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.