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.