Update One (12:30pm): The second day of the inaugural Basketball Tournament. After today, only four teams will remain in contention for the $500,000 grand prize. One of the day’s first games was also the biggest nail-biter thus far, as the Big Apple Ballers eeked out a win over HITTAS. The Ballers held the lead for the most of the game and took an eight point cusion into halftime, but a fierce rally from the HITTAS tied it up late. Smush Parker played hero for the Ballers though, nailing a free throw with under ten seconds remaining that would prove the difference in the game. Other contributors to the Ballers winning effort included Russell Robinson, who added 26 points and went 7-13 from beyond the arc, as well as Luke Bonner, who put up 18 points and 6 boards.
The other early morning game was a bit of an upset, as TYGTAL (Take Your Game To Another Level) fell to the Illinois Hoopville Warriors. Hoopville jumped out to a 22 point lead in the first half, and then traded blows with TYGTAL until the final buzzer sounded. I’m thrilled for Hoopville. I spoke with one of their players yesterday as the tournament was winding down for the day. He had been watching basketball for about ten hours, then had to work the late shift from 11pm to 7am, and then would basically head right back to Philly U for day two of the tournament. Knowing how difficult all-nighters can be and completely unaware of the strain that high stakes basketball can take on the psyche, I wished him luck.
Now I just hope he can sneak a nap in before they take on the Big Apple Ballers later tonight.
Games 3 and 4 of the day are both on the court now. The Fighting Alumni are holding off a late rally from Sideline Cancer and look to have a spot in the quarterfinals locked up.
On court one, however, the most competitive game of the tournament is going down between CitiTeam and the Philly Patriots. While the mood on the court was fairly intense yesterday, there were enough blowouts and carefree alley oops to sometimes forget that these guys were competing for half a million dollars. CitiTeam and the Philly Patriots both seem completely aware of what’s on the line. The players are arguing calls, the benches are locked in, and the real estate under the basket is clearly more valuable than it was yesterday, when many teams were content settling for contested jumpers.
At this moment, The Fighting Alumni have officially advanced, winning by a final score of 75-66. The Philly Patriots just took the lead on an old-fashioned three point play made by power forward Jason Cain. They lead 53-52 with just over seven minutes to go.
More updates to come.
Update Two (1:12pm): CitiTeam makes a run on the Philly Patriots, aided by some high-flying dunks created in transition. They lead 70-64 with two minutes to go. Also, the fire alarm started going off, and has continued going off for about two minutes now. The Patriots are applying full court pressure and attempting to trap in the corners. They get one stop, but are unable to convert on the offensive end. With a minute left, they are forced to start playing the free throw game, as the 45 second shot clock gives CitiTeam the chance to run off way too much time. CitiTeam isn’t hitting their free throws consistently, going only 5-10 since the Patriots started fouling, but the Patriots can’t hit enough jumpers to make it matter.
Final score: CitiTeam 74, Philly Patriots 70. CitiTeam will face off against the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni later today for a spot in the final four.
The third pair of games today might be the most highly anticipated, and the full crowd watching court two shows it. Rep Your City, fresh off of having SportsCenter’s top play last night, are taking on DMV’s Finest. Rep Your City jumps out to a ten point lead in the game’s first ten minutes, but DMV’s Finest are keeping it closer than it feels. It seems that DMV plays hustle defense and looks for the extra pass much more than Rep Your City, but the advantage that RYC has in terms of overall size and sheer talent might mean it doesn’t matter.
But as I wrote those last two sentences, DMV’s Finest has gone on an 10-0 run to tie the game. My basketball talent gauge might be way off. I often mistake swagger for talent, especially when it comes to basketball.
As Rep Your City and DMV’s finest trade threes, court one is five minutes away from tipoff between Team Barstool and Princeton alum group PUBB Champions. I’m hoping that PUBB can keep it close enough to be entertaining, and secretly hoping that they blow Team Barstool out because I am a bit of a bitter blogger.
Regardless, with Team Barstool and Rep Your City on different courts simultaneously, there is an almost dizzying amount of Top Ten potential in the air.
In the meantime, DMV’s Finest has taken a ten point lead thanks to impressive defense and poor shot selection by Rep Your City. They’re up 45-35 with 1:46 left in the first half. There is a stretch of play that encapsulates the game so far somewhat perfectly: The Crimestopper misses the front end of a one-and-one, DMV gets the rebound and runs the floor. The guy who came down with the rebound drives to the basket drawing help defense, and then kicks to an open man on the wing. He fakes the three, getting his defender to bite, then drives the baseline before launching it back to a guard at the top of the key. He swings the ball to a shooter wide open for the opposite corner three. Swish.
It was, dare I say it, Spurs-ian. Pop would’ve almost grinned at it.
DMV’s Finest is up 48-35 at the half and I am wandering over to check on Team Barstool.
More updates to come.
Update Three (2:22pm): After dominating early, Team Barstool leads Princeton by only one point at the half, 30-29. I watched them for a stretch of fairly ugly basketball, but even so those few minutes made it clear that Princeton has one of the better team defenses in the tournament. They understand when to shift and are committed to staying in front of the ball. If someone were running advanced statistics on this tournament, I would bet money that they let up the least amount of uncontested shots.
Back at court two, DMV’s Finest are holding on to their lead, up 68-56 with ten minutes left in the game. There is a man sitting courtside in a suit that goes bananas for every play Aquille Carr makes. He can’t be older than thirty. I think he must represent The Crimestopper in some capacity, otherwise his actions are almost completely inexplicable for an adult. For a moment I think it is possible he has money on the game, but I’m confident that if there was an underground collection of degenerates putting odds on this amateur basketball tournament, I would’ve found them by now.
DMV has pushed their lead to 78-64 with seven minutes left. On court one, Princeton has taken a four point lead over Team Barstool. This is the closest two concurrent games have been so far in the tournament. It is extremely difficult to feel as if I am doing my due diligence as a reporter. There is too much story to cover.
Rep Your City has a nice putback and cuts their deficit to four points, with now just 3:35 remaining.
Team Barstool is up three with ten minutes left in their game.
This is my nightmare.
DMV puts up a glorious alley oop after an inbound on their own end. RYC forces a shot, misses, and DMV hits a three in transition. The woman next to me exclaims “DAGGER!” It feels like it. RYC misses again and DMV spots up for another three. Swish. DMV now lead by 9 with 50 seconds left. Power forward Chris Braswell yells out “Let’s get that money!” on the court and Aquille Carr shakes his head in dismayed response. DMV puts the game away on free throws, and just like that we have lost the creators of last night’s top play.
I get to the stands at court one just in time to see Princeton score five quick points. They are down 55-54 with five minutes remaining. On Team Barstool’s bench, “El Presidente” David Portnoy is still in his warmups. The game apparently has never been enough in their control to merit his presence in the game. Team Barstool standout Dahntay Jones picks up his fifth foul and heads to the bench. Still his team is able to extend their lead to five with four minutes left.
On court two, the Sconnie Legends are getting ready to face The North Broad Street Bullies. I want them both to win.
Princeton sinks a layup and Team Barstool misses both free throws and Princeton sinks a seemingly impossible layup to cut it to a one point game.
Matt Walsh then sinks a three from the top of the arc, Princeton responds with a layup.
Princeton fouls Dahntay Jones down two with 24.5 seconds left. He sinks them both. Princeton down four.
Princeton sinks an impossible three off their inbound. Neither team can believe it went in. One point game. 13.2 seconds left. Princeton looking for the quick foul, they get it on Dahntay Jones.
He misses the first. Princeton is alive.
He sinks the second. Princeton brings the ball up and players rotate around the three point arc. Douglas Davis mishandles his pass, recovers, and puts up the shot and the buzzer. The entire crowd stands.
The entire crowd groans.
I now hope more than anything that Team Barstool does not win this tournament. They are officially the enemy to this column, my blog, and the universe. I will do everything in my journalistic power to destroy them.
More updates to come.
Update Four(3:25pm): Sconnie Legends and The North Broad Street Bullies are matching each other basket for basket midway through the first, with the game tied at 21. The winner of this game will play the winner of ROBY v. PeacePlayers International, meaning there is a chance for a Nova/Temple game to determine a spot in the final four. That would be great, but this Sconnie team is the hardest working group in the tournament. My heart is torn, so I decide to remain objective, like I’m supposed to as a journalist. Except for Team Barstool. I objectively dislike those guys.
Sconnie has some of the most terrifying out side shooting in the tournament. Yesterday, they went 22-33 as a team from beyond the arc, with shooting guard Kon Kneuppel going 9-11 himself. The Temple squad seems ready for this, and are matching up with Sconnie shooters if they ever look like they might be squaring up for a distant jumper.
Sconnie leads for the majority of the first half, but never by more than eight. They are up five when the Bullies sit on the ball and wait for the clock to run down for the last shot of the half. Dalton Pepper sinks a three. 50-48 Sconnie at halftime. On the opposite court, Nova is getting ready for tipoff. The basketball never stops.
Nova opens up the final game of the Sweet 16 against PeacePlayers International and they are matching each other blow for blow. Currently, the teams are knotted up at 23. On court two, the Bullies and the Sconnie Legends are tied at 58. Every game has been much more competitive today.
I sneak onto the balcony even though I’m not supposed to. This is guerrilla basketball journalism. It is also the perfect location to watch both games while also charging my lap top. On court two, the Bullies and Sconnie Legends are tied at 70 with seven minutes to go, while on court one, Scottie Reynolds just made a free throw to put his team down one. Team ROBY and the International PeacePlayers trade baskets until halftime, when the PeacePlayers drain a three to take a two point lead into the break.
Looking back over to court two, I find that the Bullies have pulled out a 14-1 run capped off by a Dalton Pepper three ball. The basketball is overwhelming. 4:30 left in the game, Bullies up 84-71.
After another minute of missed shots, the Bullies start working the shot clock and Sconnie is forced to foul. The Bullies put it away and secure that they play again later tonight. Final score: 96-80.
Across the way, Nova is about to kick off the second half.
More updates to come.
Update Five (4:01pm): After playing even ball during the first half, PeacePlayers International has jumped on the Wildcat alumni to start the second. Currently, the PeacePlayers are up 77-61 with seven minutes left in the game. Nova nation is nowhere to be seen.
Team ROBY is attempting to claw back, but with just over three minutes left, the PeacePlayers are working the 45 second shot clock. A comeback at this point would be nothing short of miraculous.
With two minutes left, the PeacePlayers have only extended their lead. Both teams seem to have agreed not to play for the final 1:42, choosing instead to walk up and down the court trading three point attempts.
Final score: 98-82
We are down to 8 teams in The Basketball Tournament. Four more games tonight will decide who lives to play tomorrow for a spot in the Championship. These players are two-fifths of the way to half a million dollars.
The action stops here until play resumes at 6:30pm tonight. Hope you stay tuned in with me.
More updates to come.
Update Six (7:53pm): After I got back from walking the lawn and writing from a different mindset for a bit, I came back to the media area to charge my computer and watch the first half of the Big Apple Ballers v. Illinois Hoopville AllStars from above. But just as I walked into the media room, the Belmont Stakes was about start. And I didn’t watch the first half.
But I promise it was just a momentary lapse of judgement and a need for me to watch potential history. It won’t happen again. Big Apple Ballers are up 36-33 at the half. On court two, CitiTeam is just tipping off against the Notre Dame Alumni. Back to reporting.
CitiTeam jumps out to an 8 point lead early and slowly stretches it to 12 points with eight minutes left in the first half. Later, the Irish Alumni get stingier on defense and stay consistent enough on offense to cut the deficit to four in the final minute of the half. The Irish hold possession for the final shot and drill a three at the buzzer. Halftime: CitiTeam 33, Notre Dame Alumni 32.
I turn my attention back to court one where Big Apple Ballers and Hoopville are all tied up at 64 with 4:45 left. Hoopville big man Ricardo Hill fouls out a minute later and the Ballers miss the front end of a one-and-one. Neither team seem capable of making a shot, but the ballers sink two ugly baskets and lead 68-64 with 2:01 left. Hoopville ball. They inbound and swing around the arc to an open Billy Rush in the corner, but he can’t convert. They foul Smush Parker on the inbound and he hits the first half of his one-and-one. 69-64 Ballers with 1:34 left.
Billy Rush gets fouled on the ensuing possession and goes to the line for a one-and-one of his own. He hits both. 69-66 Ballers, 1:18 left. Smush immediately gets fouled again after the inbound and makes one of his two free throws. On the other end, Smush almost steals the ball, but in the madness Billy Rush gets an open look from three, he misses again.
Next possession, Hoopville gets the stop and Rush hits a three. 70-69, 40 seconds left. Timeout Hoopville. They foul Smush again on the inbound. He makes both. Hoopville down three with the ball. Billy Rush hits another three.
Tie game. Timeout Ballers, they can hold for last shot.
They do. Smush Parker tries to make a move off a pick, but his man stays with him. He crosses over twice and drives for a step, drawing defenders, then kicks it to Russell Robinson who puts it up from beyond the arc with .0something seconds left.
The buzzer rings. Lights go red.
Big Apple Ballers win by three. Robinson plays hero, Smush takes home a nice assist. The Big Apple Ballers are one of four teams that will contend for half a million.
I have to go check on the Cititeam/Notre Dame game.
More updates to follow.
Update Seven (8:25pm): The Notre Dame Fighting Alumni are tied 48 all with CitiTeam, 9:40 left in the game. On court one, Team Barstool is shooting around before their matchup against DMV’s Finest – 15 minutes to tipoff on that one. I am hanging up in the rafters of the gym in order to see both games at the same time. The view is wonderful.
For now, attention is fully on court two and Alumni v. CitiTeam. Notre Dame hits free throws and are now up 50-48, eight minutes left. After a timeout, CitiTeam responds with the longest two pointer I have seen taken so far in the tournament. 50-50.
Over the next four minutes, Notre Dame goes on a bit of a run as CitiTeam cannot get anything to drop. Citi is forced to use a timeout down 61-52 with 4:07 left. Teams are now very aware of working the long shot clock and the Irish have begun to hold back and let it count down a bit. The CitiTeam defenders are getting close enough to force the ref to start counting seconds. The new pressure entices CitiTeam enough to drive the lane and eventually get fouled. Now 63-54 with 3:14 let. CitiTeam needs points now, they are already running out of time. They come up empty. The Irish work the ball around the outside again but CitiTeam is able to trap Paul Gause against the sideline with a double team and force a timeout. 2:54 left, still 63-54 Irish.
On court one, Team Bartstool and DMV’s Finest are seconds away from tip. The Irish get fouled off the inbound and make the front end of their one-and-one. CitiTeam can’t convert on their end and the Irish cherry pick an easy layup. CitiTeam finally makes a jumper but Tyrone Nash hits both of his free throws and the Irish still lead by 12. 1:46 left in the game. CitiTeam commits a silly turnover and are forced to foul again. This one feels over.
On court one, DMV wins the jump but misses a three and gets rejected on the alley of an attempted alley oop after the offensive rebound. Dahntay Jones gets three the old fashioned way at the other end. After another missed jumper by DMV, Donnie McGrath hits a three. DMV gets a few jumpers back, but McGrath responds with another three. 9-6 early in what I’m hoping to be a close game.
Back on court two, The Irish their win over CitiTeam official as the final buzzer sounds: 74-61.
Update Eight (8:50pm): DMV’s Finest keep it close with Team Barstool, but are consistently 3-5 points behind through the game’s first twelve minutes. Also, Team Barstool has had like four travels and the referees have only caught one so far. Just saying. As it stands, Team Barstool is up 30-27 with 6:08 to go in the first half. Back on court two, the North Broad Street Bullies are warming up with PeacePlayers International lined up their opposite. Team Barstool goes on a quick 5-0 after DMV’s Finest clanks on two jumpers and two free throws. Matt Walsh caps the run for Barstool with a three from pro range and DMV calls timeout. 5:14 left in the first, Team Barstool up 35-27.
A bit later, I get this shot of Michael Morrison missing a putback:
He responds on DMV’s next possession by slamming down a dunk while I upload my photo to Instagram. Up 43-37, Team Barstool holds for the final shot of the first half. They get it to Dahntay Jones for an open three from the corner, but he misses. DMV tries the half court heave but it doesn’t fall. Team Barstool goes to the break still up six.
On court two, the North Broad Street Bullies and International PeacePlayers are about to start playing basketball with the final spot in the semifinals at stake. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson starts things off with a monster dunk as the Bullies jump to a 4-0 lead.
More updates to come.
Update Nine (10:07): As Dalton Pepper hits a jumper to tie the game at 11 with 13:30 remaining in the first half, I realize that the PeacePlayers must be the biggest team the Bullies have faced so far in the tournament. Jumpers will be crucial. The teams trade threes to keep it tied 14-14 as DMV’s Finest and Team Barstool begin the second half. Team Barstool scores on three straight trips down the floor to make it 49-37. Timeout DMV.
DMV keeps trying to fight back to a manageable margin, but every time they cut it to five, Team Barstool finds a response, by way of either a Jones three pointer or a hard drive in the lane to draw a foul and get to the line. The lead stands at ten after two more Jones free throws, 57-47 Team Barstool with 11:58 left.
On court two it’s been close the whole way, but the Bullies now lead 32-30 with 4:10 left in the first.
Team Barstool calls timeout. The difference in mood of these two teams in their respective huddles is cavernous. Everyone on the DMV sideline is locked in, looking down at a coaches pad as plays are drawn and instructions are given. Team Barstool players splay themselves across the bench with varying distances between them. Dahntay Jones plays with his son. El Presidente goes to get water and almost misses the team huddle, in which they cheer a cheer I cannot make out specifically, but it had a bit too much of a melody for me to imagine it not being a joke. Out of the timeout, Team Barstool up 63-51 with 9:26 remaining. Barstool isn’t paying attention on the inbound and DMV sneaks a ball wide open to the corner where Austin Freeman sinks a three. 63-54.
On court two, Dalton Pepper holds for last possession of the half before getting fouled with 5.5 seconds left. He misses both and the PeacePlayers get the rebound and call timeout to set up a play. They get a contested look at a three from straight on, and miss. Halftime: PeacePlayers 40, Bullies 37.
Back at court one Austin Freeman hits a three to bring DMV’s Finest back to within nine. Dahntay Jones and Austin Freeman are clearly exchanging words on the court, and now both a teammate and referee stand between them. Eventually Jones goes to a “Kobe Slump” with his hands on his knees, looking forward with his head, while Freeman stays standing, hands on his hips, shaking his head. They get chest to chest again a bit later. Jones tries to run off a pick and Freeman throws a little arm in front of him. Not enough to call the foul, but enough to be a bother. At the other end, Freeman drives and converts. 69-62 Team Barstool with 6:31 left.
DMV draws a charge on Jones. Matchups change and now Dahntay is defending Freeman. Freeman cuts right and the ball swings all the way back around to the left where Chris Wright sinks a jumper. 71-66 Team Barstool, 4:18 left.
With Jones still defending him, Austin Freeman puts up a three from way beyond the arc and only makes it to the front rim. It was the wrong play for the time, but it felt like Freeman was trying to make a statement. I don’t think it will be his last attempt.
The buzzer on the far court sounds and the Bullies and PeacePlayers begin their second half.
Jones stays hard on Freeman and challenges his possession pretty far in the backcourt. Jones spins and draws the touch foul, but DMV fails to turn it into points. Up seven with 2:30 left, Team Barstool begins holding for the clock. They miss their late three pointer and DMV gets fouled on the other end for a one-and-one. DMV sinks the first and misses the second, but Barstool guard Donnie McGrath commits a foul on the rebound. Jerai Grant sinks one of his free throws for DMV and it is now 73-68 with 2:15 left. Team Barstool goes back to playing against the clock and eventually draws the foul.
Justin Burrell hits both his free throws but Austin Freeman responds with a quick three. 75-71 with 1:10 left. The referees miss another travel that the crowd loudly reacted to and I cannot keep myself from letting out a loud “COME ON.” Dahntay Jones goes to the line for two and hits both.
Austin Freeman immediately responds again, this time driving the lane and hitting a reverse layup. DMV calls an immediate timeout. They are down 77-73 with 57.9 seconds left.
On court two, PeacePlayers are up 55-54 with 11:57 left.
DMV’s Finers show a full court press out of the timeout. After failing to get the steal, the DMV bench starts screaming for them to foul and they send Jones to the line again.
He misses the first. And the second. Freeman snags the rebound and Jones tries to defend him the length of the court. Freeman gets to the arc, works off a pick, steps back into space and puts up a three.
Freeman turns to the crowd for support.
77-76. DMV fouls and sends Andre Barret to the line. He hits both. 79-76 Team Barstool. 36.2 seconds left. DMV ball, inbounding from under their basket. Jones is in Freeman’s ear. Freeman is working like a mad man to get open off a screen and eventually gets a handoff but is fouled before he can put up the three. He goes to the for a one-and-one.
He misses the first.
The two schlubs that are on the Team Barstool roster do a stupid chest bump, celebrating in a manner that I find upsetting and immature for adults. Celebrate your makes boys, not their misses. Didn’t they teach you that in little league?
As the final buzzer sounds, Team Barstool puts an alley oop up towards the basket off the floor and Jones slams it home. The game goes final. Freeman and Jones confront each other for a moment at center court and cameras and tournament officials get between them.
Should make for a good press conference.
On court two, the Bullies are now down five with 8:18 left. I am torn between finishing watching them and getting the chance to see Freeman and jones to respond to questions.
Romone Moore hits a three to make it 65-63 and I decide I have to stay.
I hate that this isn’t being covered by ESPN.
Just as I am about to break my own promise and head to the press conference area, Hollis-Jefferson hits a three as he’s fouls and converts the four point play. The Bullies then draw an offensive foul and at the other end of that possession, Ramone Moore spins the lane sinks the layup and is fouled. He misses the free throw, but North Broad Street gets the board and puts in another layup. Their quick 8-0 run puts them up 73-72 with 5:16 remaining. PeacePlayers call timeout.
PeacePlayers get a few baskets back on jumpers, but T.J. DiLeo comes back four straight points on a hard drive to the basket and a jumper that gets a friendly bounce off the rim. Next possession, Dan Jennings gets the ball underneath with a little space and reaches back for what would be a monster jam, but is fouled in the process. He goes to the line for two and sinks one. Game tied 78-78, with 2:23 to go.
Temple draws the offensive foul. Ramone Moore drives the lane and draws the foul while putting up an ugly layup. He misses both. At the other end, PeacePlayers big man Darryl Monroe gets fouled and heads to the line for a one-and-one, sinking both. Temple ball, down two, a minute left.
Moore drives and kicks to Jefferson beyond the arc. He takes a dribble and a step in and hits a jumper. Tie game.
PeacePlayers can hold for last shot. They inbound, cross halfcourt, and call timeout with 18.1 seconds left.
PeacePlayers point guard Nate Brown holds until 8 seconds left, then drives past his man and sinks the layup. None of the Bullies helped on the rotation. Timeout Bullies, down two, 3.5 seconds left.
Pepper inbounds to DiLeo and he runs the length of the floor. He crosses the three point arc and stops on a dime at the left corner of the free throw line. He jumps and hangs in the air for longer than what feels normal, but that could’ve just been the heat of the moment that had me thinking that way. He shoots. Buzzer sounds. The ball hits the backboard and front rim before clanking out.
PeacePlayers win, 82-80.
Tune in for the semifinals tomorrow. Four teams are still fighting for 500k. Here’s to hoping it can stay as compelling as today was.