2015-16 Chicago Hoops – Playoffs Week 4 (May 1)

Updated: May 4, 2016

Sunday Night was the 23rd installment of the 2015-16 Chicago Hoops League Season.. It marked the 4th Week of Playoff action and in Six Games the remaining Teams were whittled down from 8 to the final 3 that will compete in Championship Sunday on Sunday May 15.  Entering Sunday, we knew two of those Teams would be 6. Team Gutman and 9. Team Kozin.. They’d compete on Sunday Night for a secured spot in the Championship Game.. Then the third and final spot was up for grabs between 6 Teams and it’s impossible to not mention the group who for the second straight season won 3 ELIMINATION GAMES in one night, 4. Team Zimmerman!  You heard that right, on Sunday Night they knocked out 3 of the League’s best to earn the 3rd and final spot in Championship Sunday.  We’re going to recap all of the action below, but first there’s one more Team who we requires mentioning..  This past Sunday, Team Lalez’s two-year reign as Hoops League Champs came to an end.. They have been remarkable competitors for three years and through multiple roster overhauls.. Just one final Congrats to only Team that has ever gone Back2Back in any Chicago Men’s League. OK, so here’s a Link to the updated Playoff Bracket.

Also, if everyone can take one minute, and VOTE, All Sports Series’ has All Stars from our Hoops League competing in “The Basketball Tournament” and $2 Million is at stake! We Need Votes to get them in there!

Here’s a Link to the Weekly Highlight Video powered by Orunje On-Demand Healthcare!  People have asked about Orunje.. Essentially you can get a Doctor or Nurse Practitioner out to your home/office within 2 hours. No need to waste time going in anymore..  Also, want to give a quick shout-out to the MVP Sponsor for our Chicago Spring Leagues (Floor Hockey and Co-Ed Volleyball) — Wrigley View Rooftop — no better way to take in a Cubs Game with a group of friends/co-workers. If you are thinking of doing this type of thing, let us know, we get deals!

Last thing before we get to the Review,  the All-Stars we’re announced a couple weeks back!  A special Congrats goes out to League MVP Kyle Nelson of Team Zimmerman! Kyle, deservedly so, received the most Votes from the Players. He will be one of the two Captains to select their respective Teams on the final night.. Joining him will be the second-highest vote-getter.. Chris Wroblewski of Team Maione.  If either or both are in the Championship, replacement Captains will be named..
All Star Starters – As VOTED on by PLAYERS (alphabetical after MVP)
MVP: Kyle Nelson – Team Zimmerman, Scott Campbell – Team Lalez, Dave Gershenzon – Team Lalez, Randall Hampton – Team Kozin, Marin Kukoc – Team Gutman, Zack Novak – Team Bulwa, Victor Ojeleye – Team UC Booth, Dylan Richter – Team Harris, Alan Tucci – Team Tucci, Esto Vega – Team Zimmerman, Nick Winbush – Team Bulwa, Chris Wroblewski – Team Maione.
All Star Reserves – Voted on By League Office (alphabetical order)
Justin Bowen – Team Cohen, Josh Davis – Team Kozin, Brad Deutsch – Team Maione, Alex Filin – Team Goldin, Jeff Howard – Team Harris, Nate Johnson – Team Malvin, Benny Lalez – Team Lalez, Tim Szatko – Team Free Agent, Eddie Tellez – Team Apuli.


Playoffs Week 4 Review


Note: The 4 Teams in this Round: 3. Team Harris, 4. Team Zimmerman, 13. Team Free Agent and 14. Team Malvin we’re reseeded high to low for the two Games.


3. Team Harris (DoorDash) v. 14. Team Malvin (Dr. Jacob DDS)

These two Teams met all the way back in Week 3 (November 1st, 2015) and in that Game, Team Harris got a 15pt W.. They continued on a roll to start out the Season 8-0.  Team Malvin, had the exact opposite start as they were very slow out of the gates.. They would rebound nicely in the second half and it was clear they’d be among the more dangerous double digit seeds when the Playoffs began.. 3. Team Harris entered this ELIMINATION GAME at 1-1 in the Playoffs and after knocking out 17. Team Apuli a couple weeks ago..  As for, 14. Team Malvin, there road has been much more extensive.. They were 3-1 in the Playoffs thus far and that includes knocking out 2. Team Bulwa in the process..

The Winner here would be among the last 6 Teams in the League.. Just so much at stake.. Both Teams exerted every ounce of energy they had on the Defensive end in this one.. The Game was significantly lower in scoring than both Teams are accustomed to..  Team Harris held a small lead throughout much of the first half and into the second but Team Malvin always remained within striking distance..   In the final stages of the Game, Team Malvin turned up the Defensive pressure to even greater heights and forced Team Harris into a few key turnovers.. Even without one of their leading scorers, Matt Merrigan, Team Malvin was able to come up with the big plays down the stretch.. All Star Nate Johnson picked up the slack, scoring 26 of his Team’s 64 points and it was 14. Team Malvin with another come from behind stunner to stave off Elimination!

For 3. Team Harris, they had another incredible season.. Finishing 3rd in this insanely deep 20-Team field is remarkable.. As it turns out, they were dealt a tough hand having to start the Playoffs against 6. Team Gutman who happens to be the final Team standing without a Loss in the Playoffs.. Matchups are truly everything.. Team Harris made big improvements this season as they added Jeff Howard to the fray and got back Dylan Richter.. They will surely be back but likely without mainstay Sam Shiner who will go overseas for a year (Good Luck!).  They are entrenched in the “elite tier” and a Crown is not far from their grasp.. Thanks for playing!


4. Team Zimmerman (Biaggi’s Navy) v. 13. Team Free Agent (VIP Express Limo)

A secret was officially let out a couple weeks back during the 3rd Week of the Playoffs.. The Free Agents weren’t here to just be another group in the middle of the pack.. They had every intention of winning the whole thing.. They enter this key ELIMINATION GAME with 4. Team Zimmerman at 3-1 in the Playoffs which included ousting 1. Team Maione in an OT-thriller on April 17.  4. Team Zimmerman came into this heavyweight bout, also with aspirations for qualifying for their first Championship Night in the Hoops League.  This match-up gives one of the best big-men pairings in the League as All Star Tim Szatko of the Free Agent squad would go toe to toe with League MVP Kyle Nelson..

…Those two would set the tempo for their Teams throughout this Game.. Tim would end with 38 points on just 20 shots when all was said and done, to go along with 12 boards.  As for the MVP, he’d get 23 in this one.. Esto Vega was on fire and went for 30.. Now that the big numbers are out of the way we can talk about the actual Game.. This contest truly had that “big fight” feel.  Both Teams gave their best punches and the Game would sea-saw for its entirety..  Run after run resulted in huge momentum swings and down the stretch we’d go with both Teams thinking it was their for the taking… Even into the final minute these Teams were just separated by a point..  In that final minute, 4. Team Zimmerman would make a couple key free throws and got a key stop, to advance!

For the 13. Team Free Agents, they truly defied the odds this season.. They far and away have exceeded any expectation for a group of individuals that for the most part had never met before the season began in October.  Through the season, they morphed into a true Team and they present a very scary reality for the rest of the League in the future.. This is a bunch that should stick together and enter next season (after a ride in this Summer’s Hoops League) ready to make a run at the top seeds.. Had they been comfortable with each other from the jump, their Playoff road would have been much easier.. They have all the talent necessary to win this thing.. They will be among the favorites for the 2016-17 Crown. Congrats on a great run and thanks for playing!



Note: The 4 Teams remaining here: 4. Team Zimmerman, 5. Team Lalez, 7. Team Goldin and 14. Team Malvin we’re reseeded high to low for the two Games.


4. Team Zimmerman (Biaggi’s Navy) v. 14. Team Malvin (Dr. Jacob DDS)

The Winner here would move actually play a 3rd Game on this Night and qualify for the Final4.  4. Team Zimmerman is the reigning Summer League Men’s Champs and 14. Team Malvin, is a Rookie squad together in All Sports Series.. We have two very opposite stories here but their paths have crossed for this do or die Game..

Both Teams entered this one having just finished up hotly contested ELIMINATION GAMES.. The expectation here would be they’d start fast as they have momentum but than really start to wear down as we got into the second half and that’s just what we got.. Both Teams had a nice sized bench in this one and it allowed them to keep close their normal pace, which is certainly rare for a 2nd Game of the Night.. As the Game wore on Team Malvin, proved to miss the outside shooting of Matt Merrigan.  Rodney Clark had a great Game in this one but Team Zimmerman’s length bothered the outside shots from the Malvin group for the majority of this one.. That coupled with a combined 40 points from Riaz Hoveydai and Esto Vega led to 4. Team Zimmerman winning their second ELIMINATION GAME in as many hours!

For 14. Team Malvin, what an incredible first year.. They are the highest seed ever to reach both the final 8 and the final 6 Teams in the Hoops League.  Since the start of 2016 they were easily one of the best Teams in the League and showed it with their fantastic Playoff run..  Captain Mike has vowed to find a presence in the paint for them to help clean the glass, and if that happens, you might be looking at the 2016-17 Champs!  Thanks for playing!


5. Team Lalez (Orunje) v. 7. Team Goldin (StudentCity)

It’s funny how things have a way of working out..  These two Teams came into the Gym on Sunday Night awaiting the Results of the first set of ELIMINATION GAMES not knowing who they’d play until both Games had been decided.. The only thing we knew was that the highest remaining seed would play the lowest.. As the first set of Games ended, 4. Team Zimmerman won first.. So all eyes shifted to the 3. Team Harris and 14. Team Malvin Game.. In the late stages it was anyone’s Game.. Had 3. Team Harris pulled it out.. They would have been the top seeded Team left and faced 7. Team Goldin in this round.. However, 14. Team Malvin pulled the upset and with that became the lowest seeded Team left.. They of course, then took on, 4. Team Zimmerman as the highest remaining Team.. That left us with 2x Defending Champs 5. Team Lalez and 7. Team Goldin left as the two Teams in the middle.. Both, fresh as can be and amped to ELIMINATE the other..

We knew that the Winner here would also move on and face a Team that would be playing in their 3rd Game.. So not only was survival at stake but a real shot at getting back to Championship Sunday was up for grabs too… Both of these squads were apart of our first Championship Sunday back in the spring of 2014.. They along with Team Maione are core pieces to this League and it’s a testament to both, that with the significant leap in talent through the years that both find themselves just steps away from the Crown once again..

With every nice thing that was said above, it kind of goes without saying, these Teams know each other awfully well. Too well. There is no loved loss here.  They have played countless times and it didn’t take long for pulse of this Game to elevate.. 7. Team Goldin would make the initial surge in this one and jumped out to an early lead.. They managed to push it to double digits as we neared halftime.. That lead stayed consistently throughout the early stages of the second half as well.. It grew to as much as 18 with about fifteen minutes to go.. They aren’t the 2x Defending Champs for nothing though and they began to mount their comeback.. Captain Benny Lalez hit a few key 3s late and eventually the lead was down to just 5 with a few minutes to go.. A Brennan Keller reverse lay in with 3 minutes left, cut the lead to 1 and you could just feel the momentum totally swing in Team Lalez’s favor.  On the ensuing possession, Team Goldin was methodical with the ball, working it around patiently, until Nick Baumgartner drove to the bucket and scored what was Team Goldin’s most important bucket of the season to date.. It broke the run just a little bit and gave Team Goldin a bit of life.. Scott Campbell cut the lead to 1 once again with just a minute and change left.. Team Lalez would have the ball down 1, under a minute to go.. On what was a physical possession, 7. Team Goldin was able to get a Defensive Board hold on to the Win!

For Team Lalez, the only Champs this League has ever known..  Yes, the reign has ended.  They had gone 2+ seasons in being perfect in these ELIMINATION GAMES..  There really isn’t a true way to describe how amazing they’ve been in crucial moments through the years.. We knew this year would be a challenge.. Going for a 3peat, that has never been done in All Sports Series and losing former MVP Eytan Azaria in the off-season.. They overhauled the roster and brought in All Star Scott Campbell and Jeff Lurie as well as bringing in Dennis McKinney on a full-time basis.  We’ve said it once and it bares repeating.. Team Lalez are the Spurs, and you better know that they will retool and have a newfound sense of urgency when we start back up in the Fall.  I also want to send a big Thank You to these Guys.. We’ve seen the League grow from 12 to 16 to 20 Teams this year, and there’s an importance that the “Defending Champs” hold for that type of growth. They have been the hunted for a truly long time and have worn those colors extremely well.  Thank you for playing and we’ll see you in the Summer. Congrats on what has been the best 3-year run we’ve ever seen..



4. Team Zimmerman (Biaggi’s Navy) v. 7. Team Goldin (StudentCity)

As we entered the 3rd hour of Games on Sunday Night.. Just 4 Teams were left..  4. Team Zimmerman was entering their 3rd ELIMINATION GAME of the night and had already sent home both 13. Team Free Agent and 14. Team Malvin.. While most Teams would (and should) shutter at the thought of playing 3 Playoff Games in one night.. Team Zimmerman actually knows the feeling all too well.. It was a year ago on this same very night in the season where Team Zimmerman made a “wasn’t supposed to happen” run that led them to play not 3, but 4!?! ELIMINATION GAMES in a single night.. They won their first 3..  So, they know it can be done from personal experience. While 7. Team Goldin had just had a grueling 44-minutes with the 2x Defending Champs and forever they will be known as the Team that finally “beat the man.”   Only one of these Teams could move on to Championship Sunday…

Both Teams were clearly tired here and it showed.. The pace was slowed from what we typically see from both Teams.. Still, they weren’t going to give up easy buckets.. As got to the half, Team Zimmerman led by a slim margin, in a Game where neither Team could build a sustainable lead.. After the break, Team Goldin hit a wall for a bit.. They scored just 6 points in the first 9 minutes or so of the second half and that was enough to allow 4. Team Zimmerman to pull away to finish it off!  Team Zimmerman is heading to Championship Night and on the heels of winning 3 straight ELIMINATION GAMES! Which is exactly what they will have to do on May 15 to hold the Crown…

For 7. Team Goldin, they finish in 4th place and should be extremely proud of themselves.  Over the course of this night where they took on two of the League’s best in ELIMINATION GAMES, they had 6 guys score in double figures in a Game.. They have as many good Players as any in this League and with a few different strokes of luck really could have won the whole thing this year..  They are not the type that are going to look back and say, “4th place! we did awesome!” .. but they should.  There are 20 Teams in this League and as much or more talent as anywhere.. They were an elite group from Week 1 on and when we start back up in October will be among the Vegas’ favorites to take the Crown a year from n0w.  Thank you guys for playing and see you soon!



6. Team Gutman (Teplitz & Bell) v. 9. Team Kozin (Camp Ojibwa)

What can’t be lost in a night full of important ELIMINATION GAMES is that the most important Game of the night, in relation to actually winning the Championship, is this one.. These two are the last Teams without a Loss in the Playoffs and the Winner of this Game will move on to the Championship where some Team will have to beat them 2x in a row.. The Loser will play Team Zimmerman on Championship Sunday for a spot in the Championship (and then have to win 2x in a row)…  These two Teams met all the way back in Week 4 and it was Team Gutman getting the 1pt W.. Obviously much has changed since then but it was a Game that put Team Gutman on the map in their Rookie campaign.. Now their paths cross again with a spot in the Championship and a huge advantage at hoisting the Crown in the balance..

This Game was tight from the jump as both Teams were going all out on both ends of the floor.. As we neared and then crossed halftime, the lead was just a few points in either direction.. Neither Team was going to pull away from the other.. Both groups strapped in for what was going to be a draining 44-minute battle..  As we fast forward to the final minutes of the Game, Team Kozin grabbed a 5pt lead at 55-50 behind a few key buckets from Randall Hampton. This guy has been incredible all year long.  He’d finish with 28..  Team Gutman would cut it to 55-52, before Chris Kozloff would come free on the right wing for a huge 3-ball that would knot it up at 55!   The Game would wind up tied at 58, then with just 1:40 left, when Adam Rhum would connect from 3 from the top of the key to 6. Team Gutman ahead for good!  They’d move on to the Championship Game!

So here’s where we stand heading into the final Sunday of the Season..

 4. Team Zimmerman v. 9. Team Kozin.. Winner goes to the Championship..

Championship GM1 – 6. Team Gutman v. Winner of 4/9.. If Gutman Wins, they are the Champs, if not…

Championship GM2: Rematch

*All Star Festivities will also be on May 15!


One of these 3 Teams will hoist the Crown of what has been the best Hoops League ever!  Thanks again to everyone who played and Good Luck to the final 3 Teams. See you on May 15!