The heat wave smothering Southern California this past week may have set records downtown and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands in LA – but it didn’t stop the Venice Basketball League (“VBL”) from firing on all cylinders. After a very special #ChurchOfHoops Kids Venice Basketball League morning clinic hosted by marquee NBA trainer Paul J. Fabritz, the action was on in this Week 6 of the 2017 season.
On and off the court, it was the hottest week yet. Undefeateds going down, game-winners, clutch free throws… This week had it all. Let’s get into the action!
Project Backboard’s Trained Assassin Ryan Nitz Gets a New Name
“The Oversized Leprechaun” no more. After Project Backboard’s (4-1) Ryan Nitz threw down a ghastly alley-oop in the second quarter of this week’s tight game versus Sunblock (2-3), Nitz had a new name. Bequeathed by our eminent Venice emcee Mouth Piece, Nitz played the second half as “The Mercenary”.
Nitz’s alley-oop finish came amid a 20-8 run by Project Backboard in the second quarter, which saw them seize control and take a 14-point lead into halftime. But Sunblock stayed SPF 100, pounding the paint and hanging around until the 4th quarter, powered by Doran Hampton’s solid all-around game & Pop Champagne unstoppable drives, they cut the lead to 8… Then 6… Then 4…
Two clutch free throws from Sunblock’s Pop Champagne evened the score with less than two minutes on the clock. Project Backboard took a one-point advantage and ball after a Sunblock defensive technical, but Sunblock’s D held strong that possession, setting up free throws for the comeback kid, Pop Champagne, who tied the game at 54 with 37 seconds left.
The teams traded misses, including a blown layup by Sunblock star AJ, which dropped the clock to 10 seconds. That’s when The Mercenary stepped in. Taking an outlet pass from teammate Patrick “The Cleveland Show” Cleveland on the right wing, The Mercenary raised up above two Sunblock defenders, launching a three that ended Sunblock’s comeback bid with a cold-blooded swish!
For the newly-named Mercenary, the final blow was just another jump shot. “Whether I make the shots or miss them, you gotta keep taking the shots you practice every day,” he said after the game. “My teammates believe in me, so it’s a lot easier.”
Hall of Fame’s Crushow Sends Birthday Wishes to Pro Shot West
But the day’s intensity wasn’t limited to The Mercenary’s game winner. The Hall of Fame squad (2-4), who recently acquired longtime VBL vet AJ “The Chosen One” Harris from Nick Young’s Most Hated Players team, took on undefeated Pro Shot West (4-1) in a fiery midafternoon contest. Pro Shot West jumped to a 15-4 first quarter lead, but an HOF run in the second, led by 9 points and 3 assists from The Chosen One, left the undefeated team a 1-point lead at half.
Pro Shot West played with a significant size advantage in the third quarter, relying on several sweet jumpers from 6’10” center Big Baby to take a 5-point lead into the fourth. Meanwhile Hall of Fame was up and down the court all game, relying on lobs, long outlets, and occasional cherry-picking to produce most of their offense.
That strategy paid off in the fourth. Despite building a lead on bulk and hungry rebounding, Pro Shot West switched to small ball for the final quarter, fielding a team that couldn’t hang with Hall of Fame’s high-tempo scoring. HOF took a 4-point lead into the final minute, and clutch free throws by The Chosen One and teammate Crushow sent Pro Shot West packing with their first loss of the season.
I caught up with Crushow – celebrating his 40th birthday on Sunday – after the game.
“Every day is my birthday,” he had to say. “I’m just glad to be here.”
Crushow even guaranteed we’d see the 2-4 HOF squad in the VBL playoffs. They’ll have to win out to have a chance, but they’ve certainly made the statement that this is a team to fear!
Rest of the League Round Up
Hub Select (4-1) played no games versus Metta World Peace’s The Panda’s Friend (1-5). With 10 seconds left in the 2nd, Desi Barmore Jr aka Slim caught an inbound pass & dished a smooth one to Grandpa Dew, who dangled on the rim after throwing it down. But while he hung around, The Panda’s Friend guest All-Star Paul Fabritz laid in a buzzer beater to cut the score to 36-43 at the half, favoring Hub Select.
The Panda’s Friend must not have had their bamboo at halftime as Hub Select cruised to a 16-point victory, 91-75, despite 15 points from Paul Fabritz and 31 from Young Mouth. Slim Basmore (16 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast, 2 blk) & Corry Hallaman (16 pts, 3 rebs, 4 ast, 2 stl) finished as co-Players of the Game for Hub Select.
Los Fearless (2-3) wasn’t afraid to put the hurt on the China Elite All-Stars (0-6) as they more than doubled their opponent’s score, 56-20. Player of the Game Brian Jesiolowski finished with 11pts and 3 rebs, while Ozi Marx added 10 pts and 9 rebs for Los Fearless.
Finally, an undermanned El Crew (2-2) picked up an important W vs. The Venetians (2-3), 59-46, relying on solid team basketball to keep them in the playoff hunt. Check out the VBL Dime of the Week to see some of their slick passing in action!
VBL Hoops will return for Week 7 on Sunday July 23 – be sure to see our second annual DunkFest going down this Saturday July 15th at 2 PM!
- Warren “Wojissimo” Szewczyk