2013-14 Hoops – PLAYOFFS Week 5 (April 6)

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Updated: April 9, 2014

Championship Night is set and it is shaping up to be an epic evening.  Before we find out just who our final two Teams are, we have a lot of ground to cover!  First, I’m compelled to congratulate and applaud each and every guy who played on Sunday Night.  The Games were not just fantastic but gritty and nail-biting until the end.  There were five games on Sunday Night.. The Winning Teams won by a combined FOURTEEN POINTS in those five games.  If not, for a couple late Free Throw makes we would have had five games decided by a total of 10 points.  It felt sure felt like Madness.

OK time for some Links — Updated Playoff BRACKET.  Here’s a link to the Weekly Video Highlights (extended this week!) and finally All Hoops Team Roster (scroll down a bit).

We’re skipping the Current Bracket Overview for now because there’s just so much to get too and all will be explained throughout.  We’ll also Preview Championship Night and have Team Season Wrap-Ups at the end but this week the Teams and Games are owed Recaps.

Playoff Week 5 Recap:

ELIMINATION GAME 

4. Team Kozin (SLA Insurance) v. 6. Team Zimmerman (Teplitz & Bell)

Ripping this off like a bandaid– 4. Team Kozin came back from 20+ points down in this one to stun Team Zimmerman in OT by 3 points.  It was an unbelievable game. There was seemingly a made basket on each possession.  However, it wasn’t just a free flowing offensive explosion.. Both Teams worked hard on Defense.. In fact, harder than I think both had worked at any point this Season on that end of the floor.. Which makes sense with the pending ELIMINATION. Anyways, the Offense had to work for each bucket and one trip after another they just kept getting them.  Team Kozin decided mid way through the second half that they weren’t going to go down with out one last swing.  Many others would have packed it in at this point but they just didn’t.  Team Zimmerman was hamstrung a bit with just a 5-man rotation on Sunday Night and their legs showed off their fatigue in the Game’s final moments.  It was the duo of Josh “how many big plays can this guy make?” Davis and Joey “it’d be scary if he was 100%” Halperin who really led the charge for Team Kozin.  Both made huge plays down the stretch of Regulation and then again in OT.  It was just a phenomenal game and unbelievable.. the first of many.  Team Zimmerman there is a wrap-up for you at the end of the article.. Team Kozin advanced to play 3. Team Maione later in the night.

No Loss v. 1 Loss – SEMI-FINAL

1. Team Lalez (Highland Pop) v. 2. Team Goldin (Sanders Court Pediatrics)

For those a bit confused about the stipulation in this one, allow me to (try to) explain.. 2. Team Goldin has 1 Loss. 1. Team Lalez has none. If 1. Team Lalez wins this one then they are off to the Championship w/ No Losses.  If 2. Team Goldin wins, then these two would play a Rematch, both with a Loss, immediately following this Game.  Got it?  Great.

Team Lalez jumped out to an early lead.. They were up around 10 points for most of the first half and even into the 2nd. Team Goldin have been fighters all season long. They grind it out, wear you down and then make big shots when the game is on the line to take home Ws.  They remind me a lot of the Bulls actually.  I think if you think about it you will agree.  Anyways, they were down 12 midway through the second half facing a Team that has not lost since Thanksgiving and knowing they had at least one more game to play on this night.  So what did they do?  Well they certainly didn’t pack it in..  They clamped down on D and the big shots started to fall..  Captain Danny “DG” Goldin hit a big momentum-swinging 3 with a few minutes left to go that seemed to really stun the #1 Team.  Soon after, Garrett “big time free throw shooter” Staniec found himself on the line and took the lead for Team Goldin.  Team Lalez would get one last look at it but the ball would not go in.  These two Teams were destined to play two on Sunday Night… So they did.

REMATCH – 1 Loss – SEMI-FINAL 

1. Team Lalez (Highland Pop) v. 2. Team Goldin (Sanders Court Pediatrics)

Quick Recap of what’s at stake now that both Teams have 1 Loss.. Winner goes to the Championship with a distinct advantage (having just 1 Loss).. while the Loser plays a THIRD TIME and in an ELIMINATION GAME against the Winner of 3. Team Maione and 4. Team Kozin..

Game 2 paralleled Game 1 in so many ways.. Team Lalez jumped out to the early start and were up with a comfortable lead at half.  It was like deja vu for Team Goldin, only everything was moving at about 3/4 speed compared to Game 1. Before, we get into who won this won.. I gotta say these guys battled for 2 straight hours.. These were Games that anyone would enjoy watching and it was obvious how hard they were going at it.

Team Goldin mounted their comeback just like in Game 1.  Captain Goldin hit big 3 after big 3 and before you knew it a double digit lead had evaporated!  With just 11 seconds left, Team Lalez’s point-scoring machine David “D.D.S.” Gershenzon took the ball hard to rack.. He drew a blocking foul and got to the line on a bang-bang play that really could have gone either way. Calm and cool he knocked down his free throw to give his team the lead for good. Team Goldin had one last look but the ball would not find the bottom of the net this time around.

1. Team Lalez is moving on to the Championship after two exhausting games with just 1 Loss and they will enter Championship Sunday as they started the Playoffs — the favorite for the crown.  3. Team Goldin after winning Game 1 by a point and dropping Game by 2pts now find themselves in their first ELIMINATION GAME of the Year.  They play the winner of this next game.. They also have to do so without one of the best Players in the League, Alex Filin.. They knew they’d be in for a Marathon night and it just got a whole lot longer.

ELIMINATION GAME

3. Team Maione (B. Weinstein Associates) v. 4. Team Kozin (SLA Insurance)

At this point of the night Team Maione is without a doubt the freshest of the pack.  The Winner of this Game goes to the Semis and the loser goes home for the Season.  Team Kozin was riding a huge wave of momentum into this one as they just were literally on the brink of ELIMINATION down 20+ and then eventually, somehow won in OT.   Team Maione was able to whether the storm early and this Game went back/forth throughout.  They were tied at the Half and both Teams really seemed to have the counter for everything the other did.   All of these Teams have played each other numerous times at this point of the Year and its really interesting to see how they adapt their schemes. Not something you really get to see too often.

Anyways as the second half began to whittle down both Teams’ PTPers came out in full force.  Team Kozin’s All Hoops Teamers Josh Davis and Matt Wolk did everything they could to will their group into the Semis.  On the other side Josh Bartlestein, Brad Deutsch and Nick Wieczorek (I think I finally have that spelling down) hit big shot after big shot.  In the closing moments these two were again all knotted up.  Wieczorek found himself dribbling with under 10 seconds to go and you just knew he wanted that last shot.. With about 5 seconds to go he took the ball from the top of the key to the right elbow and actually lost its handle with just a couple ticks left.. He eventually gathered the ball and himself before launching a desperation shot JUST BEFORE THE BUZZER (Video evidence will back that up) and somehow it went in!  Team Maione was going to the Semis and Team Kozin’s incredible journey would end here.  Team Kozin you have a Wrap-Up section below.. For Team Maione they would meet their nemesis once again and this time with a shot at the Championship on the line.

ELIMINATION GAME – SEMI-FINAL

2. Team Goldin (Sanders Court Pediatrics) v. 3. Team Maione (B. Weinstein Associates)

In our 5th and final game of the night, 2. Team Goldin and 3. Team Maione would meet for the 5th and final time this Season.  They have mirrored each other every step of the way this Season.. They were tied atop the Conference at Season’s end.  They split their Regular Season meetings 1-1 and have split their Playoff meetings 1-1.  Tonight’s 5th and final game has higher stakes than any other game all Season.. Winners go to the Championship and the Loser’s go home with 3rd Place..

To say both Teams were exhausted would be a gross understatement.  Team Goldin had just battled for two straight hours with 1. Team Lalez and Team Maione just won on a buzzer beater with 4. Team Kozin.. They were as emotionally drained as they were physically.  Team Maione got a nice kickstart in the first half from Michael “fresh legs (couldn’t make Game 1)” Weisberg who was just moving at a different speed out there.   Without failure though, these two Teams who have gone stride for stride with each other all season long, were tied at halftime.

Back and forth they went in the second half.. Still hitting their 3pters hours into the night.  They traded leads countless times.. You got the feeling that someone was just going to make a momentum swinging play in the game’s final moments and that would decide it.. Neither Team could pull away..  With about a minute and change left there was a loose ball that Weisberg got to, while Team Goldin was trying to get a timeout granted, he scooped the ball up and finished the fast-break in And-1 fashion.  That gave Team Maione the lead for good and a spot in the Championship.

There’s more on both of these Teams in the sections below.  I just want to give them a virtual round-of-applause. Not just for an incredible Semi-Final but for an amazing, season-long rivalry that ended with 15 guys shaking hands at center-court.  No matter who wins this first Season of the Hoops League, I think in years to come I will look back on it and remember these Team Goldin-Team Maione battles.. I’m sure there will be many, many more down the road, but the first Rivalry is always the sweetest.

Preview – Championship Night

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

…and this one’s (or two) for all the marbles.  In one corner we have the #1 Seed Team Lalez.  These guys are often referred to as “the Dynasty” in All Sports Series circles.  They have 2 Men’s League Championships as well as a 2nd Place and another Final Four appearance.  They were 17-1 in the Regular Season and continued their dominance through the first stages of the Playoffs up until this past Sunday.  Team Goldin defeated them by 1pt for their first L since before Thanksgiving.  However, in true Champion mentality they bounced right back and immediately won the Rematch.  In the other corner, we have the #3 Seed Team Maione.  They are the reigning (and soon to be defending) All Sports Series Summer Chicago League Champs (total mouthful, I’m aware).  These guys finished tied atop their Conference and truly had a great Season.  Pound for Pound they might have the most talent in the League.  They hit a few more valleys than Team Lalez, but all in all their Regular Season ride was pretty great.  Fresh off their 2 ELIMINATION GAME wins over 4. Team Kozin and 2. Team Goldin they are ready for a fight.

The scenario is simple… Team Lalez has 1 Loss and Team Maione has 2 Losses.  That means Team Maione needs to defeat Team Lalez in two straight game to take the crown.  Most would say “well good luck” (in sarcastic tone) but Team Goldin was a basket away from doing just that this past weekend. It’s not going to be easy and certainly not likely but if a Team can do it.. It’s Team Maione. By 8pm on Sunday Night, what began on Oct. 13, 2013 will come to a ceremonious conclusion six months later.  Both have earned their place but only one can become Champion.

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.

from past weeks..

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.

Have a great week! See you Sunday Night.

– Holden