Night Owls 135, Evergreens 129
A game initially billed as a meeting between MVP candidates Kyle McGrath and Joe Petrino, turned into a Kronum League instant classic, as the semifinal match between the Night Owls and Evergreens featured some big-time plays and more twists than a season of Lost. Although these teams’ leading scorers played their part, there were plenty of others playing huge roles in a game players and fans will remember for years to come.
After the Throwbacks’ match, things were back to normal for Kyle McGrath who found himself faceguarded by the Evergreens. McGrath did a nice job of not forcing the action, accruing his 28 points on just 13 shots and relying on his more-than-capable teammates to carry the scoring load. The Night Owls man-marked both Joe Petrino and Ryan Maley and did a nice job confusing the Evergreens’ offense for a large portion of the game. Petrino recorded a team-high 27 points but wasn’t his usual efficient self, shooting just 5-21, and Maley was held to just 6 points, although he did a solid job in net (9/20 on saves). The rest of the Evergreens appeared hesitant at times about where to go offensively with those two held in check.
At the outset of the contest, it looked like the Night Owls might be feeling the effects of playing their second game of the day. The first ten minutes were characterized by sloppy passing and slow defensive rotations as the Evergreens jumped out to a double-digit lead almost immediately. With eight minutes left in the period, Tyler Katz (20 points, 12/29 on saves, 3 blocks, 3 steals) connected on a 4-point ring shot to trim the score to 26-20. However, with two minutes remaining until intermission, Dom Petrino (18 points) converted a five-point play to extend the lead to 41-30, and the Evergreens led 41-32 after one frame.
In the second period, the Night Owls came out playing the great defense we saw in their quarterfinal match against the Throwbacks. Wedgebacks Matt Nuding (17/32 on saves) and Joe Tulskie (12 points, 8/15 on saves) each had excellent games in net as the Owls chipped away at the Evergreens’ lead before tying the game at 46. Tuskie and Brian Concio (12 points) were doing a decent chunk of the scoring until a Kyle McGrath cross shot gave the Owls the lead at 52-48. The Owls continued to dominate the period with a Jeff Gerace flex shot at the buzzer made it 80-66 after two periods.
The teams treaded water until halfway through the period, when Joe Petrino hit the big shot the Evergreens desperately needed, sinking an 8-point kronum to bring the score back to 95-90. The Owls answered soon thereafter with a 4-point ring shot from Brett McGlensey (16 points) to make it 103-92. Another cross shot from Kyle McGrath with just over a minute left extended the lead to 123-111 and fans thought the game was over. However, the Evergreens had a different, infinitely more exciting ending in mind.
First, Alec Jadacki (14 points) connected on a kronum to bring the Evergreens back within striking distance at 123-119 with one minute left. Frank McKnight and McGrath both sank their penalty shots to stretch their lead back to ten points. However, a Dan Williams shot from the cross zone was deflected by wedgeback Bob Zane up through the rings for another improbably 8 points, cutting the lead to two. After a McGrath penalty shot clanged off the post, the Evergreens had the ball in the closing seconds with the chance to tie with a two-pointer from the flex zone. The in-bounds pass found a streaking Ryan Maley who drained the shot into the chamber with a defender draped all over him, tying the game at 129 at the buzzer.
For the second straight season, a Night Owls playoff game would go to a shootout. The Owls hoped the outcome would be different than their loss last year to the Urban Legends. First up was Brian Concio, who was denied by diving save from wedgeback Vince Rota. Rota then shot himself and was stopped by Joe Tulskie. Bob Zane then stepped up to the point and ripped a shot into the left side of the chamber for the first points of the shootout. The final hero of regulation, Ryan Maley wouldn’t duplicate the feat as his penalty shot went off the crown. Anchoring the shootout for his squad, captain Kyle McGrath buried his attempt into the bottom left corner of the chamber. Needing 6 points through the rings for the tie, Evergreens’ leader scorer Joe Petrino’s shot went harmlessly right into the arms of Joe Tulskie, as the Night Owls celebrated their first return to the finals since Season 1.
The Evergreens have every reason to be proud of the season they put together. Finishing in second-place in the regular season with a team consisting largely of rookies is no small feat. Although they showed their inexperience at times in a playoff atmosphere, they still rebounded late to provide probably the most exciting Kronum contest we’ve seen in quite some time. There’s no shame in losing in a shootout to the hottest team in the league. The Night Owls continue putting together their best performances of the season. They will face a Nimble Jacks team in the championship that they hung right with for about 55 minutes in their lone meeting this year. The Owls have every reason to be optimistic about their chances going forward.
Nimble Jacks 173, Jet Sets 132
The Jet Sets entered this game flying high after a razor-thin victory over the Urban Legends in the quarterfinals. In order to earn a trip to the championship round, they would have to overcome a Nimble Jacks’ squad that had won the teams’ two regular season meetings by an average of 29.5 points. Not only would the Sets need to overcome the league’s first-place team, but they would need to bounce back and win two games in one day. We saw it could be done as the Night Owls pulled off the daily double themselves. The Nimble Jacks aimed to ensure that trick was a one-night-only performance.
The usual suspects were back at it in the semifinals for the Jet Sets. Jeff Regensburg (30 points, 6 assists) shook his faceguarding defenders long enough to find slivers open space in the middle of the field, while Stephen Vandenberg (22 points, 6 assists) worked the perimeter of the field. The Nimble Jacks have the scoring power to match, though as Jared O’Donnell (30 points, 12 assists) and Ryan Coyne (28 points) kept their team shot-for-shot. Both teams were scoring from the goal zone to great effect; Pete Weiss (21 points, 16/35 on saves) and Sean Kennedy (18 points) handled the duties for the Jacks, while Matt Parsons (12 points, 10 assists) both scored and found his teammates for easy dunks. With 7 minutes remaining in the period, Don McCall converted a drop kick from the wedge zone through the rings for 4 points, putting the Jet Sets back ahead 32-30. But two steals by Matt Charleston (14 points) led to transition fours for Dan Geiger (26 points) and Charleston himself as the Jacks pulled into the lead 40-34. They continued to lead 50-45 after one period.
The two teams went back and forth in the early portions of the second period. Mike Quintans (16 points) got his scoring going to re-gain the lead for the Sets. However, Dan Geiger drained a 4-point ring shot to put the Nimble Jacks back ahead 60-57. When Vinny Greco converted a penalty shot past Pete Weiss, the Jet Sets took a four point lead at 68-64. It was downhill for the Sets from there though, when the turning point in the game saw Jared O’Donnell sink a cross shot followed by a Dan Geiger block leading to an immediate Scott Kennedy four-pointer, putting the Jacks back up 80-75. The Jacks smelled blood in the water and kept piling on the points. Another O’Donnell cross shot got the lead back into double digits at the second period buzzer to stretch their lead to 102-91.
In the final frame, Regensburg continued to do everything possible to keep the Jet Sets in the game, as they still trailed by just 12 with about ten minutes remaining. However, another Dan Geiger 4-point ring shot bumped the lead up to 136-116, and the floodgates opened from there as the Sets’ legs appeared to go out from under them after over 100 minutes of playoff Kronum on the day. The Jacks finished the game on a 19-0 run, punctuated by an 8-point kronum from Jay Shegda (10 points), a player who didn’t score a single point during the regular season.
For the second year in a row, the Jet Sets have fallen in the semifinals to the Jacks. The challenge will loom even larger next season, as they will need to somehow replace the scoring of Jeff Regensburg. To do so, the Sets will look toward further contributions from emerging rookies Mike Quintans and Ryan Skinner. Captain Matt Parsons will also need to retool a defensive scheme that saw the team allow both the individual scoring record (55 to the Night Owls’ Kyle McGrath) and the team scoring record (173 to the Nimble Jacks) this season. The Nimble Jacks meet the Night Owls in the championship as they’ll look to add another chapter to that rivalry while shooting for their fourth-straight league title.
Points – Jeff Regensburg (30), Jared O’Donnell (30), Kyle McGrath (28), Ryan Coyne (28)
Assists – Scott Kennedy (17), Jared O’Donnell (12), Matt Parsons (10)
Saves – Matt Nuding (17), Pete Weiss (16), Scott Reimer (15)
Blocks – Dan Geiger (6), Joe Petrino (4), Dan Williams (4)
Steals – Tyler Katz (3), Stephen Vandenberg (2), Kyle McGrath (2), Matt Charleston (2), Dom Petrino (2), Sean Kennedy (2)