Just a week after proclaiming that the semifinals are where we get the most-exciting action, we have to say that the Fall 2019 championship games this past Sunday were unbelievably dramatic. Shoot Your Shot had won its Division championship the previous week, which left seven games to be played on Sunday. The three morning games were good games, but the four night games were the stuff of legend.
The day started out with Fleet pulling away in the second half for an 80-59 win over Talkin' 'Bout Practice. The Practice squad was missing its leading scorer, Kris Bracamonte. Jeff Clark had a three-point shooting day for the ages, bombing away from all over the court to lead Fleet. DadBods picked the championship game to have their worst team shooting effort of the season. They used strong defense to hang close but Hickory hit some big shots down the stretch to pull away for a 49-38 win. In the last morning game, Hey Arnold! unleashed a torrent of three-pointers and used the inside game of Jeff Juan and Norman Wolf Chief to get past Lost Treasures, 65-52.
In the first game of the evening session, Scrap Attack rode the rebounding of Kevin "Hacksaw" Harris and the outside shooting of Sean Roebuck and Johnny Williams to a nail-biting 57-56 win over Zona. It was a gutty performance by both teams, neither of which ever led by more than six points.
Then came a game that will be talked about for quite some time, the contest for the championship of our top division. The Hawgs, who have won this Division title more than any other team in Tucson Basketball League history, had been on a quest all season long. In the Summer season playoffs, The Hawgs didn't even reach the finals, having lost in the semis to the Dom Banks-led GGTM team. They cruised to an undefeated regular-season record and then reached the finals against a tough Squad...um, squad. This was a game for the ages with every possession an ordeal. The defense was suffocating on both sides. Both teams averaged in the high 70s during the regular season, but the score at halftime was in the mid-20s. The Hawgs were led by Donte Williams and James Pegues, but they were missing the outside shooting of Jon Brogan that would have stretched the floor. About midway through the second half, The Hawgs took the lead and eventually built a nine-point lead with a little more than two minutes to go.
And then lightning struck. Squad's Eric Michaud hit a three to cut the lead to seven. The Hawgs missed at the other end and Matt Gipson scored inside to cut the lead to four. With less than 30 seconds left, Squad was forced to foul. The Hawgs missed the front end of a one-and-one and Squad promptly cut the margin to one. Then, with 10 seconds left, The Hawgs missed ANOTHER front end of a one-and-one. Squad hurried the ball downcourt, worked it around to Josh Kollasch, who put up a long two that bounced around, then settled in with one second to go. The Hawgs managed to get a shot off but it fell short and Squad's improbable 10-0 run in the final two minutes gave them the title.
The next game had to feel anticlimactic, but it was a doozy as The Show held off a furious rally by Kareem Abdul JaBallers to win 65-59.
So, of course the last game of the night (and the final game of the Fall 2019 season) had to go multiple overtimes, right? The Ruffles led Pass The ball To Chris by three with two seconds left in the game. That's when Christian Hernandez (the Chris to whom the ball must be passed) was fouled while attempting a long three. The odds of anybody making three straight free throws at any time in a game are slim. The odds that an 80% free-throw shooter can do it are around 50%. A 60% free-throw shooter's odds of making three straight are a dismal 21.6%. And that's under normal conditions. Add to that the pressure of knowing that one miss and your season is over.
Hernandez stepped to the line and calmly sank all three free throws. Neither team scored in the first overtime. After that, it's kind of a blur. I do know that in the final overtime, Hernandez scored early and then again late to secure the 70-66 win.
The Winter 2020 season begins on Sunday, January 5th. We'll be making the announcement of the new, exciting feature of the Tucson Basketball League in a few days. It is seriously going to take things to a whole new level.