Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fab Four

Reading, MA – When Origins Unknown sauntered out to mid court for the tip-off of their match-up with Me and the Revolution (MATR) Thursday night at the Readingdome, it was unclear whether they were going to be able to overcome some obvious disadvantages. Their opponents had eight players, a taller line-up and a few more athletic looking dudes. OU had… well… four guys and a knee brace.

But OU brought their 'A' game, and put together a spectacular 40 minutes of hoops to pull away from MATR 83-70. Shu-ter Patel, Cap'n Mike, James "Stretch" Hogan IV and Craig "Kid Rainmaker" Andrews were the only players available for the game - and that combination was a deadly one. No subs? No problem... OU stayed with their younger opponents, took their best shots and came out victorious.

There was cause for concern early, as Hogan has been hobbled by a lingering knee injury since last session's finals match up with the Muskets. And, he drew the task of guarding a versatile left-handed big man right off the bat. But Hogan was up for the task as usual, and showed his toughness as he still spun and worked his way around the hoop on offense and defense. MATR has several solid hoopsters for this session, led by their big man and two small forwards with excellent strength and skills. This combination will certainly be tough for many opponents as the season progresses. Meanwhile, while Cap'n Mike and Andrews were being hounded by some aggressive defenders, they still found a way to score and keep the collective OU head above water.

Patel started the game struggling from the field in the first half, but easily made up for it by snatching every single missed MATR shot. As MATR pushed the pace on both ends of the court, OU didn't back down one bit. Hogan was spinning, Cap'n Mike was 'gettin his' and all of the OU bunch was playing lock-down D. The score went back and forth, but ultimately OU held a small lead heading into the half.

The second half started with MATR putting the clamp down defensively. They pressed OU into some early turnovers, until the crew figured out that the easiest way to beat the pressure was the simplest - let Andrews go get the ball by himself and get out of the way. This lead to a nice OU run, as they built the lead to 6 midway through the half. Patel also found his groove, banging home some low block buckets, while still using his positioning to rebound. With time winding down, MATR was forced to foul, but Cap'n Mike and Andrews calmly stepped up and made eight straight free throws to doom their chances.

The game was called with a minute left, and MATR clearly frustrated by the veterans. Next up for OU is a rematch with their final's opponents - The very Crusty Muskets (and their revamped team?)...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Muskets "Big Two" Too Much

Newburyport, MA - Well, it's been a whirlwind up and down 9 days for Cap'n Mike... I've seen the side of a boat, while puking my brains out during a Cod fishing trip in Plymouth... I've seen the sunset from the top of Mandalay Bay's The Hotel Mix Lounge in Las Vegas... And, I've played (and lost) in an overtime battle with the Crusty Muskets - a battle that no one will soon forget.

Since this is a blog about ballin', let's focus on the hoops! Just be forewarned that the championship game was BEFORE guffing off the "Andy Lynn", or three and a half days in Vegas (including a red eye flight home) - so I might be "misremembering" some things.

Origins Unknown has been riding a recent wave of good play, having dispatched of their two playoff opponents by an average of 22 points. The Crusty Muskets have had an equally impressive run, that included a 10-0 regular season and two playoffs victories. The game matched two distinctive styles, OU with a short bench and a frantic style, versus CM with their low post towers and deliberate movement.

The game played out the way many others in the history of the rivalry have - back and forth. OU shut down the outside weapons of CM, but did have their hands full on the low blocks. The CM big men were relentless, and skilled as they pounded the ball into the posts. OU meanwhile was using motion offense and scrappiness to keep the game tight. A special appearance by Dr. J Greg Robinson before the half had everyone excited, and provided a nice lift. At the end of the first half, the game was even.

The second half became your typical knock-down, drag-out fight as both teams put incredible effort into each trip up the court. OU would build a small lead, only to have CM get it right back with an offensive put back. As the game clock ticked down, here's what I do remember... OU was up 1 with less than 30 seconds left. Cap'n Mike got fouled and went to the line for two free throws. "Boink" - front rimmed the first one. "Swish" - made the second one. Unfortunately, CM came right back down the court and, needing only a two to tie, pounded it down low again to even the game. A timeout was called, and OU did have a chance with less than 10 seconds left, but the ball didn't bounce their way and the game went to overtime.

Overtime was a blur... literally. The three minute period went by extremely fast, and with OU just about out of gas, CM worked the blocks some more to take a small lead and eventually take home the championship.

It was a good effort by both teams and one heck of a turnaround for OU. Until next session... Work on those free throws.

Friday, May 02, 2008

OU Intensity Buries Howse Corpse

Reading, MA – Three weeks ago, Origins Unknown looked beat up and washed up. A major injury to an OU crew veteran and a 15-point loss to the Warriors capped a disappointing winter session, as the team limped into the crowded YMCA league playoffs with a record of 6-4. All of the uncertainty swirling around the team changed after their 74-49 dismantling of the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs last week. And, if you wondered whether OU could top that effort… they could - and they did.

Last night at the Reading Civic Center, Origins Unknown took on the #2 seed, 9-1 Howse Corp, in the semi-finals and dominated from tip to buzzer, winning 80-61. The game was a physically draining affair, as Howse Corp is known for their intensity and never-say-die attitude. OU, however, matched the intensity and also countered with a very balanced offensive and defensive effort.

The game started with OU making a quick run, with scoring spread amongst Danger Dan Fisher, James "Stretch" Hogan IV, Chris "Big" Johnson, and Cap'n Mike. The key to the early success was constant movement, as well as the team members not forcing their shots. Cap'n Mike and Fisher were able to use screens to find holes in the man to man defense, while Hogan and Johnson had their way on the low block. As Hogan slashed to the bucket and shut down the top Howse weapon, Johnson was the consummate low post threat, and once he caught the ball on the block, you could pretty much count it as two points. The offensive flow allowed OU to jump out to a 15 point lead early - a lead that they would never really relinquish.

One of the main reasons for the maintained consistency was the play of Shu-ter Patel off the bench. Patel was able to enter the game early on and fit in seamlessly to the existing offensive success - nailing two huge three pointers halfway through the half. Meanwhile, Fisher was definitely on his game, as he hit pull ups, lay-ups and thread the needle on multiple occasions. On defense OU was playing one of their best games in recent memory. Each player took personal ownership of their opponent, and forced Howse into difficult shots and turnovers - which typically ended with OU corralling the rebounds or loose balls. As the first half wound down, OU was able to maintain a 15 point cushion, even with a Howse jumper at the buzzer.

Knowing that Howse would make a run, OU spent the first five minutes of the second half with solid defensive focus. The teams went back and forth, but OU seemed to weather any small run that Howse was able to put together. For Howse, only Rusty "The Ageless Wonder" Howse seemed to be able to get to the basket and score. The Curran brothers, Richie and Dennis, also had their moments, but a redheaded defensive machine, foul trouble, and Richie's hot temper seemed to keep the dangerous duo in check. Hogan's (the redhead) defensive work on Richie Curran will go down as one of the best shut-down performances in OU history.

OU hit a bit of a wall with 10 minutes left in the game, and the offensive movement became more difficult. Perhaps the mental and physical exhaustion crept into Cap'n Mike's psyche at that point, as he threw up a three pointer from 4-5 feet behind the three point line... It was old school Cap'n Mike and just like everything else for OU - it worked - swishing through the net and taking a little wind out of the Howse sail.

Even as Howse desperately pressed and chased them defensively, and the game never got any closer. The lead swelled to 20+ when Johnson stepped out and nailed a late three pointer, capping a nearly perfect night.

OU now heads to the finals to face the #1 seed Crusty Muskets. Even after the big win, the OU bunch is far from satisfied and knows that they need maximum effort for one more week in order to reach their goal of a league championship.