Easy Money 77, 4. The Soldiers 62
In my preview, I not-so-jokingly was skeptical about The Soldiers having five players at the tip. Already without Ike Akotaobi (injury), they needed all soldiers on deck to beat the 9-0 Easy Money squad with Championship aspirations.
They barely made it with five and battled extremely hard, but the numbers disadvantage was just one of many. This one was over quickly.
Kevin Green led the way with 23 points and five three pointers on 13 attempts (38%). Brandon Barkley posted a 14 point, 10 rebound double-double. Kevin Emesiani showed why he leads Ultimate Hoops in blocks with three more to go with 14 of his own points and eight rebounds. Benny Valentine added 16.
In defeat, Paul Starr had 16 points but it was his leadership that kept this thing close in the early stages. Without him, it would have been 20+. Will Haynes had 29 points and 14 rebounds but fell out of the offensive gameplan down the stretch. Jesse Wilson had 10 rebounds as well.
2. Getting Older 83, 3. Contract Killers 71
The rematch of the stunning week one upset was not a disappointment that many thought it may be. With the seasoned vets of Getting Older out for blood, the Contract Killers used a scorching start with the three pointer to lead at the half, 41-36. Getting Older did not lead until 32-31.
They also did not have their point guard Cage Uno Dos, which made things dicey in the playmaking and assist area. Bryant Nash stepped up with 23 big ones and nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. He keyed the GOB comeback nearly midway through the second half with back-to-back three pointers and a layup. He shot a beautiful 10-17 overall.
Donte Smith had arguably his best game in his Ultimate Hoops rookie season. He put up 18 points and eight rebounds (five offensive) and shot 62 percent from the field. Three other players scored double figures: Jeremiah Hopkins (14), Kemar Burrowes (11) and Brian Gahan (10) rounded out the prototypically balanced attack.
The Contract Killers won’t sneak up on anybody anymore after their breakout season. Even without two of their better players, Micah Jordan and Mike Grinnon, they nearly pulled off another colossal upset of Getting Older.
Bill Ioannides was absolutely on fire from three. He was 4-of-5 in the first half and ended up 6-for-9 with 22 points. He also had seven rebounds and three steals but unfortunately couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. Brett Williams came out hot before Brian Gahan took notice. He hit his first two three pointers and finished 5-for-11. He had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists. Big man Dave Beck had 15 points and balled out among younger competition. Alec Harris had 12.
2. Getting Older 84, 1. Easy Money 81 (3 OT)
This one truly had it all. The matchup most predicted provided a ton of drama, a ton of great basketball but unfortunately also a ton of controversy. It took two overtimes to decide the 2016 Ultimate Hoops Plano Summer champion, and every single second of it was crucial.
Easy Money came out looking like the undefeated top seed that they were. Getting Older utilized their seasoned veterans and boatload of collected playoff experience to chip away as the game progressed to eventually form an overtime. One wouldn’t be enough.
Getting Older could have had things wrapped up by the end of regulation or even the first OT, but were not hitting free throws and were struggling to find any offensive consistency without their point guard Kenneth Cage.
While free throws were their big problem --the team was a putrid 13-27 from the line-- Easy Money had a big one of their own both early and late.
Early: their center and the league’s leading shot blocker Kevin Emesiani pulled a hamstring very early in the game. He would return for the final seconds of the game, more out of a pure passion for basketball and the heart of a champion then for the wellbeing of a hamstring.
The bigger problem in the grand scheme of things was the source of points. When it came down to getting a clutch basket, Getting Older eliminated BJ Valentine and Brandon Barkley, leaving Easy Money at the mercy of GOB’s stout defense. They simply couldn’t find any baskets down the stretch but survived by the skin of their teeth with Getting Older uncharacteristically bricking free throws.
After yet another GOB missed free throw, Barkley grabbed the board and raced up the floor for a chance to send the game into a third overtime. An unfortunate (to be polite to the officials) no call on a three-point attempt ended the game -and season- in the blink of an eye.
Kevin “Chip” Green led Easy Money with 24 points but his lack of composure in the second half and both overtimes gravely hurt his club. Valentine had 22 on just 10 shots (seven makes) with seven rebounds and three steals. Barkley also had three steals and seven rebounds, adding 20 points and an impressive four blocks. Outside of these three, the rest of the team combined for just 15 points.
Getting Older repeats as Ultimate Hoops Plano champions and did it behind another balanced attack. Brian Gahan provided the dynamic stat line with 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Sixth Man Donte Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Bryant Nash had 11 rebounds of his own and Kemar Burrowes had 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Jeremiah Hopkins had 17 and made 5 of 11 three- pointers.