Who's In First League Management

The Top of the Standings

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

David vs Goliath

Our double digit lead had evaporated to a mere point with 2-minutes remaining on the clock. They were the number one seeded team. Undefeated and cruising through the league. We were tied for last, having only one win which came against the other 1-win team (who beat us earlier in the season.) Needless to say the odds were stacked against us.

A crucial three we hit 15 minutes earlier tied the game at 28 going into half, but we had been there before.

Despite our awful 1-8 record we were never down by more than 3 at any intermission. We had held the lead several times at break and on a few other occasions had matched our opponent’s score after the first 20 minutes. So being in the game at this stage wasn’t new to us.

In our previous 9 games we simply got outplayed down the stretch. Once we were within 3 at the 2-minute mark, only to find ourselves on the wrong end of a 14 point blowout. We had held leads both early and late in the second half, but ultimately our fatigue got the best of us and we found a way to lose.

This night felt different though. We had our full squad of 7 guys show up, so there were subs available to give us breathers when we got winded. Also our shots were falling at a staggering pace. Three after three kept swishing the net. And when we tried to go inside, we had a man in the middle who was irritating the opposition with make after make.

So everything seemed to be heading our way… until the ghosts of our previous games started to come out.

We missed a few easy, uncontested baskets on offense. Defensively we were allowing them to drive the lane and get good looks at the basket. It all seemed to fall apart and it would have been easy for us to call it a day; to tell ourselves that we gave it our all, and that we held close to the undefeated Goliaths of our league. We could have looked across the court and seen an impenetrable force. But instead we looked across the court, like the NY Giants looked across the Super Bowl field two years ago, and saw a team with a weakness instead of an unbeatable juggernaut.

The team we were playing must have seen our more diminutive size and our outwardly unathletic look and decided to scrap the outside shot for a more interior style of play. Their game plan was evident from the start that they would pass once or twice, look for a gap and try and drive the lane.

It worked well for them at the outset of the game, as they jumped to an early 9-point lead. Our three point shooting kept us in the game and when we called our first timeout we were down by a score of 21-12, with all of our points coming from long distance.

Inside our huddle we discussed a need to compact the middle, challenge every drive and fundamentally box out and grab all misses. And while the other team was good at taking it to the hole, they did have some troubles getting their layups to fall through the net when we were in their face.

We, on the other hand, we red hot from the perimeter. One of our guys couldn’t miss and was able to get enough good looks that we had that one point lead with two minutes left.

It was apparent in those waning moments what we needed to do. Our man in the middle was going to become The Man. The next several times down the court our only goal was to find an opening and get the ball inside.

Our big guy got triple teamed and hacked and probably bruised and scratched, but he persisted to take the ball up strong and make the layup or get fouled trying. The free throw line became his second home.

Meanwhile, as the clock was ticking down second by second, the other team was getting more and more frustrated. They thought they should be beating us, by a lot, and the fact that they weren’t was causing them major frustration. All of which played into our hands.

A few errant shots and a charge later we had the ball, up one with 2-minutes left. Scrambling around we kept finding an open guy who would inevitably make a clutch shot. The two teams traded baskets for a few possessions until the tides turned to our favor and we successfully had a defensive stop and finally got up by more than one possession.

This again made them rush and again they missed a crucial shot.

Finally with 15 seconds left, down 6 they missed a three point attempt that we secured and then they called off the horses and allowed the clock tick down to 0:00.

So did we win the championship? Did we come in first or even second?

Not quite, but what we did do is finish the season with a good taste in our mouth, making us amped for the next season.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

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