Evergreens 127, Night Owls 109
In any sport, there are two schools of thought on how to deal with top scorers for the opposition. One side argues to play straight-up defense and let the opposing scorer ‘get his’; one guy isn’t going to beat you himself. The alternate viewpoint opts to do everything you can to shut down that player, and force teammates to step up and do more than usual to point you. Well, the game between the Evergreens and the Night Owls may have just served as a referendum on that debate, and the results are in: make others beat you.
The Evergreens took a page out of the Nimble Jacks playbook, electing to use TJ Kane and Jeff Yetter to faceguard Owls leading scorer Kyle McGrath all over the field. McGrath did lead the Owls in scoring with 17 points on a judicious 7 shots. However, the rest of the team struggled to pick up the slack, as the Night Owls shot just 35.5% excluding McGrath. Conversely, the Night Owls remained in their normal defense, allowing Joe Petrino to run wild on his way to a game-high 45 points and power the expansion Evergreens to their first-ever Kronum League victory.
In actuality, the Evergreens outplayed the Night Owls throughout the game. When Petrino wasn’t draining shots from all over the field, Ryan Maley (21 points) was continuing to revolutionize the hybrid wedgeback-crosser position, and captain Ryan Ayres (16 points) contributed four big shots from the cross zone on just five attempts. Rookie wedgeback Gerry Plescia had a second straight strong outing in net, stoning 11 of the 19 shots to come his way.
However, time after time the Night Owls came out with huge shots to get them back in the game. Owls ranger Jeff Gerace hit an 8-point kronum to bring the margin within three in the first period at 35-32. On the second possession of the second period, McGrath sank a kronum of his own to put the Owls ahead 48-39. Finally after the Greens’ Ryan Maley hit a kronum in the third period, Chris Von Tanhausen answered a few minutes later with another kronum to pull within 11 at 106-95. In the end, the Owls could not score consistently between those huge plays and their improved defense was absent for the second straight game.
After two games, the Evergreens certainly don’t look like an expansion club and appear ready to compete with anyone. Joe Petrino is filling the role of elite scorer, and rookie Ryan Maley heads a strong group of secondary scoring options for the team. Alongside a powerful offense, the Greens’ defense appears to be able to hold up on its end after holding the Jet Sets to 101 points and the Owls to 109. As for those Night Owls, they will need to greatly improve their point defense (48 points from the cross zone for the Evergreens) if they intend to back up their talk as a defensive club and creep back into the upper half of the league.
Jet Sets 136, Work Horses 114
A troubling trend is emerging for the Work Horses: against the quicker teams in the league, they don’t appear to have the speed on the perimeter to play lock-down defense. The Horses feature a bunch of large, big-armed players who have struggled to make the defensive rotations necessary to get stops when needed. In this game, the Jet Sets were just too fast for the Work Horses; not only did they seem to come away with every loose ball, but they were able to move the ball around much too easily on offense for open looks. The absence of crosser Dave Slusser for the Horses certainly didn’t help but we’ve now seen this from the Horses in two big losses to the Nimble Jacks and the Sets and it has to be a cause for concern for them.
The full depth of the Jet Sets’ offensive attack was on display in this game. Name a player and chances are he put up some big numbers. Perennial scoring leader Jeff Regensburg had an incredibly efficient 47 points on 19-30 shooting. The usual suspects also did their part as Stephen Vandenberg (22 points, 6 assists), Matt Parsons (14 points, 8 assists), and Nick DeLuca (6 points, team-high 10 assists) did a great job surgically dissecting the Horses’ defense. The Sets also received great contributions from Zach Van Fossen (20 points, 8 for 10 on saves) and rookie Mike Quintans (10 points, 8 assists), which will be important for the Sets when some of the league’s better defensive teams are able to take away some of their top scoring options.
The most encouraging aspect of the win for the Sets, though, was their renewed commitment on the defensive end. They had a gameplan to limit the scoring from Phil Cavalcante in the middle and for the most part it worked. Cavalcante hit some big shots in the third period when the game was just about out of reach to finish with 26 points (and 10 assists), but he got there on just 5-17 shooting and never seemed to take over the game like he did against the Night Owls. The defining moment of the game was midway through the second period when Parsons picked the pocket of Luke Dougan and connected for an open 4-pointer to make it 74-58. Quintans made a similar steal and quick four just a few minutes later. Those defensive steals and plays in transition are where kronum games are won and lost.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Work Horses as Mike Small dominated from the flex area, accruing a team-high 44 points, making 20 of a startling 41 shot attempts. If Small can keep up anywhere near that sort of production while Cavalcante and Slusser got things going from the middle, the Work Horses will be fine offensively. They just need to get back to the drawing board to come out with better defensive strategies going forward.
For the Jet Sets, Parsons’ floor leadership and the bevy of scoring options led be Jeff Regensburg have their offense firing on all cylinders. The defense appears to be turning the corner and the Sets are certainly a team on the rise within the league. This Sunday’s match against the first-place Nimble Jacks will be a huge measuring stick game of just how far they have come.
Nimble Jacks 124, Urban Legends 99
In a rematch of last season’s championship and a meeting between the last two undefeated teams this season, the Urban Legends gave the Nimble Jacks all they could handle in a battle much closer than the final score would indicate. Entering the game, the Legends received a huge boost with the return of all-star wedgeback Kevin Glover from a strained MCL injury (team-high 18 points and tied for league-high 13 saves). With Glover and Jordan Welles both back in net for the purple and black, the Legends’ rotation stabilized and formed a staunch defense against the high-powered Nimble Jacks offense. Early on, it was Greg Ermold on the ground (16 points) and Brian Sperling through the air (10 points), as the Legends took a lead with about a minute left in the first period at 35-33. A late run by the Jacks put them up 39-35 to end the first, but the Legends had to be happy with their play to that point.
However, the wheels came off in the second period as it was a coming-out party for Jacks’ ranger Dan Geiger. With the Legends focusing their attention on Jacks all-stars Ryan Coyne (25 points and 7 assists) and Jared O’Donnell (23 points), Geiger took the opportunity and ran with it, finishing with a game-high 26 points on 12-22 shooting. On the other side of the ball, there were a lot of uncharacteristic off goal shots for the Legends, as the Jacks’ defensive strategy to limit points from the cross zone proved effective (just 12 cross zone points total on the game for the Legends). In particular, reigning league MVP Kevin Clark never found his rhythm, scoring just 6 points on 3-23 shooting with zero cross zone points. The Nimble Jacks stretched their lead to 80-63 after two periods.
The Legends continued to hang around in the third period, with Mike Ragan not letting a tough shooting performance stop him from finding open teammates on the perimeter (team-high 12 assists). However, Jacks crosser Scott Kennedy topped Ragan, finishing with 17 assists, a Kronum league single-week high for 2013. Kennedy continued to struggle with his shot (just 4 for 23 on the game), but did not let it affect his overall game as the Jacks offense continued to pull away. With a few minutes remaining, Jacks wedgeback Ben Hutchison threw down a putback dunk off a rebound to put an exclamation point on another Nimble Jacks victory.
The Jacks have come out of the gate proving they are once again the team to beat, featuring a deep arsenal of scorers that make it nearly impossible for the opposition to take everything away. On the other side of the field, the Legends showed they remain a strong defensive group that can hang with any team in the league. If they can get both their air and ground attacks firing at the same time, they will solidify their status as true contenders.
Week 3 Leaders:
Points – Jeff Regensburg (47), Joe Petrino (45), Mike Small (44)
Assists – Scott Kennedy (17), Mike Ragan (12), Phil Cavalcante (10), Nick DeLuca (10)
Saves – Kevin Glover (13), Chris Custer (13), Dan Vignola (12)
Blocks – Ryan Ayres (4), Nick DeLuca (3), Mike Small (3), Kevin Corbett (3)
Steals – Mike Ragan (3), Matt Parsons (3), 9 tied with 2