Friday, November 30, 2007

Hustle and Flow

Reading, MA – Origins Unknown delivered a message to the young Hustlers last night at the Reading YMCA. That message was: “Don’t come into our house and think you can take over our league.”

OU out-hustled the Hustlers in a 40-minute schooling that ended in an 86-74 win, and locked up first place in the fall regular season. All facets of the OU game were clicking, and all 6 OU’rs contributed to the victory. Evident at the tip, when OU veteran James “Stretch” Hogan IV out-jumped the Hustler’s athletic big man and slapped the ball out of bounds – it was clear that OU was pumped up. OU used the energy and patience to methodically pick apart the athletically-gifted, but fundamentally-challenged Hustlers. Excited by the surprise appearance of his son, Max, and wife, Deanna, Cap’n Mike shook off a season long slump to play his best game of the year. He pounded the glass on both ends of the floor, tracked down loose balls, and also stayed within his limits shooting the ball. It was a welcomed sight.

The Hustlers did manage to stay within striking distance in the first half, hitting some long range shots, but got very few open (or easy) looks. Meanwhile, OU was spreading the floor and using heady passing to find the open man. Chris “Big” Johnson once again hit anything within 10 feet of the hoop, and was utterly unstoppable on the block. Danger Dan Fisher, after a slow shooting start, also found his mid-range game towards the end of the half, when OU made their run. Throw in some timely shooting and defense by Shu-ter Patel and Dr. J Robinson, and you have a dominant performance. The first half came to an end with OU scoring 50(!) points, and building a 10 point lead.

OU showed no signs of letting up in the second half, and even managed to avoid the dreaded drag-ass wall that typically occurs at the 8 minute mark by subbing in and out at the ideal times. Driving the lead up to over 20 with less than 5 minutes to play, the OU crew was obviously in the zone. Pick and rolls were executed perfectly. Cap’n Mike, Dr. J and Danger Dan were hitting jumpers. All was right in the world.

Finally, with about 3 minutes left, OU let off the gas, and the Hustlers hit a few threes to make the final score respectable. The win gives OU an 8-1 record, and a one game lead over Howse Corp (OU owns the tie-breaker), with only one game remaining. They’ll take on the Free Agents next week, to wrap up the regular season.

Cap’n Mike was 2 for 2 from the line, and now stands at 25-33 on the season.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reading, MA - Ugly Betty. Ugly ducklings. Ugly wins. Origins Unknown needed overtime to take down a feisty and determined Warriors team in an ugly performance at the Reading YMCA, Thursday. The 62-58 final score doesn't begin to explain just how tight this game was, as OU needed a second straight week of heroics from James "Stretch" Hogan IV to claw back from a four-point deficit with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation.

Those 30 seconds, plus overtime are all that is worth rehashing. Down four with the ball, Hogan made a difficult low post score. OU pressed and Danger Dan Fisher and Cap'n caught the Warriors point guard in a trap on the baseline. He escaped, but Fisher was able to knock the ball out from behind to the awaiting arms of Chris "Big" Johnson. Johnson charged towards the hoop and once again found a semi-open Hogan for another shot in the lane. After the make, OU picked up full court but the Warriors got it over half court and got a decent look at a three pointer to win. Fortunately for OU, the ball front rimmed and bounced off target.

Visibly deflated, the Warriors looked flat from the tip in overtime. Hogan won the tap to Cap'n Mike - who took three dribbles and pulled up for a crushing three pointer. Shu-ter Patel also drained a long range bomb to keep the lead, even after a Warriors score. After three minutes of back and forth, Cap'n Mike made 1 of 2 free throws to give OU the four-point lead. The Warriors mounted yet another valiant charge, but missed their last few attempts.

With the win, and a same-night Hustlers loss, OU moves into sole possesion of first place in the league standings. They will take Thanksgiving off, and then come back for a much-anticipated match up with the second place Hustlers.

Cap'n Mike was 1-2 from the line, and now stands at 23-31 on the session.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Reading, MA – They don’t run quite as fast as they used to. They don’t tire teams out as they did in 2004. Some of them (Cap’n Mike) don’t make their open shots quite as consistently as they once did. But, Origins Unknown is still gettin’ it done in the O-8.

The topic of game winning shots is a common one at the post-game watering hole for OU, and now the story of this game’s end will be rehashed and retold for years to come. James “Stretch” Hogan IV grabbed a monster offensive board and sank a last second follow up shot to beat Chili’s 75-74 in an instant classic last night in Reading.

OU faced a loaded Chili’s team but played ‘em rock-solid, never giving in to the constant attack by the enemy. Back on the court for Chilis for the first time in ages was Big Dan. And with TJ also suited up, they had a formidable front line, to match the stellar back court of Jonesie and another new guard with a nice stroke. Add the lengthy other kid, and they looked as tough as they come during warm-ups.

OU was missing Dr. J Robinson, but suited up the other five regulars – and boy did they come to play. Leading the charge out of the gate was Danger Dan Fisher and Hogan. The first five minutes of the game started slowly for OU as all four players missed shots. OU finally made some headway however, and pulled even as Chris “Big” Johnson subbed into the game for the first time. The current OU MVP didn’t disappoint as he matched Dan on the defensive end, and simply outplayed him on the offensive end. Finishing the game well into the mid-20-point range, Johnson literally carried OU on his back for much of the game. A run by OU with five minutes left in the half helped them build a 10 point lead, with a spectacular Danger Dan drive and 12-foot pull-up from the baseline highlighting the run. But Chili’s recovered in the last minute knock down a big three and score the last five points heading into the half.

Tired, but optimistic, OU took the court in the second half only to lose the lead almost immediately. Some tough shots didn’t go down, and suddenly OU was down five points and holding on to a game that could have slipped away – but it didn’t. OU turned to Johnson yet again, and he delivered nearly every time down the court. After missing a few foul line jumpers, Johnson used a quick first step and great body control around the hoop to school Big Dan. Meanwhile, as Cap’n Mike and Danger Dan struggled on offense, Shu-ter Patel and Hogan also chipped in on both ends of the court.

As time wound down, and the game still tight, Danger Dan drove to the hole and scored a hard bucket on a sliding defender. After a Chili's bucket, they called a quick timeout and both teams saw the scoreboard at 69-66 in favor of Chili’s. There was some question as to what the score was, as most of the OU team thought that the Danger Dan drive was counted towards the wrong team. Order was restored, however, and OU lost the appeal, but the battle raged on.

The final few important plays started when Cap’n Mike made a mid range pull-up over a hard charging TJ, which cut the lead to one. And, after a defensive stop, Danger Dan was fouled hard on his way to the hoop, sending the veteran to the line with a chance to take the lead. Danger didn’t waiver and calmly buried both free throws. Chili’s once again couldn’t convert on their next possession, and fouled Cap’n Mike on his way up the court. Cap’n also made both free throws with under a minute to play, and finally OU had a minimal amount (three points) of breathing room. It didn’t last long as Chili’s scored immediately, and then forced a turnover to get the ball back. TJ once again drove and got to the line where he made both free throws and again gave Chili’s the one-point lead with about 15 seconds to play.

The final sequence was a bit hectic as Cap’n Mike passed out of a double team to Hogan, and immediately found himself calling for the ball back when seeing Big Dan guarding him in a major mismatch. Cap’n Mike made a head-fake and drove on the big fella, only to have his original defender collapse on him immediately. Trying to execute a play that Cap’n Mike and Hogan had done HUNDREDS of times over the years, Cap’n dropped a pass to Stretch – but it was just out of his reach. Luckily, the ball bounced to the ever-ready Johnson who turned and shot a fall-away jumper with four seconds left. The shot was short, but Hogan was perfectly positioned and collected the rebound. With one second left, Hogan calmly extended over the defender and stuck the put-back right before the buzzer to give OU the huge win. Nearly everyone in the gym was stunned, including the Chili's fan base, the refs and even the OU crew.

The win gives OU a 6-1 record on the session and ties them with the Hustlers at the top of the standings heading into a match up with the Warriors next week.

Cap’n Mike was 3-4 from the line, and is now 22-29 on the session.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Giant Battle

Reading, MA - Living up to all of the pre-game hype, old foes (and friends) Howse Corp and Origins Unknown met for this session’s bragging rights last night in Reading. OU put together a well-rounded, 40-minute effort, to hold off the always hard-fighting Howse bunch 75-70.

It was a game that required every player to step up - on both teams – and everyone did at some point. The first half started a little sluggish for both teams, and with OU coming off of a bye, they appeared to have their fair share of cobwebs. Even with their heavy feat, OU started out with a small lead, using Chris “Big” Johnson wisely in the post. Johnson’s footwork and quickness has improved game over game, and he was easily able to post up the smaller Howse defenders to score at will. Howse, meanwhile, brought in an athletic free agent from the Stoneham league to fill in for a couple missing bodies. His aggressive defense on Cap’n Mike, as well as his slashing offensive game kept Howse close for most of the first half. Throughout different points, all of the OU players took their turns stepping up on the offensive end. Howse was also using all of their players to keep close, including Fireman Dave, who sneakily ended with double digit points. Danger Dan Fisher kept OU in the game offensively, and mentally as well, barking out for everyone to wake up from the sidelines. His orders were clearly heard, as Dr. J Greg Robinson buried some silky smooth mid-range jumpers, James “Stretch” Hogan IV controlled the glass, and Shu-ter Patel out-stretched his defender down low to give OU at slight halftime lead.

The second half was the epitome of a “back and forth” affair. OU lost their lead, only to catch back up through will and hustle. There were several highlight plays, including a great block by Johnson on Richie Curran which seemed to spark the OU crew. Both teams made runs, but OU made a run when it counted the most. A defensive lapse by Howse left Cap’n Mike with a mismatch, and he exploited it by knocking down a couple threes, and cutting for another bucket as the clock started to wind down. After some unbelievable offensive board work by Hogan, OU went ahead for good at the 4-minute mark. Forced to foul, Howse sent Cap’n Mike and Danger Dan to the line, and while Cap’n had a slight hiccup on the first one and one, the duo didn’t waiver after that, dropping 4 of 4 to end the game and seal the win.

Cap’n Mike was 5-7 from the line in the game. He now stands 19-25 for the session.

The victory vaults OU into sole possession of second place at 5-1, a half game behind the Hustlers. Next week is another stiff test, as OU takes on the team that knocked them out of the last session’s playoffs - Chili’s.