Last night marked the first ever Raptors Republic Pick-Up Basketball Tournament, and it couldn’t have gone better. The event went off without a hitch with excellent support from our Raptors representative, everyone playing clean and fair games and the fact that we were just a few feet from Johnny Depp at Real Sports afterwards.
As for the tournament itself, it was won by Team Amir, a team of three friends, an MVP who showed up as a free agent and…yours truly. That’s right, Raptors Republic held it down at their own event by taking home the title. But there was a lot of basketball before the Finals, so let’s have a look back.
[Also see: Pictures and Videos from RR ACC Scrimmage]
39 people ended up showing up to play, creating seven teams of five and a team of four (who were able to add any fifth they chose for each game). Split into two pools, each team played everyone in their pool once with results determining the seedings for the playoff round. Games were 10 minutes long with no subs, playing the width of the practice court.
Hedo Turkoglu Conference
The boys from The Basketball Jones (plus Trevor S., their fifth man) asserted themselves in the opening round, winning all three of their games. They were pushed to overtime against Team Amir, but a game-winning shot from Trey Kerby, their MVP of the first round, sealed the victory and the undefeated record.
Team Amir finished second at 2-1, losing to TBJ and then narrowly defeating Team DeMar and Team Rudy thanks to some great post play from John P and some timely buckets from Ryan J.
Team DeMar played each team tough, finishing at 1-2 for third place. They were led by Cassim Ali, who helped keep games within reach. Team Rudy finished 0-3 but the record is deceptive – the Smith brothers and friends played every team tight.
Rafael Araujo Conference
It was Team Jonas, cardio machines, who went undefeated in Pool B. Led primarily by Babak A. and Harpreet A., they locked up the top seed and looked like the team to beat early on.
Team Fresh Quince, led by Hubert L. and his brother Ken, managed a 2-1 record, losing only to top-seed Jonas. Team Elaine, the team with the empty roster position, made smart acquisitions to mush them to a 1-2 record , with Melvin B. proving one of the toughest checks in the tournament. Team KLOE finished 0-3 but once again played better than the record would indicate.
The first and fourth seed in each pool matched up and the second and third seeds did as well. Games remained 10 minutes, played the width of the floor.
Team TBJ continued their hot play, led by the quickness of podcast host J.E. Skeets, defeating Team Rudy to advance to the semis. Team Amir climbed on the back of 6’6” post presence John P. to defeat Team DeMar.
In the other pool, Asher Z. took the reigns to help Team Jonas move past KLOE, while Herbert L. once again pushed his Quince teammates past Team Elaine.
In the semi-finals, Team Amir managed to exact revenge on Team TBJ for the overtime loss, again pushed by the post scoring of John L. and the relentless hustle from Matt. M. TBJ pressed late and began forcing turnovers to make it close but ran out of time in the end.
On the other side, it was Richi S., playing injured for Team Jonas, hitting a game winning shot to down Team Fresh Quince and set up the Finals contest.
Team Amir and Team Jonas squared off in a full court, 12 minute battle that saw the two squads employ drastically different strategies. Team Jonas really worked to get out and run, forcing Amir to expend energy getting back on defense. It worked to tire the squad, who played some sloppy offense, but Jonas couldn’t cash in on their opportunities.
The defense of Mike. V. stood out for Team Amir as he stuck with the speedy penetration of the Jonas guards. Meanwhile, John P. and Ryan J. did their best to pick up the scoring load. In the end, Team Amir would win 7-4 to claim the inaugural Chris Childs Cup.
The Raptors organization was kind enough to provide the runners-up with Raptors shoe bags and the winners with shoe bags and lanyards. But the big prize went to the tournament MVP, the Dwight Buycks Award winner. When Team Amir couldn’t decide between the value of Ryan J.’s offense, Matt M.’s hustle and John P.’s post scoring, the three Co-MVPs played odds-and-evens to determine the winner. Ryan J. would emerge, winning a signed Jonas Valanciunas photo courtesy of the Raptors.
In all, the tournament was a great time. A few bandaids and ice packs were required, but I was really impressed with the honest and cordial spirit of play, even as the games got more competitive.
A huge thanks is also due to Abhinav Prakash, our Raptors rep who helped us organize the event. He was a pleasure to work with and was a huge help to us. And thank you to the Raptors organization, as well, for allowing us the time on the practice court.
And a final note – the two finalist teams played 62 minutes over two and a half hours without substitutions. That’s about 50% more floor time than Luol Deng averaged this season as the league leader. My knees…they are screaming today. I feel old.
Thanks to everyone who came out and made it a great night!