Stats for the entire Unification bracket here:https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ap8yZgk0io8MdG8wWng4ZXBpN1JUa05INGN2OXZkalE&usp=sharing#gid=5
This was an unprecedentedly large B2 Unification bracket, with six divisions and a total of 53 teams competing for those elusive sweatshirts. Aside from the B1 and A Leagues, which require professional-like skills and team chemistry to take home the title, the overall B2 title is the hardest thing to corral in all CAC leagues.
Semifinals: Just the Tip-offs (B2 Mid) vs. Steamboats (B2 North)
The Sunday Night leagues had a bit of an easier route to the title, considering they only had to play each other in the semifinals for a shot at the crown. Whereas the Central winners (Hurricane Ditka) had to beat the wily winners of the South (Kevin Ali) and perennial contender- NUB from the East, before earning their spot in the finals.
How-eva, the Steamboats had to play the finals after a hard-fought game with the Tip-offs, so the fact that they had fewer games to play was probably negated by how tired they were after this one.
The game started with the Steamboats scratching their head at the Tip-offs 2-3 zone, considering the Mid winners have played organized basketball and actually knew how to employ an effective zone. At first SB looked like this:
But after moving the ball around for a while they got back-to-back ridiculously friendly rolls on a couple of threes and managed to take an early 8-7 lead.
The Tips struggled to secure defensive rebounds though, as is likely to happen when you play zone, and the Boats got multiple chances to hit big outside shots as a result. They got three cracks at it before Martin Yuan drained a wing 3 to put them up 23-18 late in the first half, and they just stayed swinging the ball at the top of that zone and hoisting up shots.
On the other the Tips got an early boost from Matt Leone, who nailed a couple of threes, and then got into the lane after SB closed out on the next possessions. Matt Schulze had no interest in shooting, but found Leone, Chisholm and Dan Towne for easy buckets on his way to five first half assists. The Chisholm/Towne high-lo combo was big for the Tips, as they responded every time the Steamboats hit a three on the other end. It was even as all hell throughout the first period and only made sense that it was tied 28-28 at the break.
In the second half the Tip-offs looked to slow it down, which was a smart move since they only had five guys and had to work hard to keep MacKay and Steve Z. off the boards for the Boats. Peter Krause did an excellent job on Steve Z. for the most part, but MacKay’s just too wily to be contained all game.
Chisholm connected on a three to put the tips up 34-30 early in the half, but then Jacob Poling came right back with six straight points as SB took the lead. Martin Yuan capped off the run with a great transition look to Poling, and also have to give Yuan props for his Mighty Mouse quality box-outs on both ends of the floor.
Every possession was hotly contested in this game, which came into play for the winner in the finals, but they weren’t thinking about that yet. The Boats just made sure they concentrated on every shot, including a big corner 3 from MacKay, followed by a offensive rebound tipped-out by a hustling MacKay that led to a jumper from Saul Jacobwitz and made it 43-38 in favor of SB.
The Tip-offs called a timeout to regroup, and they came right back as Towne got to the bucket for an and-1. With SB up 46-45, Poling came through bigtime. He scored on a tough turnaround plus the foul, missed the free throw, but SB retained possession and hit Poling for another bucket to make it 50-45. Key stretch right there, and a few minutes later MacKay closed it out with a big and-1.
Chisholm gave the Tips a chance by nailing a deeeeep 3, but they couldn’t keep it close in the final minutes. Credit SB for closing out on Leone, who missed his last 8 3pt attempts due to some good defense. The Tip-offs called it with 30 seconds left and will look to make a run during the summer season I’m sure.
The ‘Ship: Hurricane Ditka (B2 Central) vs. Steamboats (B2 North)
The Steamboats fought their way through the North when nobody believed they could beat a giant Hugo squad. They beat a tough team in the regional finals, and won a dog-fight against the Tip-offs, but at some point, playing five games in three days will catch up to you, and it seemed like they ran out of gas in the title game.
That isn’t to say it was over from the opening tip, as both teams played stalwart D and nobody scored other than Jacob Hanson (with a couple of awkward floaters) for the first five minutes.
Big Steve Z. is actually a little bit bigger than Chris Pizzotti, a.k.a. Ivan Drago, and he managed to limit Ditka’s post-production by slowing down the Central MVP. Eventually Pizzotti started to work the quick spin move and banked in a couple off the glass, opening things up for Hanson and Mullane to hit big shots from the outside.
Poling came through with six straight points for SB, but then Ditka went on a 14-0 run (Hanson scored 10 in that stretch) before Mullane managed to get free on two threes to put his squad up 26-15. Of course he found Hanson for one more 3pt attempt at the buzzer, and he nailed it to put Ditka up 31-15 at the break.
Chris MacKay wasn’t ready to give up, he wanted to earn that sweatshirt and set out to slow down Pizzotti in the second half. However, the defensive matchup looked something like this:
Ditka had a huge size advantage across the board, and swatted 12 shots as a team. Pizzotti rejected four, and he really took advantage when Steve Z. was on the bench. Big Steve was completely exhausted after three halves of basketball where he played almost the entire time, and there wasn’t much he could to match Ditka’s energy.
It was rough night for Andy Ong, who saw a bunch of threes rim out and couldn’t buy a bucket at points, but he got it going after getting to the FT line, and nailed a deep 3 to make it 22-35. After that MacKay started playing the Rocky theme music in his head, scored 5 straight, and SB went on a 7-0 run to make Ditka sweat.
Yet they would get no further, as O’donnell came up with a key putback and a big three to stop the momentum, and of course that guy Hanson- who played better than I’m sure he ever has this season- hit a straight on three to make it 45-31.
Knockout punch. The Boats didn’t have anything left after that one, and they kept jacking threes in the hopes that they could make it interesting, but the legs weren’t there. SB went 1-12 from deep in the first half, and only had one assist. That’s pretty telling for a team that is so unselfish and works together, they only ended up with two assists in the game- and I give those shits out like candy.
Credit Ditka, they came with it every game this season and took advantage of a tired opponent. Shout out to DJ Hill for a nice all around game, distributing the ball with four assists and playing solid D. Tom McSharry was clowning a little bit at the beginning with a couple missed layups, but we’ll give him a pass in this one.
That’s it. Your B2 5v5 Spring Champions= Hurricane Ditka
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