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.