Commentary by THE BULL & ZAK (UGH)...
Serenity Now! 56 The Visionaries 63
Write Up by: Ben Koller
Yeah, it’s long-ass writeup. It’s the championship game, deal with it.
Coming into this game, there was a pretty set narrative. With an undefeated season and the league’s MVP, Serenity Now was the favorite (to everyone except Harry), especially given that they had beaten The Visionaries easily in their last matchup, despite Zak scoring only 12 points, and Swecker having a great game. If they couldn’t win with those results, the rematch did not look promising for The Visionaries, no matter how good their defense has been doing.
Serenity Now was at full strength this game, while The Visionaries were missing Kevin “Kevolution” Albrecht, and his 9.5 points per game. As promised, Zak’s parents were up on the balcony (on a side note, how did Zak get so tall? Both his parents are pretty average height), and Zak’s dad had his good camera, prompting Kap to yell out that the cameras love him. Jury’s still out on that one.
The first couple minutes were indicative of the direction the game would go – lots of activity, but limited scoring. Limone got a steal on the first possession, but The Visionaries turned the ball right back over, but Serenity Now wasted that opportunity when Quinn made a nice back-cut but blew the layup. We finally got some points on the board when Ryan Shaffer got an offensive rebound and putback, which was just the first of many such plays – dude was everywhere this game. As expected, Swecker was on Zak to start, but Serenity Now put Owen on Swecker, which was an interesting strategy, but I saw the reasoning behind it – preserve Zak from having to go all-out on defense (and risking fouls), and when Swecker predictably took Owen to the hoop, Zak was waiting to play help D and force the tough shot.
Both stars were playing hard, but not getting many buckets to fall, thanks in part to pretty good defense, especially on the part of The Visionaries. Swecker’s intense defense earned him 2 fouls in the first 10 minutes or so of the game, and Zak also picked up 2 early fouls thanks to Swecker’s aggressive drives to the hoop. Neither one of them ended up being impacted by foul trouble too much though.
The buckets weren’t falling much for either team early on, particularly Swecker, but he managed to find Harry find a nice elbow jumper, and Shaffer for 3, and The Visionaries were up 11-7 after the first 7 minutes. Hayes came on and quickly made his presence felt, converting two buckets down low, getting a friendly bounce on a 3, and converting an and-1 to give Serenity Now a nice offensive spark. Frongi and Quinn were having trouble finding their jump shots, but Zak got three 3’s to fall, and that, combined with Hayes’ spurt, gave Serenity Now a 25-20 lead. Sweck was still being aggressive, which got him to the free throw line (5/8 in the first half), but he could not get his shot to fall at all, and was 0-13 from the field at this point.
That 5-point margin was the most that The Visionaries would trail by all game though – after another Harry midrange jumper (!), Swecker finally got his first bucket of the game. He pivoted inside, and shot over Owen and missed, but Owen tried to draw the charge and went down, but got no call. Swecker got the easy putback to finally give him his first made field goal in 15 attempts. On the no-call, the consensus was that Owen was in position, but was under the hoop and tried to sell the call a bit too much. After a pair of Owen free throws and a Limone bucket, we went to halftime with the score 27-26 in favor of Serenity Now.
At the half, The Visionaries had a significant advantage on the boards, thanks to Swecker and Shaffer, who was active all game on the boards. Zak had 11 points to Swecker’s 7, but only one two-point bucket; Swecker’s length and bulk kept Zak from being able to execute those step-through and scoop moves that he likes to use inside. Zak was definitely getting frustrated, which resulted in an appeal to Kap after one play, with Swecker laughing and telling Zak he just got blocked.
Swecker shook off his 1-16 start from the field, and immediately got a bucket inside to open the second half, and then Limone had a nice assist to Shaffer for a lay-in, then Shaffer got another o-board and putback, and just like that the Visionaries were back up, 32-27. Shaffer had 14 points and 7 boards at this point, and was a big reason that The Visionaries found themselves with the lead. Serenity Now stayed cool though – Zak hit another 3 (4-8 from 3 at this point), and Frongi finally got on the board at the free throw line after getting fouled on an aggressive transition take to the hoop. Frongi then attacked the hoop in transition again, getting a bucket, and cutting the lead to 34-32.
We then had a brief little display of offense! After yelling at himself for a missed mid-range jumper, Swecker came down and hit his first three of the game. Zak responded with a 3 of his own, Swecker answered right back with another 3, and Zak tried to respond again, but couldn’t get it to fall. Funny moment of the game: with The Visionaries up 40-38 with 11 minutes to go, Kap called a timeout of his own to wipe some sweat off the floor. Zak tried to call a timeout for his own team as well, prompting his teammates to stare at him, and Kap to ask, “Who tries to call a timeout during a ref’s timeout?” to which Zak responded “Well I need one too.” Generously, Kap ignored this, play resumed, and Serenity Now didn’t lose a timeout.
Harry knocked down his 3rd midrange jumper of the game off a Swecker assist (his 5th of the game). After a Swecker bucket and an Owen and-1, it was 44-41 for the Visionaries with 9:30 to go. Both stars had 17 points and 10 boards, but tough shooting lines as well – 5/24 for Swecker, and 6/20 for Zak. Zak’s teammates were not helping him out with their shooting either though, as both Quinn and Owen missed open 3’s off of Zak passes, putting Owen at 0-6 from 3. Zak got a 3 of his own though, and after getting fouled in transition, Frongi made 2 free throws, and Serenity Now was back on top, 46-44.
There was some good back and forth after that, highlighted by Swecker nailing a contested pull-up 3, then finding Harry for a clutch layup that put The Visionaries up 53-52. After a missed 3 by Zak with 1:30 to go, it looked like Serenity Now was going to have start fouling. On the ensuing inbound though, Shaffer lost control of the ball, Frongi snatched it, tossed it out to Zak for 3, and Serenity Now was back up 55-53. Swecker missed an open mid-range leaner on the other end, and suddenly it was looking as if Frongi and Zak were going to get their undefeated season. Visionaries intentionally fouled Owen with 1:05 to go, and he hit the front end of the 1-and-1, but missed the 2nd. Swecker than tried to draw the foul on a three, but didn’t get the call and just chucked it up, but it banked in. Tie game, a minute to go.
Serenity Now stood in the backcourt, holding for the last shot, while Harry slapped the floor Duke style on the end of the court. When they finally went to work, Zak found Frongi off a pick and roll, Limone slid over to help, and Frongi couldn’t manage to bank home the layup over Limone. Swecker missed a deep heave at the buzzer, and we were on to overtime
After a missed Zak 3, Limone got into the lane for a layup to open up the scoring in overtime. Swecker followed up by stealing the ball from Zak and getting a layup, and the Visionaries were up 4 with 2 minutes to go. After Owen misses the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:20to go, Serenity Now has to foul. Swecker his 1 of 2 to go up 61-56. Zak then missed a 3, and didn’t get a foul call he wanted, but Swecker missed the next front end of a 1-and-1 to keep things interesting. Zak missed a long two though, Limone hit two free throws to bring to 63-56, and after an inbounds pass gets away from Serenity Now and rolls out of bounds, the game is called 2ith 17 seconds to go. Visionaries win!
Despite a bad shooting night, Swecker is easily Finals MVP – he made almost all their offense happen, and played great D on Zak. He got just enough help from Shaffer, who had a big game with timely buckets, big boards, and a few nice blocks, and from Limone, whose defense and energy provided a major lift. Harry made big shots, did good captain things, and did great. Howard didn’t see as much playing time, but played with good intensity when he was in.
Everyone wondered whether Swecker would get enough help to win this game, but it actually turned out to be Zak who should have been worrying about the help. He went 10-24 from the field for 27 points – not amazing for his standards, but not bad, especially with Swecker playing very good defense. Unfortunately, none of his teammates really stepped enough – Owen had a couple nice takes inside, but he and Quinn were a combined 0-11 from 3, and besides a couple nice transition attacks, Frongi wasn’t getting his jumper or his inside shots to fall. Hayes had the nice spurt in the first half, but after that, essentially nothing (partly because of lack of playing time, to be fair). Credit too though to the great defense played by The Visionaries; their rotations were excellent, and they did a great job of limiting easy looks.
Overall, great game, despite all the poor shooting. Serenity Now will probably wish they had another shot, because things could’ve easily gone differently, but the Visionaries brought the defense, dictated the style of play, and came out with a well-deserved win.