.

Their statistics are irreproachable. They score 47 points per game, best in the league, and hit a competent 53% of their foul shots. They allow 43 per game on defense, a number which hovers around the league's average, but which has lately been far lower. Still, they have something left to prove against The Cray's Nest. Some have speculated that certain players on that team hold a psychological edge over the Bombers dating back to last season, and that this played a large role in the week one result. Also, the Bombers have tended to flag late in games, allowing teams like Beast of Burden and Team Fouls to make close games out of potential blow-outs. If they can learn to turn in 36 minutes of optimal performance, though, it will be extremely difficult for any opponent to keep them from an ultimate victory.