The Work Horses could not catch up to Nimble Jacks ranger Jared O’Donnell all game.
Nimble Jacks 160, Work Horses 133
(Portions of this article will also appear on the official Kronum League website. Be sure to check out the site for additional Week 8 coverage and statistics.)
Despite their first-place standing in the league and undefeated record, the Nimble Jacks were not really sporting any serious MVP candidates. The Jacks’ entire philosophy revolves around working the ball around to find the open man among their handful of potent scoring options. There is no need to force the ball to one guy when the roster features a half dozen or so players capable of putting up double digits efficiently on any given Sunday. With this embarrassment of riches, the man who suffers the most from an individual production standpoint is likely veteran ranger Jared O’Donnell. While seemingly always scoring efficiently and displaying flashes of creative brilliance, O’Donnell is rarely able to pile on the stat totals of star players on other teams. However, with fellow ranger Ryan Coyne missing this game to support the troops in Afghanistan, O’Donnell really got the opportunity to flex his scoring muscles. The Work Horses were not happy with the results.
The Work Horses tagged ranger Scott Salvatore with the responsibilty of face-guarding Jared O’Donnell (37 points, 9 assists), a strategy that did not prove to be especially effective. Aside from O’Donnell, Scott Kennedy (20 points, 18 assists) had an excellent game, hitting big cross shots in addition to his usual fine work orchestrating the Jacks’ offense. Dan Geiger also assumed more responsibility offensively, dropping 20 points but also accruing 6 assists. Defensively, Nick Caton and Jay Shegda shared the man-to-man duties on Horses captain Phil Cavalcante, while the team also focused on stopping ranger Mike Small (12 points on just 6-19 shooting). The Work Horses were still finding some success when they had the ball as Cavalcante (26 points, 7 assists, 3 blocks) was able to work himself free to stoke the Horses’ attack. The real force in the game for the Work Horses was ranger Luke Dougan, who utilized the open space provided to him to put up a team-high 36 points. The Work Horses were still hanging around after one period, down 48-36.
The Work Horses got a boost early in the second period via a 4-point ring shot off the foot of Derek Clouser (7 points) in the wedge area. The Nimble Jacks’ offense kept firing away, keeping the defense off balance with backdoor attacks through Sean Kennedy (18 points, 16 saves on 26 shots) and Pete Weiss (16 points, 12 saves on 22 shots). When the Jacks extended the lead to 23 points at 73-50, the Work Horses opted to drop out of the man defense on O’Donnell, really opening the floodgates for the Jacks’ leading scorer. With O’Donnell going crazy from the cross zone, the Horses couldn’t keep up with the Jacks’ onslaught, in spite of a strong offensive performance from Dave Slusser (24 points, 15 assists). The Jacks led 116-89 after two periods and the result was cruised from there on out.
With another game scheduled for later that afternoon, the Nimble Jacks emptied the bench in the third period. The only remaining questions were whether the Jacks would set the single-game scoring record (they would) and what O’Donnell had left in his bag of tricks. The answer to the second question was a bounce-pass self alley-oop attempt off the crown that only failed because the ball happened to go through the rings for four points. That small ‘error’ was about the only thing that didn’t go according to plan for O’Donnell and the Nimble Jacks in this contest.
With the win, the Nimble Jacks secured the first overall seed in the playoffs. Additionally, they showed the impressive depth of their roster, setting a league-high points total while playing without one of their leading scorers. As for the Work Horses, they remain seated in the final playoff spot for now. However, with the Throwbacks one game back and owning the tiebreaker between the two clubs, it would be in the Horses’ best interest to correct the defensive issues that appear to have crept up again.
Wide-open shots on goal were the norm in this contest.
Night Owls 156, Jet Sets 139
“Usually the team that scores the most points wins the game.” One of John Madden’s most famously derided quotes describes a philosophy the Jet Sets have seemingly taken to heart. After Night Owls captain Kyle McGrath exploded for a league-record 55 points in the teams’ first meeting this season, one might have expected the Sets to enter this rematch with a defensive gameplan centered around stopping McGrath. Instead, the only thing the Jet Sets seemed focused on this time around was scoring more points, as any fan of hard-nosed defense needed to avert their eyes from this game.
Once again, McGrath (53 points, 7 assists, 4 blocks) came out firing from the opening prime rush. Cross shots, a ring shot from the flex area, and a 7-point play were just some of the highlights from his first period of action. Remarkably, he went the first 15 minutes of the game without missing a shot, going on to finish the period with 39 points, a mark that can safely be called a league-record for points in a period.
The only downside for the Owls in the first period was Can Duman going down with an injury midway through the frame, putting further pressure on a struggling wedgeback unit. That development only helped the Jet Sets keep pace in the scoring column. Stephen Vandenberg (30 points) led the way for them, with the team also getting a huge performance from Ryan Skinner (26 points) and efficient production from Mike Quintans (14 points, 3 blocks). The man finding all of these scorers was Matt Parsons, who finished with a game-high 15 assists. Despite allowing an opposing player to drop 39 points on them, the Jet Sets only trailed by nine after one period, at 60-51.
With McGrath visibily tired from throwing the ball into the back of the net so often, his teammates shouldered more of the scoring responsibility throughout the rest of the game. Joe Tulskie (19 points, 3 steals), Tyler Katz (16 points), and Brian Concio (16 points, 8 saves on 18 attempts) all had efficient outings on the perimeter. The huge difference-maker though, was Chris VonTanhausen, who returned to action after missing the team’s previous contest. The Owls’ crosser had an excellent all-around game, recording 16 points on just 8 shots, 11 assists, and 4 blocks. With so many members of the Owls contributing on offense, they were able to extend their lead to 108-90 after two periods.
A couple minutes into the third period, a Stephen Vandenberg 5 point play cut the lead to 11 points. However, the Jet Sets would get no closer to nine points the rest of the way as the Night Owls were still able to score at will. It’s nearly impossible for a team to come back from a double-digit deficit when it cannot make stops defensively. Obviously, the team who scores the most points wins, but so does the team that allows the fewest.
The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Night Owls; at 4-5, they now find themselves only a half-game back of the Urban Legends for third place in the league. Conversely, the 3-5 Jet Sets have now dropped two straight with difficult matches against those Legends and the first-place Nimble Jacks remaining. These two teams may be next to each other in the standings but appear to be heading in opposite directions.
The versatile game of Ryan Maley has the Evergreens flying high.
Evergreens 127, Throwbacks 96
Rarely will you come across a bigger clash of the styles than between the Evergreens and the Throwbacks. By far the youngest team in the league, the Evergreens love to push the pace and seek quick cross shots in transition. On the other hand, the Throwbacks, likely the oldest roster in the Kronum league, have long favored a slow, deliberate style of attack designed to move the defense around until an open shot from the flex zone emerges. This season has served as a referendum on those corresponding philosophies, as the Evergreens have shot to the upper crust of the league, while the Throwbacks are striving to avoid being the first team in league history to not qualify for the playoffs.
The Evergreens wasted no time in showcasing their dynamic offensive attack. Joe Petrino connected for two cross shots in the first period, although the Throwbacks’ George Price did a solid job in guarding Petrino, who finished the game with just 12 points (plus 8 assists). The real star for the Evergreens was rookie Ryan Maley, who flirted with triple double numbers in scoring a game-high 27 points, making 9 saves, and distributing 6 assists. More viscerally, Maley was the engine for the Evergreens’ attack; when he was making his high-speed runs across the field, the team seemed to be at its best. However, it wasn’t all Evergreens early on as the Throwbacks were initially making a concerted effort to score from the wedge zone. Also, John Graham (16 points, team-high 5 assists) and Steve Fariss (16 points), playing in the center of the field more than usual, stretched the field out top at the points. After the Evergreens had a 14-point lead, the Throwbacks brought it back within 6 before the period ended 45-37.
Both teams looked a bit out of sorts in the second period, constantly missing shots off goal. The main exception for the Throwbacks was Kevin Marron (20 points, 11 saves), who did serious damage from the flex area, converting on a blistering 10 of 12 shot attempts overall. The Throwbacks also did a nice job finding Jim Bradley (13 points, 9 saves) for backdoor dunks in the goal zone. The deficit dropped to as few as 3 points at 72-69, before a late surge by the Evergreens made the score 76-69 after two periods.
The Evergreens’ offensive lull didn’t last long, as just three minutes into the period, the Greens jacked the lead up to 88-71. They also cranked up their goal zone production in the third period, with players like Gerry Plescia (20 points) getting it done around the net. Plescia (9 saves on 16 attempts) also led a group of wedgebacks who all had solid games in net. The Throwbacks would make a short run to pull within 8 points, but the Evergreens bounced back in a big way. A Harold Bolton (18 points) cross shot made it 109-90 before a Ryan Maley ring shot from the flex area then extended the lead to 117-90, as the Evergreens never looked back. It was a young man’s game on this day.
The Evergreens are now locked in to the second seed, impressively obtaining a first round bye in their expansion season. They will finish the season against the Work Horses, where they will look to continue getting solid offensive production from guys not named Petrino or Maley. The Throwbacks have two more chances to pass the Work Horses for the final playoff spot. However, with those two matches against the Nimble Jacks and Urban Legends, the odds are stacked against them.
Dustin Gebhard solved the Urban Legends’ ground attack, making 15 saves on 22 shots faced.
Nimble Jacks 127, Urban Legends 116
They say that a sports campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. Never does that saying apply more than when a team faces a double-header during the Kronum campaign. After a victory over the Work Horses earlier in the day, the Nimble Jacks had to turn around and take on a tough Urban Legends opponent. They were prime for an upset and the Urban Legends were all too eager to play the the role of spoiler.
The Nimble Jacks opted to face-guard Kevin Glover, holding the star wedgeback to just 2 points on the game. After some back and forth play, an 8-point kronum by Jared O’Donnell gave the Jacks an early cushion at 28-18. O’Donnell (game-high 36 points, 10 assists) was dominant once again for the Jacks, finding open shots in the cross and flex areas seemingly at will. The other big factor for the Jacks was the work of Pete Weiss (22 points, 16 saves) dominating the goal zone, with all of his points coming from that area. The Legends were hot on offense as well, with their patented foot skills proving difficult for the Jacks’ defense early on. Greg Ermold (team-high 26 points) had another huge game with his feet, both in the wedge zone and drop-kicking outside of it. Kevin Clark (25 points) reined his game in a little bit to take better percentage shots from the flex and and wedge areas. After the dust had settled, the Nimble Jacks led 56-49 after one period.
In what became a theme throughout the game, the Legends made a run to within 56-55. The Nimble Jacks immediately responded with a quick 14-0 run capped by cross shots from Scott Kennedy (14 points, 18 assists) and O’Donnell. Throughout the game and especially in the second period, Dustin Gebhard (8 points, 15 saves on 22 attempts) was a defensive standout in goal, perfectly timing his challenges of the Legends’ shot attempts on the ground. Other than that spurt by the Jacks, the Legends played better defensively. Dan Vignola (12 points, 13 saves on 22 attempts) had a solid game on both sides of the ball, while Glover also had a solid game in net despite his offensive struggles, stopping 10 of 17 shots. Their efforts in net kept the lead at a manageable distance at 89-75 after two periods.
Once again, the Urban Legends made a strong push in the third period, shaving the lead to just one point at 99-98. However, a minute later with the score 101-98, the referee called a foul on a Shaun Stevens (15 points, 3 blocks) shot attempt. Disagreeing with the call, Legends ranger Todd Wampler spiked the ball in frustration and received a technical. Although Jared O’Donnell did not convert the technical, Stevens made his penalty shot and the Legends never regained momentum after that sequence. The Jacks rebuild a double digit advantage and although the Legends cut the lead to six after an Ermold drop kick for four and a Bryan Friedrich (10 points) 4-point ring shot, that was the last of the scoring for the Legends. The Nimble Jacks held on to continue their undefeated campaign.
Week 9 Leaders:
Points – Kyle McGrath (53), Jared O’Donnell (37), Luke Dougan (36), Jared O’Donnell (36)
Assists – Scott Kennedy (18), Scott Kennedy (18), Dave Slusser (15), Matt Parsons (15)
Saves – Sean Kennedy (16), Pete Weiss (16), Pete Weiss (12)
Blocks – Kyle McGrath (4), Chris VonTanhausen (4), 4 players with 3 each
Steals – Steve Botta (3), Joe Tulskie (3), 4 players with 2 each