Rootin’ for Wroten

Hinkie and the Sixers raided the Grizzlies den for another bricklayer.

Just when Sixers news had settled down following the official announcement of Brett Brown’s hiring, Sam Hinkie decided to insert the team back into the news cycle.  Word came Thursday that the team had acquired 6’6″ guard Tony Wroten from the Memphis Grizzlies for a top-50 protected 2014 2nd round pick.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Sixers don’t project to be very good this year, so it’s almost certain they picked Wroten up for nothing.

The Grizzlies selected Wroten with the 25th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft out of the University of Washington.  (No word yet on whether Spencer Hawes insisted the Sixers acquire another UW alum following the release of Justin Holiday.)  During his lone year as a Husky, Wroten averaged 16.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists, on his way to PAC-12 freshman of the year and All-PAC-12 first team honors.  However, much like Sixers draft pick Michael Carter-Williams, Wroten struggles greatly with his shot, having shot just 16.1% from three and 58.3% from the foul line at Washington.

Wroten continued to labor with his outside shooting during his rookie year at the professional level.  He appeared in 35 games for the Grizzlies while splitting time between their roster and the D-league, shooting 30.8% 3PT and 58.9% FT combined.  Wroten has the size and athleticism to succeed at this level, but to stick in an NBA rotation, he’ll need to develop a respectable outside shot to keep defenses honest and not be a liability on that end.  The Sixers have taken a flyer that they’ll be able to fix that broken jumper and earn themselves a talented player for nothing.

Trade for Tony Wroten – As mentioned, the Sixers effectively gave up nothing to acquire Wroten and see if he can develop any sort of outside shot under their tutelage.  Wroten is only on the books for $1.16M this season, with club options at $1.21M and $2.18M the following two seasons, so he represents an affordable asset both now and in the future.  Wroten is still only 20 years old, was a first-round pick just one year ago, and has an athletic pedigree second to none. In addition to having a father who played NFL football for the Buccaneers and a mother who ran collegiate track, Wroten’s aunt Joyce Walker played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters and he’s cousins with Nate Robinson (maybe he has irrational confidence running through his veins?). Wroten is basically the ideal candidate for the Sixers roster this season: a potential smorgasbord of talent who will help the Sixers brick their way to plenty of losses.

5/5 tanks:

5 of 5 tanks

Sixers Preseason Games Announced

Manchester, England will be one of the stops on the Sixers’ preseason schedule.

The NBA released its preseason schedule on Thursday, with seven exhibition games on tap for the Sixers.  The preseason represents the only time this season the fan base can wholeheartedly root for victories before the team boards the Tanktanic.  Philadelphia will start out with two games overseas, first playing Bilbao Basket in Bilbao, Spain on October 6.  Rumor has it Andrew Bynum laid the groundwork for this contest earlier this year in between flamenco dances.  Then, on October 8, the Sixers will take on Oklahoma City in Manchester, England.  With his international pedigree, new Sixers coach Brett Brown will surely provide a leg-up on the competition for these two match-ups.  It was a savvy move by management to bring Brown in to focus on securing these first two victories.

Back stateside, the Sixers will first strike up some publicity for the 87ers by hosting a game October 11 against the Celtics in Newark, DE.  After facing Rajon Rondo and the current stripped-down Boston roster, Philadelphia will take on some former Celtics, as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and the rest of the Nets come to the Wells Fargo Center on October 14.  The two franchises could not be any more of polar opposites, with Brooklyn completely disregarding the salary cap ceiling and Philadelphia entirely unconcerned with the cap floor.

The Sixers will next travel to Charlotte on October 17, where they’ll get a sneak peek at one of the teams they’ll be in a dogfight with all year for the worst overall record.  They will then face the Cavaliers October 21 on the Ohio State campus.  If Evan Turner doesn’t take 30 shots that game, I’ll be shocked.  Finally, the Sixers’ preseason finale will be October 23 at home against the Timberwolves.  My prediction is that while Minnesota rests its starters the final three quarters to prepare for the regular season start, Philadelphia goes all-out and narrowly edges the Wolves’ reserves on a Spencer Hawes fadeaway 20-footer at the buzzer.  After all, if he can drop 58 points in a Pro-Am, what better environment to replicate that than a preseason game against a disinterested opponent.  Either way, the stage is set.  They have the coach, the roster, and the schedule.  Hopefully, the losses will come early and often, but a few feel-good wins in the preseason wouldn’t be too bad.

Brett Brown Reportedly Assuming Responsibility of Accruing Losses

Ship Steering Wheel Clip Art

The Sixers found their captain for the Tanktanic.

While the Eagles were playing matador with New England running backs Friday night, the Sixers reportedly selected the man who will guide them in a brave new era of lottery freefall.  Five weeks after his hiring was first prematurely reported on draft night, Brett Brown has indeed emerged as the next coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.  The two parties have yet to come to official terms as Marc Stein reports Brown’s associates are trying to talk him out of the job due to the near-guarantee of over 60 losses in Year 1.  Still, it was never a secret what the plan was for the Sixers franchise and it would be very surprising if things unraveled this late in the proceedings.

Brown has been with the Spurs organization for twelve years, seven as Gregg Popovich’s assistant following five years as the organization’s player development coach.  He also has head coaching experience, having directed the Australian national team since 2009.  Everyone associated with the San Antonio franchise has that model organizational glow to them, as they’ve been the benchmark for free agency maneuvering, international stashing, and an aesthetically pleasing offensive system for going on two decades.  Any approximation of the pick-and-roll and corner three offense would be a welcome and much-needed change from Doug Collins’ toilet bowl system.  The Spurs’ system is among those lauded by the analytical community ascribed to by Sam Hinkie and would appear to be a perfect match.

Reporting Hiring of Brett Brown – Everything about Brown coming on board as coach would fit with the tanking philosophy.  He has a strong background in player development, essential to work with both the current young players on the roster, as well as those expected to arrive via the 2014 draft lottery.  He comes from a forward-thinking organization closely coinciding with the line of thought of current Sixers management.  Most importantly, in my opinion, the Sixers didn’t go with some coaching retread (i.e. Mike Brown, Vinny Del Negro) who would care more about short-term results rather than the long-term vision for the franchise.  Hopefully, Brown and the Sixers can take their licks together early on, in order to fulfill Sam Hinkie and management’s vision for a long-term contender.

5/5 tanks:

5 of 5 tanks

2013-14 Schedule Released, Losses to Follow

Calendar

On Tuesday night, the NBA revealed the specific days on which Philadelphia will be attempting to rack up its losses this season; full schedule is listed here: http://www.nba.com/sixers/schedule. Opening night for the Sixers is Wednesday, October 30, against LeBron James and the Miami Heat, as the NBA must have decided to ease Philadelphia into their tanking philosophy with a sure-fire loss.  Philadelphia will also close the season against the defending champions, playing in Miami Wednesday, April 16.  It’s possible Miami and Philadelphia will have the first and worst records locked up by that time and the Sixers can go for a win against the Heat reserves. Wouldn’t that be delightful?

Ironically, Miami is one of the four Eastern Conference teams the Sixers will play just three times, with the others being Indiana, Atlanta, and Milwaukee (they face other Eastern Conference four times, and all Western Conference teams twice).  It’s not the ideal scenario for tanking as Miami and Indiana figure to be among the top teams in the league and ideally, the Sixers would face the better teams the most.  However, the Sixers will play 20 back-to-backs this season, after playing just 17 each of the past two seasons.  The number of back-to-backs in the league range from 14 to 21 so Philadelphia finds itself on the right end of that spectrum as far as accruing losses is concerned.

Befitting their station as projected bottom-dweller, the Sixers will play in just one nationally televised game: Saturday, November 2nd, at home against Chicago on NBATV.  So fans won’t have the opportunity to listen to the Chuckwagon talk about what a joke the team is, which is unfortunate, although it’s probably for the best to limit the team’s exposure as much as possible. The only afternoon games for the team are Sunday, December 1, at Detroit, and a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day match-up in Washington on Monday, January 20.

Other key dates on the schedule include the annual Disney on Ice road trip that takes the team through Milwaukee, Phoenix, Los Angeles (against the Lakers), Denver (on New Year’s Day), Sacramento, and Portland.  Fans can also circle some dates in which to see some prominent former Sixers in action.  

On Friday, November 8th, Philadelphia bowling alleys should expect some added revenue as Andrew Bynum’s Cavaliers come to town.  If the hobbled one suits up for Cleveland, it will be the first time Bynum takes the floor at the Wells Fargo Center, despite earning almost $17 million as a member of the Sixers.  On a less cynical note, Jrue Holiday will make his Philadelphia return with the new-look Pelicans on Friday, November 29.  This contest will be one of the few games that the Sixers would benefit from winning, as Philadelphia hopes the New Orleans draft pick they own ends up in the lottery.  Finally, former franchise cornerstone Andre Iguodala joins Seth Curry and the revamped Warriors in Philadelphia on Monday, November 4.  Iguodala should thrive playing alongside a bevy of outstanding outside shooters in Curry, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes.

Less than three months until first tip-off, the Sixers project to be on the wrong end of many of these contests.  The plan is in place, though, so fans should take the time to watch the growth of the Sixers’ young players, and get a first-hand look at the NBA’s best across the league.

Best Nicknames in Sixers History

Faced with another day of little to no Sixers news during this offseason lull, I absent-mindedly threw out the question on the @PhillyFastBreak twitter account: best Sixers nickname of all-time. I pretty quickly received a couple responses that ‘The Answer’ is unequivocally the best ever, which probably says more about the demographic of my twitter followers than anything. Still, it got me thinking about the topic throughout the day, in between Office Space-esque bouts of frustration in my cubicle. So let’s flesh out the argument here. An old website standby gimmick for when you don’t have anything to write about? Sure. But what are you going to do instead of reading it, focus on work?

5) The Boston Strangler – One of the more prolific scorers in franchise history, Andrew Toney saved some of his best efforts for the hated Boston Celtics.  His legacy against them was cemented in the 1982 playoff series where he put up 30, 39, and 34-point spots in the Sixers’ 7-game series win.  While the nickname is certainly an intimidating one, it loses points both for its harkening to the actual serial killer in the sixties, as well as its targeting only one particular opponent (albeit the team’s fiercest rival of the time).

4) Sir Charles – Before King James ruled the court, another NBA superstar’s nickname brought with it a tone of English aristocracy.  Charles Barkley had a few other nicknames in his playing days (The Round Mound of Rebound, The Chuckwagon), but Sir Charles truly spoke to the level of respect his peers had for his on-court game.  I especially loved the irony in it as Charles’ folksy humor and personality were the polar opposite of a stuffy, old knight.  Even before Barkley became the most entertaining NBA analyst in the business, he and buddy Rick Mahorn were finding ways to make us laugh.  Here you got the peas and onions and…

3) Chocolate Thunder – Man, this one is probably my favorite, not just because of the nickname but because of what a unique personality Darryl Dawkins is.  From a Dime magazine interview on the origin of the nickname: “Stevie Wonder used to come the ball games and they would have a guy sitting with him. And the guy would be holding on to his arm, telling him what’s going on, and he would say, “Hey, the big chocolate guy just put down a thunder dunk. The chocolate guy with another monster dunk.” And Stevie Wonder actually gave me the nickname Chocolate Thunder. So a guy who never saw me can give me that name.”  Dawkins was known on the court for his monster dunks; his breaking backboards was a big factor in the NBA switching to breakaway rims.  Off the court, Dawkins used to say he was from Planet Lovetron and still shamelessly hits on sideline reporters to this day. Chocolate Thunder indeed.

2) The Answer – What’s the question? Is it who single-handedly rejuvenated the city of Philadelphia’s love of pro basketball? Who was at the forefront of the NBA’s push into hip-hop culture? We know it isn’t ‘Practice?’.  To any Sixers fan born in the mid-80s or later, Allen Iverson is the single-most important player in the history of the franchise.  The fearlessness with which he constantly attacked the lane, the way he played where you felt like he literally left everything he had on the court each and every time out, and his symbiotic interaction with the crowd were just a few of the things that made the Allen Iverson-era a special one for Philadelphia. The nickname was succinct and no-nonsense, a pretty-much perfect embodiment of Iverson’s on-court persona.  It even helped launch one of the most popular line of shoes all-time. If a guy grew up in the Philadelphia area in the late 90s, he owned some variation of this shoe. Period.  So for this latest generation of Sixers fans, best nickname in Sixers history? You have the answer.

1) Dr. J – Still, from a historical contest, there’s one nickname that tops even that of the former Georgetown star.  When 90% of the time, fans, commentators, and peers alike refer to a basketball legend by his nickname, you know it’s one that fits.  Julius Erving claims he received the nickname from a high school friend, and ‘The Doctor’ moniker not only represented the way he operated out on the court, but also the first-class individual he is off of it. The Dr. J up-and-under has long been an iconic moment in NBA history; the surgical precision of the move perfectly encapsulating the name that became synonymous with the man.

Disagree with our rankings? Think there are any that should have made their way into the top 5? Sign in to the comments section and tell us your thoughts.

Kronum League Season 4 – Championship

Night falls on the Kronum league as the Owls are the new champions.

Night Owls 125, Nimble Jacks 106

Recent sports history has shown us that on many occassions, what a team has done lately can matter more than the overall body of work.  The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals finished the regular season 23-8 to sneak into the wild card on the final day of the season before going on to win the World Series.  The 2011 New York Giants won three of their final four games to barely qualify for the playoffs at 9-7, eventually going on to hoist the Lombardi trophy.  The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in their final four regular season games to earn the 6th and final seed in the playoffs, prior to adding another Super Bowl title to that franchise’s storied legacy.  Well, now you can add the 2013 Night Owls to the list.  After struggling to integrate a multitude of fresh faces during a 2-5 start to the season, the Owls entered the playoffs the hottest team in the league having won their final three regular season matches.  That momentum carried over into the playoffs as the Owls dispatched the Throwbacks and Evergreens before toppling the Nimble Jacks dynasty in the final to secure their first Kronum League championship.  

The Night Owls entered the game with a pretty simple defensive strategy: load up one side of the field to stop Jacks captain Scott Kennedy (14 points, 7 assists) from finding his trio of leading scorers in Jared O’Donnell (21 points), Ryan Coyne (8 points), and Dan Geiger (8 points, 4 blocks).  Easier said than done for most teams, but Frank McKnight, Corey Chubon, and a host of other Owls defenders harassed those players all game long, rarely yielding the uncontested looks at the net the Jacks thrive upon.  The Jacks continued to sail into the storm throughout the game, keeping the ball in the hands of the guys they’ve always counted on over the years.  However, the well had run dry on this occasion, as Kennedy, Coyne, and O’Donnell combined to shoot just 10-70 (14.3%) from the field, while Geiger was limited to 4-12 shooting himself.  The Owls’ wedgebacks did an excellent job shutting down the Jacks’ vaunted goal zone attack, in addition to cleaning up what few open chances their field defenders let through, as Bob Zane (15/21 saves, 3 steals), Joe Tulskie (13/20 saves), and Matt Nuding (8/15 saves) all played huge roles in their victory.

On the other side of the ball, the Jacks were determined to shut down the cross zone where Owls captain Kyle McGrath and his teammates do so much of their damage.  The Owls did well to recognize that fact and work the ball to open shooters on the outside rather than force shots through the middle.  The Owls outscored the Jacks 78-30 in the flex zone on the game, a shocking statistic considering that’s normally where the Jacks make their living.  Chris VonTanhausen (10 points, game-high 11 assists) and McGrath (23 points, 8 assists) took turns handling the distribution duties with great aplomb.  The main beneficiary was Tyler Katz, who scored a game-high 32 points on outstanding 16-24 shooting.  Tulskie (20 points) and Brett McGlensey (14 points) also wrecked havoc on the outside.  Pete Weiss did his best to staunch the bleeding, saving 26 of 38 shots in net for the Jacks, but the Night Owls basically had their way on offense throughout the game. 

The Owls jumped out to a 44-37 lead after one period before extending their advantage to 90-70 heading into the final frame.  The Jacks tried to claw their way back into things as Nick Caton (13 points) and Jared O’Donnell converted penalty shots early in the period.  Then, a steal in transition led to a four-pointer from O’Donnell to trim the deficit to 94-84.   However, the Night Owls continued their measured attack from the flex zones before a cross shot by Jeff Gerace (12 points, 4 blocks) made it 114-90 with over seven minutes remaining.  A minute later, Dustin Gebhard kicked a penalty shot through the rings for six points to make it 114-98 and the Jacks began trying for 8-point kronums on each of their possessions.  Unfortunately for the Jacks,  they were only able to hit one by Nick Caton with under a minute left when the game was already well in hand for the Night Owls.

For the Nimble Jacks, all good things must come to an end.  Most teams would be happy to have won three of the past four titles and I know they’ll be back next season eager to get the bitter taste of defeat out of their mouths.  On the other hand, the Kronum League has a new champion!  The Night Owls underwent a risky transformation in the offseason, jettisoning some of their top scorers to re-shape their team as a quicker, more-well rounded club.  Following some growing pains, the Owls began reaping the dividends of those moves as the season progressed, culminating in their outstanding defensive effort in the final.  Hats off to the Night Owls on a well-deserved victory.  We’ll see how they react next season as the team with the target on their backs.

New Way to Grade Sixers’ Moves

Not Pictured: Sam Hinkie inside at the controls.

The Times They Are a-Changin’.  Now, there’s no proof that Bob Dylan was talking about the 2013-14 Sixers offseason, but then again, there’s no proof that he wasn’t.  New general manager Sam Hinkie has rolled into town and changed the entire mindset of the Sixers organization.  Losses will be more highly valued in the upcoming season as the team positions itself to obtain the highest pick possible in the stacked 2014 NBA draft class.  And so, like the black bear learning to hibernate through winter, the Sixers fan must adapt to survive.

During the upcoming season, I fully expect to watch Sixers games like I watch Around the Horn: sure, there’s a scoring system in place, but it’s largely irrelevant and you watch for the content itself rather than the results.  No longer will our previews and recaps focus on what the Sixers need to do or should have done to win ball games.  Instead, we’ll examine how events impact the great tanking enterprise for a top pick in the 2014 draft (hopefully culminating in the first overall selection and Andrew Wiggins).  In that sense, both games and organizational moves will be judged on how they help or harm the tanking process.

Scoring System: Any game where the Sixers lose but we also see signs of growth from young pieces like Carter-Williams, Noel, etc., will warrant 5 out of 5 tanks.  A Sixers victory due to something happening like Jason Richardson shooting 6-8 from behind the arc will qualify as 1 out of 5 tanks.  Everything else represents a sliding scale based upon the expectation of losses weighed against player development for the young pieces on the roster.  Organizational transactions will be viewed in a similar fashion; let’s take a look at the major moves so far under the Sam Hinkie regime.

The Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel trade: The quintessential tanking trade: the Sixers shipped off their best player from last season in exchange for a raw big man and a future top-5 protected first round pick from New Orleans.  The loss of Holiday greatly accelerates the Sixers’ plummet to the bottom and as a tanking bonus, Noel isn’t expected to play until around Christmastime while recovering from a torn ACL.  The Pelicans are making a push for one of the final playoff seeds in the West, hopefully they fall far short in that goal and Philadelphia end up with two valuable lottery picks in next year’s draft.

5/5 tanks: 5 of 5 tanks

 

1st round selection of Michael Carter-Williams: The Sixers selected MCW with every intention of handing the keys of the offense over to him.  The former Syracuse guard is far from a polished product: not only will his outside shooting make the memory of Jrue Holiday seem like Steph Curry, but he also led the NCAA in turnovers last season.  Fans can expect to see quite a few games reminiscent of his first summer league performance of 8 assists and 9 turnovers.  Carter-Williams has great court vision and defensive potential, but there will be plenty of growing pains along his journey to becoming a finished product.  It’s as if he was sent down from the tanking gods to save us from our wins.

5/5 tanks: 5 of 5 tanks

2nd round selection of Arsalan Kazemi: In what I can only assume is classic Hinkie fashion, the Sixers traded down multiple times in the second round to accrue future second-round picks, before selecting former Oregon Duck Arsalan Kazemi.  Kazemi comes across as a cross between Thad Young and Kenneth Faried: a tenacious rebounder and defender who will do all the little things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score to help your team win.  The Sixers are trying to limit the number of wins this upcoming season, which knocks this transaction down a peg in the tanking scale.  However, Kazemi isn’t the type of talent that will hurt the tanking process too much and he’s sure to be a fan favorite on the court.

4/5 tanks:

4 of 5 tanks

 

 

 

Sixers trade future draft considerations for Royce White and Furkan Aldemir: Reports are that Aldemir, a Turkish power forward, was the real motivation behind the trade, as the Sixers don’t appear to have interest in working something out with the mercurial former former first-round pick White.  Ultimately, the Sixers aren’t giving up anything of note for a pair of players that likely won’t be suiting for them this season.  Non-factor as far as tanking goes.

3/5 tanks:

3 of 5 tanks

 

 

There you have it, it’s a new era of Sixers basketball and we have a new way to look at it.  Do you agree/disagree with these first few tank ranks?  Either way, here’s hoping for plenty of tanks in our future.

Kronum League Season 4 – Semifinals Recap

After blowing a double-digit lead down the stretch, the Night Owls held on in an exciting shootout victory.

 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.

Shootout!

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.

The Nimble Jacks took the best shot from the Jet Sets before pulling away in the final period.

 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.

Semifinals Leaders:

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)

Kronum League Season 4 – Quarterfinals Recap

Tyler Katz and the Owls were a step ahead of the Throwbacks all game.

Night Owls 130, Throwbacks 114

After the Throwbacks defeated the Urban Legends in their final game of the regular season, they quickly became the Night Owls’ biggest fans, needing the Owls to defeat the Work Horses to earn the last remaining playoff spot.  The Owls came through for them and the Throwbacks’ reward was a meeting with them in the quarterfinals.  Following this hard-fought and occasionally contentious playoff battle, it’s safe to say the Throwbacks won’t be calling themselves fans of the Owls any time soon.

The Throwbacks opted not to faceguard Night Owls leading scorer Kyle McGrath, instead sending defenders at him at from different directions whenever he touched the ball.  McGrath (31 points, 10 assists) connected on two cross shots in the first period but was mostly held in check early on.  In his stead, one guy that really stepped up his offense was Tyler Katz, who recorded a career-high 30 points on 15-24 shooting.  It was also the best the Night Owls’ defense has looked  this season.  Not only did the Owls receive strong efforts in net from Joe Tulskie (14 points, 14 saves on 21 shots) and Bob Zane (13 saves on 27 shots), but they were hounding the Throwbacks all over the field, led by Chris VonTanhausen (15 assists, 4 blocks, 4 steals).  Still, the Throwbacks hung tough behind Steve Botta (16 points) and with under a minute left, Ryan Kirby (15 points) kicked a ring shot through from the wedge zone to bring his team within two points.  At the end of the period, the Night Owls led 36-32.

A few minutes into the second period, a John Graham (16 points) cross shot gave the Throwbacks the lead at 47-46.  Unfortunately for the Throwbacks, that would be their last lead of the game as they began to plague themselves with turnovers and allow the Night Owls to pull away.  Kyle McGrath converted a 5-point play to give his team a 59-53 advantage.  Moments later, a steal and transition four-pointer from VonTanhausen stretched the lead to 65-53, emblematic of the turnover problem for the Throwbacks.  Although Steve Fariss (14 points) answered with a 4-point ring shot of his own, it was all Owls the rest of the period, who led 85-67 going into the final frame.

The Owls continued to spread the ball around offensively, as Jeff Gerace (14 points) and Brett McGlensey (16 points) found plenty of open space in the flex zones.  The Throwbacks didn’t roll over as a pair of cross shots by John Graham drew them back within 18 points at 111-93.  Minutes later, Brian Marron (16 points) finally found success, hitting an 8-point kronum to make the score 123-108.  Finally, a Jim Bradley 6-point penalty shot in the final minute got the Throwbacks within 11 at 125-114, but there was not enough time to complete the comeback.

A great all-around effort from the Night Owls earned them the quarterfinals victory and a meeting with the 2nd-place Evergreens later in the day.  As for the Throwbacks, they showed a lot of heart at the end of the season, winning their last two games by one point apiece to reach the playoffs.  Both Brian and Kevin Marron showed flashes of the big-play ability the Throwbacks were counting on them for and will likely grow into more consistent threats next season.  Added to consistent offensive presences like Steve Botta and Steve Fariss, with hopefully the addition of another big arm, the Throwbacks will be right back in the thick of things in Season 5.

The Jet Sets ended up needing every one of their 25 goal zone points in a game that came down to the wire.

Jet Sets 118, Urban Legends 114

All season long, the Jet Sets teased Kronum fans with flashes of offensive brilliance that didn’t quite make up for inconsistent efforts on the defensive side of the ball.  With Jeff Regensburg playing in possibly his final Kronum game preceding a move to the west coast, there was no time like the present for the Sets to put all the pieces together.  They certainly came out with the type of defensive intensity impartial observers have been hoping to see from them all along, but the Urban Legends had semifinal designs of their own.

The usual suspects did the damage offensively for the Jet Sets.  Stephen Vandenberg (20 points) found the near side of the chamber from the flex zone all period long.  Matt Parsons (13 points, 9 assists, 4 blocks) did the same thing on the other side of the field in addition to finding Christian Rota (14 points, 12 saves on 20 attempts) for dunks in the goal zone.  Jeff Regensburg (team-high 27 points, 3 blocks) got things going a third of the way through the period when he connected on a 4-point ring shot.  The two teams traded shots until Mike Ragan (14 points, 12 assists) connected on a 4-point ring shot at the buzzer to cut the Sets’ lead to 40-34 going into the first intermission.

Five minutes into the second period, Scott Anderson (17 points) converted an unusual 7-point play, putting the Legends ahead 45-44.  Anderson was fouled in the goal zone for one point, before draining a set shot from the penalty line through the rings for 6 points.  Kevin Clark (26 points) also hit his stride in the second period, scoring 10 straight of his team’s points during one stretch.  However, those were the lone bright spots for the Legends in the period, as Regensburg began wrecking havoc in the flex zone areas.  A 5-point play from him in the later stages of the period extended the Jet Sets lead to 77-63.  With additional contributions from Ryan Skinner (15 points), the Jet Sets kept the pressure on, leading 83-65 after two periods.

One man who wasn’t going to go down without a fight was Kevin Glover (20 points, 12 saves on 27 attempts), who sank 4-point ring shots on consecutive possessions to trim the deficit to 87-73.  Then, about midway through the period, Kevin Clark converted a 7-point play and it was a game again at 92-88.  In the closing minutes, a Kevin Clark cross shot finally tied the game back up for the Legends at 104-104, setting up a wild finish.

First, fans were witness to possibly the individual highlight of the year as Christian Rota connected on a bicycle kick from the wedge zone to re-knot the contest at 108.  Riding that momentum, Mike Quintans (3 steals) and Regensburg each sank flex shots and Regensburg was successful on a penalty shot attempt to give the Jet Sets a 7-point advantage.  The Jet Sets intentionally fouled Scott Anderson who improbably drained another set shot through the rings for 6 points.  After the Legends allowed Ryan Skinner’s penalty shot to go in unhindered, a last-second cross zone attempt by Kevin Glover was easily saved, securing the victory for the Jet Sets.

The Jet Sets played a terrific game on both sides of the ball to defeat a gritty opponent in the Urban Legends.  Unfortunately, by letting the Legends back into the game in the third period, they were unable to obtain any rest down the stretch, which could prove costly in their semifinal match later in the day against the Nimble Jacks.  After starting the season 4-2, the Urban Legends ended up losing their final 5 matches on the season.  The Legends have plenty of talent on the roster and it won’t take much for them to jump back into the upper half of the league.  They will need to find the right balance between their exemplary ground game and Ragan and Clark up top, as well as put a better defensive system in place to stop opposing offenses from the cross zone.

Quarterfinals Leaders:

Points – Kyle McGrath (31), Tyler Katz (30), Jeff Regensburg (27)

Assists – Chris VonTanhausen (15), Mike Ragan (12), Kyle McGrath (10)

Saves – Joe Tulskie (14), Bob Zane (13), Kevin Glover (12), Christian Rota (12)

Blocks – Chris VonTanhausen (4), Matt Parsons (4), Jeff Regensburg (3)

Steals – Chris VonTanhausen (4), Mike Quintans (3), Jeff Gerace (2), Kyle McGrath (2)