Friday, April 28, 2006

Hustlers Get Hustled By OU Veterans

Reading, MA – Origins Unknown used the energy from their largest home crowd this session (two) to dismantle and destroy the shiny-jersey wearin’, Barry Bonds-esque Hustlers, last night at the Y.

Looking confident and juiced up, the Hustlers swaggered out of the huddle as the two teams met at center court. That swagger lasted right up until the ball went in the air as the OU offense was hitting on all cylinders from the moment Stretch Hogan won the tip. Controlling the tempo and knocking down EVERYTHING, OU built a commanding 10-0 lead on the dumbstruck Hustlers.

At the 14-minute mark, OU got a boost from the arrival of Lil’ Cap’n Max and Mom, Deanna. Play stopped for a moment when Mom started to walk the stroller across the court because she thought we “were doing that thingy” (shooting a free throw). The referees halted the game briefly to allow the young lad and his Mom to cross as there were smiles all around from the proud pops and his teammates. Eager to show off for the newest member of his family, Cap’n Mike went on a bit of an offensive rampage, with the help of his selfless and generous teammates.

Cap’n Mike was helped by the strong inside play of Stretch Hogan, and the excellent ball movement and defense by Pete Martin, Shu Patel, and Greg Robinson. Robinson and Hogan chipped in with a nice baseline up-and-under drives, and Cap’n Mike was able to take advantage of turnovers forced by Patel and Martin, to get fast break lay-ups.

With eight players present, the Hustlers used a hockey-shift type of substitution pattern, which seemed to hurt their offensive continuity. Almost as puzzling, the Hustlers never had their two or three best players on the court at the same time together. Of course, none of this mattered much, as OU used a varying barrage of three-pointers, fast-breaks, drives, and back-cuts to open up a can of Chuck Norris on the unprepared Hustlers. At the half, the five-man OU squad had built a 50-30 lead and Cap’n Mike had already (gulp) scored (gulp) 34 points.

Halftime gave OU a chance to catch their breath and introduce themselves to the new “MJ”, Max Joseph. Max was awake and content, gazing intently at Stretch’s red hair, Dad’s sweaty face, the lights, and the hoop.

After the quick break, OU went into arse-wuppin maintenance mode, keeping up decent intensity and still shooting a high field-goal percentage. In similar fashion to the first half, OU fast-breaked the Hustlers to death, while still knocking down the occasional three-ball. The lead ballooned to 30 at one point, but with the outcome already decided, OU cruised down the stretch. Much to the chagrin of his teammates, Cap’n Mike missed the 50 point-mark, but had a semi-respectable 47 in the win. Hogan contributed with another strong double-double, scoring 13 and snatching nearly every loose ball off the rim. He also punched one kid’s attempted lay-up out of bounds, nearly denting the wall under the hoop.

The victory gives OU a regular season record of 5-4, with an upcoming bye before the first week of the playoffs. Most likely, OU will be a three or four seed, and will have a first round game to prepare for in two weeks.

Post game fun was had by all at Chili’s, where Max was able to get his first glimpse at the life of a professional middle-aged men’s league basketball team…

OU Falls to 4-4 After Disheartening Loss

***Special Report From ESPN The Magazine Contributor, Boston Globe Correspondant, and Origins Unknown "backwards-4" muscle, Pete Martin***

April 20, 2006
Reading, MA - It's not apparent how Origins Unknown fell to the unheralded Val Squad, who only brought four men (two goofy) to the court. Most fingers would point at the abysmal play of Peter Martin. Martin took one three-point attempt, and it was more than enough. Max could've shot it better ... left handed.

Playing comfortably in the first half OU seemed to have a grip on the game, but it became hectic and blurry in the second, with the lead bouncing and dipping on the whim of erratic turnovers.

Dan Fisher was hot from the field, and although he grumbled about missing free throws down the stretch, his stellar play carried the team's scoring for several runs. Fisher hit pay dirt from all angles, the jumper, the bank, the drive, at one point soliciting the compliment of a middle-aged man with headphones who stopped-in to watch -- "Damn, he's shooooot'n."

Jim "Stretch" Hogan III played tough down low and couldn't be matched, but didn't see enough touches. His foul shooting was also silky, high arcs splashing net.

The team play seemed uninspired at times, frustrated at others, with a general malaise related to the attitude --- "we should be killing these guys." The team was also without their anchor and Capt’n, Mike Nolan, who should not have been required to dispatch of the 1-6 scrub squad.

In the final minutes OU asserted its authority and looked poised to squeak past the plucky bottom-dwellers, but a Val three-pointer, followed by a contorted scoop shot, and lose ball scrambles, knotted the game with less than a minute to go.

Stretch, as he did several times in the game, made a block and a steal and seized the ball with about 5 seconds ticking towards overtime. He zeroed in on the rim and measured his steps for a heroic game-winning gallop to the wrack, cherry-topped by a thunderous dunk (or backboard-slapping layup). Then, the calls of "time out!" "time out!" were shouted by several, to remain unnamed, players. A technical was issued because OU had already used its two time outs.

The Val sharp shooter hit two free throws to seal the game as OU milled around center court trying to remember their first time out, which seemed like a long, long, long time ago.

After the final buzzer resounded defeat in their battered egos, OU players shook hands and separated to mutter alone. Martin reckoned that he was slow, fat, unfocused, and if he had left a bead more of sweat, an ounce more of effort on the court, OU would've likely won.

The defeat drops OU to 4-4, their worst record ever, with the playoffs fast approaching, and the team beginning to wonder --- can we still rev the engines to win in the playoffs? Do we still have the teeth of two-time YMCA champions? They hope so, but it will take a gut check and grit.

Friday, April 14, 2006

When Winning Isn't Fun

Reading, MA - Origins Unknown picked up their fourth win of the session and broke out of a one-game slump with a victory over Evans at the Reading YMCA. Unfortunately, OU didn't earn this victory on the court, instead winning because of an Evans forfeit.

OU showed up for the 6:30 contest without the services of James "Stretch" Hogan IV, but the other five amigos were present and ready to rumble. Focused on getting back on the right side of .500, OU discussed defensive strategies, what it would be like to be under .500 for the first time ever, and what happened to Assistant Cap'n Pete Martin in a pick-up game earlier in the week (He tripped while back-peddling and was briefly knocked-unconscious when his noggin bounced off the hardwood).

Things seemed to be business-as-usual until the League Commish, Jenn, called us over to tell us that Evans still only had three players and were forced to forfeit. It was 6:45, and even though an Evans player claimed their fourth was right around the corner, Jenn said that the rules were the rules. None of the OU brethren wanted to get a victory this way, but then again, a win is a win. Of course, their fourth player showed up just a couple minutes later, but the decision was made and final.

Not wanting to waste the court time, and still eager to get some exercise, the two teams decided to run pick up. Although the games were fairly close, OU came out on top in two out of three. Their were some flashy plays, including the Pete Martin signature over-the-head-no-look layup and a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't fake behind the back pass/shovel pass by yours truly (I just set the record for hyphens in a sentence). In fact, the entire OU team played well, played loose, and was certain to win in the real game anyway.

The "win" gives OU a 4-3 record, and moves them up and into a tie for third in the standings (link on the right for standings and results). Next week, OU faces off against their first-week opponent, Val Squad. Cap'n Mike will be out of town, so there is a chance that we might get a game recap from a REAL Journalist, Pete Martin. Check back next week to find out.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Venting my Stink

Sometimes I just stink on the court. Sometimes my team stinks on the court. And I am left wondering if I am the reason my teams stink on the court. These stinky games are usually an eye-opener of sorts for me. They show me that no matter how much better I think I am getting, I still have to put forth an effort above and beyond others, and can't be satisfied with my game.

Yes, I am 30 years old and have far greater concerns and enjoyments in life than my basketball abilities, but I just don't want my game to plateau yet. I have unfinished dunking to do. I have a 50 point game in me somewhere, don't I? Did Tiger feel this way when his putting abandoned him at Augusta? Is Mike comparing himself to Tiger Woods? Um, Mike I don't see the correlation... Well, I am obviously not Tiger, but I think I get the same punch-in-the-gut feeling everytime I lose, and I know my teamates (some of them) do too.

Now you are saying... Is Mike really spending 30 minutes to write about this? Does he have a life? Yes, and I am currently holding that life in my lap (Max), but writing helps me get over this stuff.

I did not play well last night. Not remotely well. Not well on offense. Not well on defense. Not well in warm-ups. Not well in my post game hand shakes.

In our Stoneham Monday Night League, my team - Howse Corp - is the defending league champion. We went 8-2 last session and vindicated our two losses in the finals by beating the incumbent champ. This session........ Not so hot.

We are 1-6! I haven't been on a 1-6 team since I played freshman soccer in high school and we were getting beat by kids at schools named Gault and Bishops in Canada! I have missed 4 of the games due to the birth of my main man Max. But, I have made the last two and we have lost both of those games too. A lot of help I am.... We're like the Knicks of the Stoneham league right now.

At this moment (subject to change) last night was the lowlight of my adult basketball career. We were playing a new team to the league called the Orangeman. Let me start by saying they are the opposite of undefeated!

They had five players suit up. Two semi-big guys, one decent point guard, a really, really good shooter, and a scrapper. We had seven guys there.

Here is how my night went... miss, miss, miss, make, turnover, turnover, miss, drive-miss, foul, missed lay-up, foul, three-seconds in the lane, verbal-joist with ref, foul, halftime, miss, miss, miss, miss, foul, missed assignment, dribble off my leg, make, turnover, miss, miss. My cohorts weren't exactly getting it done either, except for Stretch and Danny...

While this was going on, the other team out-hustled us, and generally understood how to play team defense (a concept that a few of our guys don't quite grasp). They also did something the kids call "crashing the boards" - quite effectively. They had a 6 point lead with about four minutes left when...ALAS, a break for us. Their scrapper fouled out of the game. Since they had no subs and had to play with four, we would be able to capitalize right? Well, we kinda did for a bit, and forced overtime. Slightly embarrassing that we had to go to overtime with a one-man advantage, but none-the-less a minor victory in this major disappointment.

In OT, we started out by me catching a nice pass from Stretch on the baseline, and instead of going up strong, I tried to thread the needle back to Stretch, which got picked off. Typical of my night really. Unable to get in synch. Out of position. Uncomfortable around the hoop. Etc, etc. etc. Their defense gave me a lot of respect, considering I couldn't get anything going.

We ended up down 2 with the ball and 14 seconds left, but our Cap'n Rusty missed 2 open looks and then a hand-in-his-face look with 2 seconds left. Just like that, our night was complete... a complete disaster.

My wife tells me not to dwell on it, because it is only just a game... of course, I will dwell on it anyway... but, only until the next game starts... Thursday night. Can't come soon enough.