2013-14 Hoops – Championship & All-Star Sunday (April 13)

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Updated: April 16, 2014

What began in October came to a dramatic and fantastic conclusion Sunday evening.  Sunday was easily one of, if not THE best, nights in the history of All Sports Series.  A Congratulations is in order to the inaugural Champs of the Hoops League — #1 Seed Team Lalez (Highland Pop).   More on them later, but they prevailed in an amazing night of Hoops.  Before we get into the details of Sunday Night, here is the extended Weekly Highlight Video for both the Championship and All Star Game.  Also, here’s the final Playoff BRACKET for anyone that was running a pool :).

As was the case last week, we’re going to go through a Timeline of Events for this past week, so scroll down to see just how Team Lalez came to be Champions.

All Hoops Team – 3Pt Shootout

Congrats to Todd “silky” Siegel of Team Shamberg (Sunset Foods) who won the first ever Hoops League 3Pt Shootout.  He defeated Eugene “rise ‘n fire” Connor of Team Zimmerman (Teplitz & Bell) in the Final Round of the 3Pt Shootout.  For those curious of the format, we started with 8 Shooters in the First Round.  All 8 Shooters had two 60-second sessions to shoot, from anywhere they wanted, behind the arc.  Their two sessions were totaled together and the Top 4 Shooters moved on to the Semi-Finals.  Joining the final 2 Shooters, was Euguene’s teammate Max “big” Boton from Team Zimmerman and Evan “pure” Zahniser.  This was a really fun prelude for the things to come in the All Star Game later in the night.

Championship 1. Team Lalez (Highland Pop) v. 3. Team Maione (B. Weinstein Associates) *Team Maione needs to win 2 Games for Championship

It would be hard to ask for anything more than these two Teams battling it out for the very first Hoops League Championship.  Over the past 7 months you have heard about the Resumes for both of these storied All Sports Series Franchises.  The Team Lalez bunch became the very first to win multiple All Sports Series Championships back in the Summer of 2012.  Along with those 2 Crowns, they have a 2nd Place (2011) and a Final4(2013) to boot.  They are a Dynasty in every sense of the word.  However, every Dynasty needs a valiant foe to truly help cement their Legacy.  Enter Team Maione.  Team Maione came into this Hoops League fresh off a 2013 Summer League Championship (Chicago Men’s League).  They have many 2x Champs among them as well now and on their way to the 2013 Crown, they defeated the Team Lalez group (known as Team Hakimian over the Summer) in a Final4 Flag Football battle for the ages.  These two Teams know each other well.  Really well…

As for this Season, 1. Team Lalez entered the final night of the Season knowing all they needed was just 1 more win.  Combining Playoffs and Regular Season they were 21-2 on the Year.  Not too shabby.   Trying to push them to 21-4 (with 2 straight losses) was 3. Team Maione who entered the Playoffs at 13-5 and had a Playoff Record of 4-2 (17-7 combined record).  They battled twice in the Regular Season (splitting 1-1) and then again in Week 3 of the Playoffs, which Team Lalez won.

Now that the stage has been set let’s get to the action.. Team Maione came out firing on all cylinders and jumped out to an early lead.  Josh “no stranger to the big stage” Bartelstein led the way for them in scoring with 18.  The pace was quick in the first half, faster than Team Lalez usually likes to play.  Team Maione certainly wanted to keep the tempo up, so they wouldn’t get caught guarding Team Lalez’s bigs for long stretches of time.  The height advantage for Team Lalez was evident from the get go and they definitely got a bulk of their points in the paint.  As halftime approached, Team Maione held on to the lead they established early on.. It was still anyone’s game though.  David “D.D.S.” Gershenzon did all he could to help Team Lalez on the offensive end in the second half, as he ended the game with 22 points, and most of those coming late in this one..  They traded baskets for much of the second half and as a result Team Maione’s lead never really decreased to less than 8 points or so.   Their was a brief run, where the lead went from 12 to 8 quickly and it seemed as if the run we had been waiting for was about to come for Team Lalez. However Team Maione, as they have done all season long, dug in and held their ground.   As the clock started to wind down and desperation came into play for Team Lalez, you couldn’t help but think.. Did they have one magical, Championship Run, in them?   In this Game.. They did not.  Team Maione would hold serve.  Chris “League MVP” Wroblewski (as seen in the video) iced the game for his crew.

This of course set-up a final winner-take-all Championship Game!

All Hoops Team – All-Star Game

The two finalists from the 3PT Shootout – Todd Siegel and Eugene Connor – were chosen as Captains and picked the remaining All-Stars school yard style.  Of course many (9) of the All Hoops Team Members couldn’t play in the All-Star Game as they were competing in the Championship Game… The Game was exactly what’d you expect in an All-Star affair.. The Offenses were getting up and down the court and as for the Defenses, well everyone seemed more concerned with offense.   As we got down to the final moments of this one the Dark Team led by Todd Siegel was up but Light Team Captain Eugene Connor went on a mini-Reggie Miller run and tied the game up at 104 before the final buzzer sounded.  That’s right OT in the All-Star Game folks.  In the extra session it was all Dark Team as they won 109-104 in OT.  This was a really fun ending for some that deserved recognition throughout the season..  Congrats again to the All Hoops Team. See you all next Season!

Championship 1. Team Lalez (Highland Pop) v. 3. Team Maione (B. Weinstein Associates)

And now for the Main Event (part deux)!  After a brief recess to hydrate and strategize.. the final and deciding Championship Game was all set.  Both Teams entered with 2 Losses in the Playoffs (one to each other and the other to Team Goldin).  After 7 months, it would all come down to the final 44 minutes of the Season.  No need to provide the historical context since we did that a few paragraphs earlier, but let’s dive into the psyche of both Teams at this point…

Expectations are a crazy thing.  They often surface quickly and rarely account for context.  Team Lalez was expected to win the Championship entering tonight.  They had only lost 2 Games all year (before Sunday), and those certainly weren’t in back to back weeks (let alone hours).  They had been the top dog all year and again everyone expected them to win.  However, just minutes before the start of this final Championship Game, Team Maione dealt Team Lalez a decisive defeat.  So what would happen now with those expectations?  Team Lalez was surely shouldering some unnecessary and likely unfair pressure coming into the final stage of the League on Sunday Night. Meanwhile, Team Maione knew they could win now, as they just had minutes earlier..  How they would respond to this would decide who became Champions.

Team Lalez was able to quickly shake off the Loss and started this one off with a run.  They opened a 12-3 lead on Team Maione and it looked as if they had righted the ship.  As the first half marched on Team Maione stayed within striking distance but Team Lalez would go into the half still up.  Just after half, you could tell the Gym’s atmosphere got just a little bit more tense, which I had thought was impossible.  Every rebound, every loose ball, every possession.. Both Teams knew that if they played their best 20 minutes of Hoops that they could hold the Crown.  Team Maione was lifted in a big way early in the second half by Nick “Good Luck in NYC” Wieczorek who ended with a Game-High 25 points in this one.  If this was his last All Sports Series performance for sometime, he surely went out with a bang.  Team Maione would eventually tie the game at 49 with about 12 minutes to go.

Each Team was giving their best punch.. Team Lalez got huge buckets from Brennan “should get more recognition all season long” Keller who ended with 19 in this one.   However, for every big bucket Team Lalez got, Team Maione was right there with answers from Josh “@Jbart20” Bartelstein and Josh “you’ll hear his name a bunch more come June and July” Berman.   The Level of play was incredible.  Usually when Teams tend to “over do it” the quality of play lessens.. However, not on this night. Both Teams dug as deep as they could and it was excellent to watch.

As the final minutes turned into the final minute period, Nick Wieczorek hit a huge free throw that put Team Maione up five, 66-61.  Team Lalez knew that to pull this out they’d need quick buckets and some luck when Team Maione got to the charity stripe.. Well Brennan Keller made a quick move to the bucket and made the game 66-63.   Then the luck factor came in as Team Maione went cold from the line.  They’d manage one more Free Throw make, to make it 68-63.  However David “D.D.S.” Gershenzon would not let this Championship slip through his fingers. He drew a foul and got to the line.  He netted his 14th and 15th points there and made the game 68-65.   Another Free Throw miss for Team Maione gave Team Lalez the ball with about 12 seconds and down 3.  Captain Lalez got the ball up the court and dribbled atop the key.  He hit David Gershenzon on the wing with about 4 seconds left.  He rose and fired it.. SPLASH! The Game was tied with under 2 seconds to go!  Team Maione would not score to end Regulation and somehow we were heading to OVERTIME in the CHAMPIONSHIP GAME!

Everyone is familiar with the “Big Time Players, Make Big Time Plays, in Big Time Games” and never has that phrase held more meaning than in this 2-minute OT session.  The pace slowed down considerably in the Overtime session as if both Teams realized that having the ball in their hands at least gave them a chance to make something happen at the end.. The lead was never more than 2 at any point of Overtime.   The Game ended up tied once again with about 11 seconds to go..  If you have not watched the Video yet, I implore you to do so, as no written recap can describe the feeling you get when watching… Team Lalez worked the ball around so that it got  to Eytan “who else would you want taking a Championship winning shot” Azaria.  With about 7 ticks left, he started to make his move from the left block back into the middle of the lane.  He turned, faded, released.. BANG!  Team Maione’s final heave would fall short and Team Lalez were the CHAMPIONS!  72-70 in OT.

For Team Maione, this one will sting for quite a bit.. People often say no one remembers second place, but I vehemently disagree in this instance.  This Game will be remembered for some time by everyone who was lucky enough to see it.  Team Maione gave every ounce that they had and it just didn’t go their way.   This one was a classic “it’s a shame someone had to lose” contest.  They will be back.  They also have just 6 weeks to prep for their All Sports Series Summer League title defense.  They along with Team Lalez have set the bar extremely, extremely high for future All Hoops League Championship Games.  It’s likely they will be back in it a year from now attempting to out do themselves.  Congrats on an unbelievable ride.

The funny thing about expectations are that when you can meet them, it makes the journey that much sweeter.  Team Lalez took care of business (in cardiac fashion) and finished what they started back in October.  This night finishes off the fourth full year in All Sports Series history.  This Summer will mark the fifth Summer.  Just take that in consideration when looking at  Team Lalez/Hakimian/Dorfman (Hey Dorf!).  This core just won their 3rd Championship (2010 Suburbs League, 2012 Chicago Men’s and 2013-14 Hoops League).  They are the gold standard. They are the measuring stick.  They are simply THE DYNASTY.  Congratulations.  Enjoy the Wrigley View Rooftop Seats.  You deserve it.

This was an incredible ride and I hope to see all of you back next fall (just 5 short months away), or even this Summer.  I will copy/paste the past Team Wrap-Ups below this section in case you have missed them in previous weeks.    I can honestly say this was the most fun League to do in the four years I have been doing this and I’m excited for future iterations of it.  Thank You for playing.

– Holden

Season Ending Wrap-Ups

Team Goldin (Sanders Court Pediatrics)

What an incredible ride.  I’m not talking just Sunday Night, which was in itself amazing, but the entire Season.  These guys went from a .500 squad (with tons of talent obviously) to a Regular Season Conference Champion and parlayed that into several of the best Playoff performances of the Season.  Their 3 Playoff losses came by a combined 10 points (and they were to the two teams left standings)..  Each and every time they stepped on the court they brought it.  Sunday Night really encapsulated everything this Team was about.  They split a series with 1. Team Lalez, giving them their first L since November and then right after dropped a heartbreaker to 3. Team Maione. In reality, they had no business staying with the fresher Team Maione group but their determination never wavered.   I usually look back on a Season, and no doubt moreso w/ this one considering its length, and can tell the talent that was in the League based on the Teams that did not quite make it to the Championship.  I can say that this group is as good (and likely better) than any Team that has fallen into that category.  Again, it’s just a showcase of how great this first Hoops Season really was. Captain Danny Goldin’s group will be back next year. I know this to be true.. They are driven, in every sense of the word and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will be right back in this spot come 2015.  It’ll just come down to a few jumpers here or there.. That’s all that separated this group with the Crown.  Next year, everyone else might not be so lucky.  Thanks for playing and it was awesome getting to see you guys run every Sunday Night.

Team Kozin (SLA Insurance)

What a roller coaster of a final night for this crew.  First they got down huge to Team Zimmerman before battling back and winning in OT.  Then they go toe to toe with Championship Contender Team Maione, before falling to an improbable buzzer beater.  These guys have nothing to hang their head about whatsoever.  They were in the Final Four of the deepest League around.  They were seconds away from the Semi-Finals.  Captain Kozin did a remarkable job assembling this group who had never really played with each other (or even met in many cases) before October.  These guys, as long as they stick together, have exactly what it takes to win the whole thing in 2015.   They suffered some minor injuries leading into and even during the Playoffs.  As always the case.. need a little bit of luck both on and off the court to take home the Crown.  These guys went 9-deep all year and used it so well to their advantage.  I can see them re-tooling a bit before next October before coming out and making another statement. Remember, these guys were the last unbeaten Team in the League and went through many of the Top Teams during that first ride.  They also experienced a lull in the middle of the Season before turning it back on.  They have so much punch down low with Matt Wolk and Josh Davis (who also has unlimited range) that any guards would have a field day playing with them… Not to say Captain Kozin, Joey Halperin and Rashad Singleton didn’t help out their bigs all season long as well.  They are an exciting and I’d say potentially trendy pick to win in 2014-15.  Thanks for playing guys.

Team Zimmerman (Teplitz & Bell)

Will Sunday probably linger in their minds for some of the off-season?  Probably. Yes.  At least they’ll have the Summer League to focus on starting in a couple months… Anyways, getting to the Final Five in this Hoops League is a tremendous, tremendous feat.  They were mere seconds away from a Final Four berth as well.  Captain Jack rostered a deep group with lots of talent for this first ride in the Hoops League.  I don’t think they need to change one thing.  If they can come back with the same exact group next Season.. They will undoubtedly get off to a faster start and possibly a better Seed for the Playoffs, which as you can tell by who is left, is a key thing.  They have outside shooting, great guard play, several bigs and they are certainly feisty.  I truly believe an even better finish is in store for them next year, which is saying something since they don’t have very high to climb.  Congrats on a great season Team Zimmerman.

Team Holzman (Groupon)

Simply put I’d take this 12-Team League up against any other “weekend-warrior” League in the City and know that there is more talent and competition here than anywhere else.  That being said, Team Holzman, started the Playoffs with 1 Loss and fought their behinds off to finish in the top half of the League.  I think many will be surprised to look back on this group and realize that they finished in 6th in this stacked League.  But it should be no shock. These guys started pulling it together a few weeks before the Playoffs, solidified their roles and rotations and hit the ground running once the Playoffs began.  They ended the Playoffs with a 4-2 record.. A record that many Teams would kill for.  They won not one, but two ELIMINATION GAMES on Sunday Night.. Sending home both 7. Team Schwartz and 5. Team Harmelech, before falling in their THIRD ELIMINATION GAME of the night to 4. Team Kozin.  Simply put there was just nothing left in the tank.. Captain Andrew Holzman’ bunch needed some time to gel as many met each other as the Season was starting, forget having played with each other before… Josh Cowin served as the pulse for this team as he would give every last ounce on both ends of the floor. They have plenty of Offensive punch and I think this run in the Playoffs can propel them to great things next Season.  It was fun to watch these guys on their Cinderella ride.  Thank you for playing.

Team Eilian (Crystal Lake Jeep)

All year I had been touting how their Roster’s talent was far greater than their win/loss record would let on.. In Week 3 of the Playoffs they proved me right.  These guys won the first 2 ELIMINATION GAMES of the Playoffs, knocking out 12. Team Shamberg and 8. Team Apuli in one night.  Their magical run w/ 2 Losses would end this past Sunday however at the hands of 5. Team Harmelech.  This group showed down the stretch run that when they have their full Team they are hard to beat.  They do not need to make many changes for the 2014-15 Season in order to make a big leap.. What they need to do is just try to get more consistent in terms of having everyone there every week and, their rotation will be locked down as a result.  It’s hard to ask different things of different players each and every week.  This was Captain Abe Eilian’s first go of it as a Team Builder in All Sports Series and I think he did a great job.  Next year, I’d be shocked if they didn’t win more Regular Season games.. which would likely lead to them staying out of the 1 Loss Bracket to start the Playoffs.  These guys really turned it on late in the season and it’s hard to not think “what if” they were afforded a Top 8 Seed and No Losses to begin the Playoffs. Have a great off-season guys.

Team Harmelech (iShot)

Back in the early stages of the Regular Season a “top tier” formed with five Teams.  Four of which are still playing: Teams Lalez, Goldin, Maione, Kozin (1-4 in seeding for the Playoffs) and then #5 was the eventual 5th Seed – Team Harmelech. Obviously, Team Zimmerman has jumped into that tier now as they are apart of the Final Five but that is for another time and place.  Team Harmelech belonged with that group.  They hit some bumps along the way and they were the type of bumps you don’t necessarily come back from.. Their All-Hoops Team member, Zach Bulwa, was lost for the Season and from then on things got a little out of whack.  Their Playoff ride is not one that they will look back on with such fond memories, but the great thing about this group is that it takes very little for them to get their confidence back. This group has been apart of many past All Sports Series Championship runs. They came up short in this first go at the Hoops League but they will be back and I bet they will be a better and deeper Team for it.  Captain Sam Harmelech has about as much passion on the court as you can ever ask from your leader and it certainly trickles down to the rest of the group.. Remember this for a year from now.. If they win the whole thing in 2015, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

Team Bauer (Jam ‘n Honey)

Starting the Playoffs with 1 Loss really hurt these guys chances of making a run to the Championship. I really believe had their Seed been better coming into the Playoffs they could have been there at the end.  They had the most electric scorer in the League, Jabarri “League Leader” Reynolds, and plenty around him (when the whole Team could play) to get Ws.  Even with their bittersweet ending, they managed to bring several Teams down with them.. They won 3 Playoff Games over the past few weeks, a feat that not many can claim.  I hope this full group is back in tack next year as I think they got a lot better as time went on and next year that learning curve would be less steep.. That would provide them the opportunity at a strong Regular Season run which of course puts them in a better spot to make a dent in April.  I think of all the Teams that have been knocked out before the Final Five, this is the Team, that those still playing are happy to see not on their Schedule over the next two weeks.  Captain Jeremy Bauer’s guys just had the ability to get hot and it would be game over.  Nothing anyone could do about it.  Thanks for playing, I know I’ll see most of you over the Summer and hopefully see all of you in the Fall.

Team Schwartz (Stems)

I can say this with absolute confidence.. Teams that saw Team Schwartz on the schedule knew they were going to be in for a fight.  Team Schwartz was comprised of several battlers and grinders who never allowed their opponents to rest. Toward the end of the Season their short bench caught up with them and it they never were really able to rebound from it.   I’m sure they would have loved a deeper run in the Playoffs, but sometimes it’s just not the year.. No doubt in my mind these guys will be back in some form in 2014-15 and with the right tweaks they can be among the League’s Elite.  Captain Matt Schwartz will surely be working the wire for potential moves.  These guys have several great moments they can look back on (and that’s what they should do) from this Season, which can compel them to greater things starting next Fall.  Want to give one last gigantic THANK YOU for all of the Greater Than! I think I speak for all of the Players when I say, we really couldn’t have done this without you.  See you in October!

Team Apuli (Wrigley View Rooftop)

Team Apuli started out the Hoops season as one of the most dangerous Teams in the land. They had the biggest front-line in the League and a bunch of outside shooting to go along with it.. Somewhere around Thanksgiving the opening day roster started to have time conflicts with games and a revamped Team Apuli was formed. While they were still tough to deal with on a weekly basis they never truly regained that dangerous form from early on. They showed glimpses in the Playoffs but their seeding and match-ups did them no favors along the way.. They ran into 1. Team Lalez and then the next week 9. Team Holzman who for whatever reason had their number all year (going 3-0 vs. them).. They put up a valiant fight against 11. Team Eilian but came up just a bit short. This group has enough in them to make a run at Championship down the line..Kyle “Joakim” Daniels got an All-Hoops nod from his peers and he’ll certainly be a piece to build around. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they are one of the Teams making the jump into the top tier for 2014-15. Just need to figure out everyone’s schedule before hand. They of course will have the Summer League first and Captain Justin always is a factor when building his Summer League Teams. Good Things are ahead. Thanks for playing guys.

Team Shamberg (Sunset Foods)

Team Shamberg started off the year.. late. They just couldn’t get it going early on as a whole 44-minute game just kept escaping them. However, as the Calendar turned to December they finally flipped the switch and were like a new Team. The second half of the Season they were far from the #12 spot where they finished in the Standings (thanks to that slow start).. Captain Shamberg certainly has a lot of pieces to work with going forward for next year. All-Hoops member Todd Siegel will be back and late-season additions Jake Preskill and Connor Nass could do wonders for this bunch if they can play a full-season together. Starting with 1 Loss in the Playoffs really handcuffed these guys as their margin for error was even smaller but they fought hard in two straight Playoff Games. Didn’t get the result they wanted but nothing to shake their heads at. Again, lots of talent on this crew and I’d be shocked if they didn’t make a leap into the Top 8 for 2014-15. Thanks guys.