Buffalo, NY- Buffalo’s #1 basketball league is officially underway. With five brand new teams and about another six teams completely revamped this is not just the largest slate of teams ever, but perhaps the freshest group of players to ever play in the Champions League. The only brand new team in League A is Pelican Bay, which after one week of play appear to be the best new team to enter the fray since the Toon Squad. Loaded with Buff State alumni they appear to have the pieces in place to challenge the Toon Squad for the title. They played three-time League B champs the Very Aggressive Guys and won a hard fought battle 77-59. It was much closer at halftime as Pelican Bay held only a slim four point lead, but they blew it open towards the end of the game behind a strong performance by Ahmed Nagaya (29 points) and Mark Gross (21 points).
The Toon Squad kicked off their season against a revamped Buffalo Braves team. Their momentum from season nine followed seamlessly over in the home opener as they barely missed a beat. Justin Andreozzi (28 points) scored 20 points in the first half as the Toon Squad jumped out to a 56-35 lead at the break, while Jason Mang (26 points) did his damage in the second half to lead the Toon Squad to a 101-65 win.
After losing to the Toon Squad in the finals of season nine, Court Justice made some aggressive off-season moves. For season ten they brought back league legend Mike Ridge and added big-man Benson Egemonge to complement their existing core. They faced off against Mitch Reese and R.I.P. Ent, who acquired Raysean Johnson in the off-season. R.I.P. Ent jumped out to a nine point lead at the half, but couldn’t hold on down the stretch as Court Justice fought back behind the excellent play of Mike Ridge (17 points) and JR Brown (16 points) to bring home the opening season win 63-61.
Niagara University came back for another run in League A after a rough inaugural season in the fall. They had their hands full in opening week against Travis Craig and 2 Live Crew. It appeared a blowout was underway as 2 Live Crew jumped out to a quick twenty point lead, but Niagara University managed to turn it around in the second half behind five 3-pointers by Greg Gainey. In the end they still came up short, falling 63-57, but their strong finish gives them a glimmer of hope the rest of the season in front of them. Travis Craig led all scorers with 24 points.
League B stalwarts the Billies welcomed United Hoops to League B for their inaugural game in the division. It was a great matchup with an even better matchup within the matchup as Justin Stokes (28 points) and Mark Ward (33 points) battled back and forth leading their respective teams in a classic in the making. United Hoops led by three at the half but let it slip away at the end as Mark Ward and Frank Pieri (20 points) had just enough in the tank to get the Billies over the hump and bring home the 79-77 win.
One of the best parts of opening week are all the classic matchups on the schedule. Concrete versus the Fastbreakers is one of the league’s best matchups. The Fastbreakers got the best of Gary Lee and Concrete in this one, as their balanced attack was too much for Concrete to handle. Before the game Shawn Satarian and captain Nick DeMonte sat down with league commissioner Chas Kirsch and told him that they think this is the season that they tie it all together. After a couple early exits they feel that they have all the pieces in place and enough team chemistry to bring home the championship this season. Through week 1 they appear on the right track, Fastbreakers 75, Concrete 60.
In another matchup of classic league franchises The U.H. battled it out with White Men Can’t Jump in the 6:30 game. It was an emotional game for the U.H. as Matt Pugh made his triumphant return to action after suffering what some analysts predicted would be a career ending knee injury in season seven. He provided the team with a big but short lived spark to start the game. By halftime it was a full blown massacre as White Men Can’t Jump jumped out to a 41-18 point lead at the break. But with what is perhaps the most veteran team in the whole league, the U.H. weren’t about to roll over. Randy Martin (12 points) and Will Castro (19 points) came out locked and loaded in the second half and did their best to make a game of it. Yet it would prove to little too late as captain Frankie Musso (8 points), still burning from within from the devastating collapse at the end of last season, led his troops to a 57-41 win.
In a matchup of two brand new franchises, Off Constantly cruised past the Nickel City Dimers. Off Constantly was led behind the heroic play of Sean Kenney, who established quite a name for himself playing in the Healthy Buffalo APEX League on Monday nights. He led all scorers with 26 points in the 65-40 win.
Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy reunited for another season after missing out on the fall league. They picked up right where they left off capturing a big win against Chris Reichmuth and the Premature Shooters, 62-46. Jeff Starr (14 points) did his best to shoot the Premature Shooters back into it in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to deliver his team the win.
Norfolk N’ Chance played league rival Swoopin’ In On Ya Girl in the prime-time game at 9:15 pm. In a shocking turn of events Dean Antalik, the league’s All-Time leading scorer, left Norfolk N’ Chance for Swoopin’ In On Ya Girl for the second time, as he appears unable to see the value of a stable relationship with Norfolk N’ Chance. Norfolk N’ Chance made some moves of their own in the off-season acquiring Buffalo newcomer Sean Tuohey (9 points) and CKNY veteran Todd Kane (17 points). In what was perhaps the best game of the day Norfolk N’ Chance edged out Swoopin’ In On Ya Girl, 69-62.
In the final game of action Mike Bartoszek made his highly anticipated return to the Champions League with Grind Time as they faced off against Healthy Buffalo. The Healthy Buffalo team looked strong in Week 1, bringing home the 56-45 win. League newcomer John Hinton (20 points) looked like a gazelle on the court running around and leading the offense for Healthy Buffalo, while Mike Bartoszek scored a quite 8 points for Grind Time, while bringing down a lot of rebounds and carrying the team on the defensive end of the court.
The action picks up next Sunday at 1 pm! For over 100 pictures of opening week action check out our facebook page here!