Round one of the playoffs has come and gone, and our championship matchups are set for the 2017-2018 ABL Winter Basketball Season. We knew there was going to be some hard fought battles, and we weren’t disappointed. All eight teams were deserving, but only four could advance for a chance to compete for the division title. Here’s a rundown of how we got there last Sunday night.
Game one of the night featured a matchup between top seeded Goodfellas and fourth seed EZ of the Russell Westbrook Division. Goodfellas seemed to be running away with this one in the first half, with round one MVP Kevin Johnson leading the offense and seemingly scoring at will. He’d finish with a league-high 18 points and tacked on 4 assists. EZ didn’t play a bad game, but they just couldn’t get their shots to fall. They held tough in the second half and matched their opponent’s score, but couldn’t overcome that 13 point first half deficit. Turnovers were the story of this one, and it was the Goodfellas defense that led the way to victory. The team accounted for a whopping 14 steals. 6 of those came from Ty Jackson alone, who also contributed 2 blocks. Jackson led the defense, while Johnson continued to roll on offense and had his best game of the season on the boards with 9. Anthony Green also posted a solid statline as a key contributor at both ends of the floor. He tied Jackson with 13 points and filled out every column of the stat sheet. In the end, Goodfellas secured a 46-33 victory and punched their ticket for a chance to repeat as champs. In the loss, Carlos Torrejon led EZ with 11 points and Tim Rensch snagged a game-high 10 boards.
Game two was a clash between two perennial championship contenders in second seeded Alligators and third seeded Charliewang Express of the Kristaps Porzingis Division. Charliewang Express won their regularly season matchup but Alligators jumped on their opponent early and never looked back in this one. They pulled ahead 20-5 with their opponent unable to get anything going on offense. JP Kernisan would make his presence felt though and sparked a comeback to bring his team to within just 4 points at the half. He accounted for 10 of his team’s 26 points and added an assist and 3 steals. He’d continue to produce in the second half to finish with 17 points and teammate Billy Dowd would pick it up on offense as well, but it wouldn’t be enough. Credit the Alligators defense for containing such a potent offense. They’d pull away for the 58-47 victory. Alligators played an excellent defensive game and were led by a balanced offensive attack. They saw 7 of 8 players score for the game and had 3 players post double-digit points. Mike Lennon and Alex Bially led the way with 13 points apiece, with Brett Bially following closely behind at 12 points. Lennon would lead his team with 3 assists and 4 steals as well. The teams were pretty evenly matched in assists, steals, and blocks, but Alligators absolutely dominated the boards. They out-rebounded their opponent 43-26, led by unsung hero Rob Howe. He was a constant thorn in Charliewang Express’s side. Howe posted 15 rebounds, including 10 in the second half alone, and his energy led to a number of second (and third) chance opportunities for Alligators. It was a great team win heading into the finals.
Game three featured another highly anticipated matchup of teams consistently in the playoff hunt, this time in the Russell Westbrook Division. Two seed Anytime Bail Bonds Ballers took on three seed Ball Don’t Lie for a trip to the championship game against Goodfellas. This one followed suit with the higher seed advancing again, but Ball Don’t Lie put up a good fight. Vic Rosario led the way again for his team with another double-double. He’d score 14 points and snagged 11 boards, also adding 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Darnell Gibbons also filled the stat categories in a solid effort. It was an off night from the floor though with other key contributors having subpar nights. The two teams were actually very evenly matched in the areas of rebounds, steals, and assists. Ball Don’t Lie just couldn’t find a rhythm on offense. Credit the Anytime Bail Bonds Ballers defense and their ability to hit key shots. Rob Bates led the way in another great team effort with 13 points. Stephen Mendes was a key cog in the offense as well, posting 9 points and a game-high 7 assists. Wayne “Big Buck” Bucknor led the team in rebounds with 8. Ball Don’t Lie closed to within 4 points at the half but Anytime Bail Bonds Ballers pulled away in the second half. They’d complete the 53-44 victory despite losing one of their best players and last year’s Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Rob Cheeks. He took friendly fire when a teammate was fouled and rolled into his leg. The team rallied around the loss of their teammate and played with a little extra passion to close this one out. We are all wishing Cheeks a speedy recovery and hope the injury isn’t too serious so we can see him compete in another championship game.
In the final game of the night, the top seed in the Kristaps Porzingis Division New Mutants faced off with fourth seeded The Wolfpack. The Wolfpack stumbled into the playoff but are defending champions and certainly had no intentions of an early exit. They showed just that. New Mutants held tough in the first half and trailed by just 2 points heading into the break. The Wolfpack would try to pull away, but they just kept clawing their way back into the closest matchup of the night. New Mutants was led by Will Kales, who finished the night with 10 points, 5 assists, 1 steal, 7 rebounds, and a block. Their leading scorer, however, was Jarrett Schreck. He nailed 4 3-point attempts for 12 points and was a big reason why the team kept this game close. Josh Heyer and Anthony Lawrence led the way for The Wolfpack and nailed down the victory at the free throw line late in the game. Heyer posted 10 points, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 2 rebounds while Lawrence’s double-double went for game highs in points (13) and rebounds (12). Jeff Peragallo was another double-digit scorer with 10. The Wolfpack successfully held off New Mutants for the 47-40 victory, ensuring a meeting with Alligators for a chance to repeat as champions.
It was a great start to the playoffs with excellent team and individual performances across the board. Some great teams were eliminated, but the stage has been set for an exciting and highly anticipated championship round of matchups, with all four teams certainly deserving their spot. They were earned, and now it all comes down to one game. Who will come out on top? It will all be decided this Sunday. Good Luck!
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Tag(s): Home Basketball Winter League Russell Westbrook Division Kristaps Porzingis Division Chubb Thundercats Smash Bros. Mad Hatters New Mutants Ball Don't Lie EZ Plan B The Wolfpack Goodfellas Anytime Bail Bonds Ballers Progressive Probably Hungover Alligators Charliewang Express