Vince Kazmierczak’s 36 points aren’t enough to stop the Toon Squad, while the West Side Connection makes their second early exit from the playoffs after an undefeated regular season.
Buffalo, NY- The postseason has arrived! The level of intensity at the Knights was out of this world. After eight weeks of battling through the 28 teams of Champions League 13 it’s do or die from here on out. The first game of action pitted the defending champs versus (5) Elevate, perhaps the most promising new team in the league. It was a tough first round draw for Elevate. After staying steady near the top of the standings for most of the season, they dropped their final game of the season and fell into a red hot (4) Toon Squad, who after losing their first three games of the season, won out the last five. Joshua Becker nearly set the nets on fire in the first half, hitting eight 3-pointers before the halfway mark. Vince Kazmierczak had a career high 36 points for Elevate, as he continues to make a name for himself in the Healthy Buffalo universe, but it was not enough for Elevate who dropped to the Toon Squad 88-72.
Game 2 was a thriller. Roy Wallace had the troops ready to go. After a disappointing finish to Season 12 Wallace and the (1) West Side Connection cruised through the regular season undefeated and had their eyes on the ever elusive Champions League title. However with championship aspirations of their own (8) Henny Given Sunday came out fired up and looking to deliver the upset. Henny Given Sunday’s Bret Clark (8 points) was all over the court in this one. From beginning to end, his motor never stopped: loose balls, rebounds, steals, you name it, he got it. For the West Side Connection, Zoron Smith was the only one who was filling up the bucket. Smith hit six of seven 3-point attempts to lead the West Side Connection with 20 points. Yet it was the solid team play and balanced scoring of the eighth-seeded Henny Given Sunday that would make the difference in this one and pull out the monster 8 vs 1 upset and advance to the semis. Final Score: Henny Given Sunday 67, West Side Connection 52.
Next up was (2) Ray versus (7) Half Men Half Amazing. Ray wrapped up an excellent 7-1 regular season and have the poise and experience to avoid a trap game. Half Men Half Amazing were one of the most improved teams this season and like Henny Given Sunday, were looking for the upset. However it wouldn’t come. Mike Bennett (20 points) coming hot off his spectacular performance in the NBCC A League Semis wasn’t about to slow down. He paced Ray with a team high 20 points in the 69-56 win. Greg Tucker had a game high 27 points for Half Men Half Amazing, but it wasn’t enough to make another round. With his team officially in the off season it will be interesting to see if captain Derek Beverly can make a few more moves in the off-season and make an even deeper run into the postseason in Season 14.
In the first game of League B action the (1) Triple Threats battled it out with (8) Healthy Buffalo, who had a bit of a fall off after a hot start to the season. Raysean Johnson put in a historic performance, scoring a league record 57 points, while leading the Triple Threats to a 108-80 win. Brian Walter did his best to counter for Healthy Buffalo with a career high 38, but it wasn’t enough as Healthy Buffalo had to battle it out without their starting center Eric Griffin who did not report for the game.
The (4) Gladiators took on the (5) Dream Chasers in the second game of B League action. After missing out on a sold out NBCC C League, Terence Robinson brought his squad into the Champions League. It was a big jump in competition and his team responded, notching up a 6-2 regular season record and a share of first place in the division. But as we saw in a number of previous Round 1 matchups, their are no easy games in Champions League postseason play. At 6-2, they still had to play another 6-2 team, the Gladiators. While Dalvin McCornich (20 points) had a great game for the Dream Chasers, they could not match the depth and experience of the Gladiators who pulled out the 66-53 win behind the strong play of Patrick Davidson (12 points), Phil Bowen (16 points) and John Bowen (17 points).
(3) The Worst Team In The League took on (6) Slime in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of Round 1. It was a game between two skilled young teams, with the ability to get to the basket. Keon Paris (22 points) made a number of great drives to the basket and was nearly unstoppable in the second half for Slime, while Mike Jones (26 points) and Devin Chavanne (22 points) helped lead a late game rally by The Worst Team In The League in the final moments of the game. In the end it was Slime who would prevail and keep their championship dreams alive, 84-83.
If after witnessing the prior six games you still needed proof that this season the playoff seeding just didn’t matter Game 7 was for you. Frankie Musso had waited months for a shot to redeem himself after (2) White Men Can’t Jump’s disappointing finish in Season 12. This is a team that is happy with nothing but a chip. This season he added Nick Jarmusz to roster and locked up the two seed for the playoffs. But again, even with the 2 seed still had to face a red-hot The UH team, who like the Toon Squad in League A really found their rhythm by the end of the regular season. For a team of great shooters, White Men Can’t Jump could not get anything going offensively and quickly fell behind 27-14 at the break. Nick Jarmusz (10 points) hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the second as they got within four points, but then The UH continued to pull away. Jordan Vaccaro (20 points) has his best game in years, knocking down a number of big shots down the stretch to lead The UH to a 54-41 victory and into the semis next week.
We were three points away from making history in the nightcap of Round 1 as the Buffalo Braves almost pulled out the four on five win against D-Block. After an injury to Jamal Cottman in a non-Healthy Buffalo sanctioned event and some family obligations for Jeremy Rowe, the Buffalo Braves were left shorthanded against D-Block at the worst possible time. Rich Walsh (37 points) put on a show for D-Block against the undermanned defense of the Braves, but the Braves managed to stay within striking distance the entire way and got to within one point with under two minutes remaining. Mitch Reese (32 points), Aris Schultz (21 points) and Mike Williams (21 points) played their hearts out but it was too big an obstacle to overcome as they fell just short in the 81-78 loss.
After things wrapped up Sunday there were only four teams remaining in each division. On Monday night we learned that Western University would represent the APEX League in the Tournament of Champions on May 16th. Who will represent Champions League A and B at the big show? The action resumes next Sunday at 1 pm!