Game 1 | Ronin Blood Warriors: 5 - Zards: 2
Ronin Blood Warriors Get Free Win as Zards Forfeit
Game 2 | The Spida Men: 87 - West Coast Shooters: 91
West Coast Shooters Hold Off Spida Men in Win
The first game of the night was a five on five matchup between two Thursday A League staples. Despite falling to 0-2 on the season, the Spida Men have looked like a formidable team in the early stages of the season, and they were once again competitive with one of the league’s top teams. Regardless, WCS were firing on all cylinders offensively, shooting seventeen for forty-two (40.5%) from three and accumulating 20 assists as a group. They held on to their 45-39 halftime lead, winning by a final score of 91-87 to move to 2-0 on the season.
David Reynolds led the attack for WCS in this one in his season debut, dropping 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists while shooting seven of fifteen from three. The Spida Men really had no answer for him on the perimeter as he knocked down a flurry of threes in the first half and used that to his advantage for the rest of the game by attacking off the dribble. His three level scoring ability adds a whole new dimension to this offense. Matt Pattyson played a very strong game, putting up 19 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. As one of the league’s best defenders, Pattyson shot three of four from deep and added some nice finishes inside. He has always been an above-average shooter, but his attacks off the dribble in this game helped showcase his high IQ playmaking, finishing with a game high 6 assists as well. Derek Retos shot four of nine from three to finish with 17 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 1 steal, while his shooting counterpart Eric D’Aguanno struggled with his outside shot (three of twelve), but did everything else, finishing with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Hugh O’Neil made his season debut with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals, dominating inside per usual and getting the ball up quickly to start transition.
The Spida Men continue to impress with two strong performances against the league’s top teams. Tim Gallivan shook off his Week 1 rust to the tune of 27 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. He was a monster on both ends, hitting three threes and finishing well on offense, while grabbing 11 boards and playing well down low. John Lithio also continues to impress, finishing with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assist, and 1 steal, just playing incredibly smart, efficient basketball on both ends. Lithio is the type of player who can fit into any system and make an impact, and he has been a huge net positive for the Spida Men this session. Nick Mazzeo finished with 17 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal, and has been playing very well at the point guard spot this season. He had a solid look toward the end of the game to tie it up that he missed, but he also hit a few clutch ones during a late Spida Men push to keep them in the game. Danny Martin Jr. put up yet another double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block, while Cedric White added 4 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal. The big man passing ability in this group definitely gives them a unique offensive approach, which I’m confident will lead to some wins soon.
Game 3 | Not A Dime Back: 70 - We The Ones!: 61
NADB Move to 2-0, Hold Off WTOs
Even without Dom Black and Dre Kontopidis, NADB continue to do their thing, securing a win against a gritty WTOs team behind some stellar defense and their signature ball movement. With a 37-31 lead at the half, NADB held off a late WTOs surge to win by a final score of 70-61.
Jon Luster continues his MVP campaign by playing with immense patience. He finished with 21 points, 8 boards, 5 assists, and 1 steal, going three of five from deep and hitting both of his free-throws. I would love to see a shooter of his caliber put up more than five threes, but I can’t argue with a guy who led his team in both points and assists and made almost no mistakes for the entire 40 minutes. Chris Connor shot five of twelve from three to finish with 21 points of his own, adding 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks. At this point, the whole league knows about his shooting prowess, but his interior defense and passing ability continue to impress me, as his whole game has taken a jump since NADB moved up to the A League. Jeff Coulter brought his usual toughness and activity to this one with a 14 point, 10 rebound (4 offensive) double-double, plus 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. He hit a clutch three late in the second, and continues to cement himself as the best cutter in any CAC division. Marcus Giese was productive before turning his ankle, finishing with 10 points, 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 1 assist, and 1 steal. With Kontopidis out, he has done a phenomenal job holding down the paint and getting NADB out in transition. Chris Cusano chipped in 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal, and Mike Synott came up with 2 rebounds and 2 assists in the win, as NADB continue their dominance in CAC’s most competitive division.
WTOs fought hard, relying on their guard play to hit threes and wreak havoc on defense. Ty Moore was hot early in this one, finishing five for nine from three for 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He’s proven to be a knockdown shooter in his first two CAC games, hitting five threes in each game both off the dribble and on the catch, and his offensive ability will be key to WTOs getting some wins. Jalen Bruce has also been impressive in the backcourt, going three of six from downtown for 13 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals, showcasing an impressive pull-up jumper and some smooth finishes inside. Grady Levi added 7 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists (team-high), 3 steals, and 1 block, bringing some major motor to both ends and filling in any and every role he could to drive his squad to the win. Jordan Carter also had 7 points, plus 3 assists and 1 steal, while Garrett Stanowicz had a clean 7 and 7 with 4 offensive rebounds. WTOs has definitely looked better than previous seasons, but will need to string together some defensive stops down the stretch and find some chemistry instead of relying on hot shooting.
Game 4 | Suffolk: 68 - Team Takeover: 65
Suffolk Survives Team Takeover Push
Suffolk came into this season as perhaps the most talented team in this division from top to bottom, and while they are 2-0, their two wins have been battles. They held a slim 28-26 lead at the half against Team Takeover, shooting on four of sixteen from three on the game and giving up 14 offensive rebounds. Still, they managed to hold on, winning the game 68-65 and moving to 2-0.
George Grillakis was the story in this one, putting up a monster 32 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. Team Takeover was genuinely incredulous that they knew exactly what move he was going to do every play, yet they still could not stop him. To Grillakis’ credit, he did drive left on several occasions, and whether or not he goes right most of the time, he can flat out score. His combination of speed and strength at the guard position is unmatched, and he will undoubtedly find himself among the league’s leading scorers at the end of the season. Grillakis aside, Bolden Brace is still the best player on this team, and he did not disappoint with 22 and 9, plus 4 assists and 5 steals. At one point in the first half, he got mad and decided to dribble down the court three times, hit three tough threes, and then go back to chilling. He’s a top tier passer in this league, but I would love to see him look for his shot more, especially in a close game like this. Mike McEneney finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block, hitting his signature mid-range jumpers and holding down the paint on defense. Bret Edwards looks much more comfortable this session, and while he went oh for four from three, he finished with 4 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 steals with some nice takes to the hoop and strong perimeter defense. Nick Budesheim chipped in 2 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal in the win.
Team Takeover was led by Trevor Parker’s 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 1 steal. He hit four threes and was dangerous in transition, but he shot four of fifteen from three and two of seven from the charity stripe. He really just needs some consistency with his jumper, or he needs to attack the rim more, but either way, he carries a big portion of this offense. Jared Johson showed up late to this one, but got going quickly with 15 points and 3 rebounds. He has become one of the league’s top scoring threats, as a guy who can go get a bucket at all three levels at any point in the game. Michel Toney finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks in a stat-stuffing effort. He three monster blocks in transition, pinning shots to the glass and getting his team out in transition quickly. His defense and effort are never in question as his team’s captain, and he shot a respectable two of six from deep as well. Sana Dahaba made his debut this week and was impactful with 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. He hit a three and was poised at the point guard spot, and had a few highlight worthy hezis to get defenders jumping. Julian Beach had a strong game down low with 5 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 assists, Emmanuel Nkounkou finished with 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block, and Zach Scott chipped in 2 steals and 1 board in the loss.
Game 1 | Suffolk: 79 - Spida Men: 73
Suffolk Hold Off Spida Men in OT Win
Suffolk jumped out to a big lead the season opener, up 50-37 at the half. Even without their full roster, this group was looking dangerous on both ends. The Spida Men, also without their full roster, battled hard in the second half and managed to tie the game with under a minute. After some misses from both teams, the game headed to OT, where Suffolk took control to pull away with a 79-73 lead.
Bolden Brace led the way for Suffolk, cementing himself at the top of the MVP ladder after only one game. He put up 27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 7 steals in a strong effort on both ends. Even with his shot slightly off (five of thirteen from deep), he was just a step ahead of everyone else on the court, garnering 7 steals and even more pass deflections while moving the ball well and getting to his spots when necessary. George Grillakis wasn’t far behind, dropping 25 points of his own to go along with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals, terrorizing Spida Men in transition and once again, driving to his right. He converted five of seven free-throw attempts and hit two threes as well, but also decided to foul out with 1:30 left on the clock by running at Mazz and grabbing him for no reason. Logan O’Donnell had a monster double-double inside with 12 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks, showing off some nice footwork on some post moves and playing good defense, while newcomer Nick Budesheim had some strong takes to the hole to finish with 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals. Throw in Holtze and McEneney, plus a much improved Bret Edwards (3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist) and this is a seriously dangerous roster.
Spida Men fought hard and kept this game close, especially in the second half, even without Jamal Brown. Newcomer John Lithio was impressive, hitting shots and creating for himself while moving the ball well and just generally playing smart. He finished with a team-high 17 points, plus 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals, and I see him as a huge addition to this roster. Danny Martin Jr. and Cedric White both had big games as well with 16 points each. Martin Jr. added 7 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block, while Ceddy hit a few threes, plus 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks. Nick Mazzeo played very well at the 1, hitting five of his ten threes to finish with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Tim Gallivan added 9 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. The ball movement looked good for the Spida Men, and I was impressed that they took Suffolk to OT. Could be a big season for them if they can continue to click offensively.
Game 2 | We The Ones!: 85 - Zards: 94
Zards Return with Victory Over WTOs
Zards return to Thursday A League as a consistent, well-oiled machine on both ends, and this game was no different. They held a 52-36 lead at the half, showing off their crisp ball movement and shooting prowess on offense, while relying on their aggressive zone defense to force turnovers. Big credit to WTOs, who battled back late in the second half with a barrage of contested threes, but this game was never really in doubt, as Zards held on for a 94-85 win.
In the preseason rankings, I put Zards at #4, but that’s because I forgot about Sam Longwell, despite giving him MVP like 3 sessions ago. Either way, he now ranks #1 in scoring (31 points), #1 in made twos (12 2ptm), #3 in assists (6 assists), and somewhere in the top 10 in rebounds (10 total, 2 offensive), while adding 1 steal. He was simply unstoppable inside the arc, getting to the rim at will and operating smoothly in the mid-range. He shot only two of eight from deep, which will only improve as the season progresses, and I expect him to be a nightmare for opposing defenses every game. Dan Wohl is another matchup nightmare, finishing with 25 points, 11 boards, 4 assists, and 1 block, shooting three of six from three and four of five from the line. Impressive distribution to go along with his usual stellar scoring. Craig Melillo was a menace on defense, finishing with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks while shooting three of eight from three. Matt LaBove was a monster down low, putting up 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal, but altering plenty of shots and discouraging WTOs from even attacking the rim. High IQ player who really fits well in this system. Newcomer Milan Prodanovic added 9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals, but I think he has more to give with his smooth shot. Either way, Zards pick up right where they left off, and will be among the favorites this session.
WTOs benefitted from some great guard play, particularly from Jalen Bruce. Bruce was solid all game, but really took over at the end, hitting several pull-up threes to finish with 27 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. He shot six of ten from three and did well to get to his spots and hit tough shots. Ty Moore added 20 points on five of eleven from downtown, plus 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals, while Grady Levi chipped in 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Jordan Carter found his rhythm in the second half to finish with 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, hustling and making plays on defense as well. As usual, no one knows who Keith will bring to ACEC on any given Thursday, but this core group, plus Garrett Stanowicz and myself, make up a much improved roster from previous sessions. Still, this group will need to win some games to prove they deserve to be moved up in the standings.
Game 3 | Ronin Blood Warriors: 68 - Not A Dime Back: 73
NADB Best RBWs in Closely Contested Game
Tibbs is one sick mf matching these two up in the first game, as NADB and RBWs have previously matched up in both the B1 Unification and A League Unification Championship. All of their games are closely contested, and this one was no different, as NADB took a 37-35 lead into halftime despite being up big early. They managed to hold on at the end of a wild game, winning by a final of 73-68.
For NADB, Chris Connor stepped up majorly. Everyone knows he can score, but he put up 27 points (three of eight from deep, no FTs) against tight defensive pressure to go along with 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block in highly impressive game. His mid-range was unstoppable, with his teammates doing well to find him at his spots, and he took care of the rest. Dom Black was in attack mode early, getting to the rim at will to finish with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals, applying serious pressure on both ends, while backcourt mate Jon Luster came alive in the second half to add 14 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists (game-high), and 1 steal. Probably the worst I’ve ever seen Luster shoot (two of eight from three, which isn’t even that bad), but he still had an overwhelmingly positive impact on both ends. Chris Cusano added 6 points, 3 boards, and 1 assist, while Marcus Giese was strong inside with 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Jeff Coulter and Mike Synott also played their roles well, and even without Dre Kontopidis, NADB pulls off an impressive win and look primed to repeat.
RBWs got strong contributions, with Deven Palmer leading the way. Palmer finished with 24 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, shooting five of eight from three and five of seven from the line despite showing up late and not warming up. Talent-wise, he’s up there with the best in the league. Arinze Obiora added 21 points, 10 boards, 3 assists, and 2 blocks, doing most of his damage inside on both ends and relentlessly attacking the rim the whole 40 minutes. Juran Ligonde added 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals, while Guy Pistone chipped in 3 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, but led his team with 5 assists. I’m definitely less familiar with RBWs roster than the other teams, but I do know that these guys can play, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a deep playoff run.
Game 4 | Team Takeover: 75 - West Coast Shooters: 88
WCS Shoot A Lot, Win
WCS put up 56 threes in this one, making 22 of them (39%) and they therefore won the game. That’s really it, as no other team put up more than 31 attempts on the night. They also lead the league in assists with 25 total, and they really just do the same thing every time but they’re all proficient shooters, so there just isn’t much other teams can do. They led 46-35 at half and went on to win 88-75.
Collin Sawyer led the way with 29 points on seven of twelve from three and a perfect four for four at the charity stripe, plus 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Sawyer often leads the team in scoring because, while he’s an excellent shooter, he is also willing to take layups. Eric D’Aguanno does not take layups (unless he’s posting up apparently), and he shot seven of thirteen from three to finish with 27 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals, while Derek Retos shot five of fifteen for 15 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Matt Pattyson added 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, while Stephen Tam added 5 points, 12 rebounds (5 offensive), 3 assists, and 2 steals. In the highlight of the game, Tam encouraged defensive effort from his squad during a dead ball, which made D’Aguanno look like the Nick Young meme. Jack Fay had a funny game with 4 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and a league-high 12 assists. He played a strong game, but just couldn’t hit any shots, going zero for eight from deep, the Ying to the rest of his team's Yang. This group is fun to watch, but we’ll see if they can translate it to postseason success later in the season.
Team Takeover played the beginning of this game with only four players, putting them at an early deficit, but they battled hard and made this game somewhat competitive. Trevor Parker finished with 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, shooting five of eleven from three. His talent is off the charts, and he will need to propel his team to a few victories this season. Jared Johnson also had a strong showing, dropping 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists with some strong finishes inside and some nice defensive effort as well. Michel Toney got going late, finishing with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block, but he will need to be better if this team wants to win games. He’s more than capable. Julian Beach was active inside with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block, battling for rebounds and finishing some nice takes around the rim Zach Scott was late and didn’t get a chance to warm up, but his activity on both ends was a big boost, as he added 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals from the guard spot. With their bigs back next week, we’ll see if Team Takeover can string together some wins before their huge October 19th matchup with a shit-talking Keith and his We The Ones team.
BY DEVIN QUINLIN
CAC A League (Thur.)
F23 Season Preview
Thursday A League returns to ACEC for yet another season with a lot of familiar faces running it back. This season looks to be one of the most balanced yet, as I would argue any of the top 6 teams have a shot at taking home the title by the time the playoffs roll around. With five teams returning from last session, plus two more from previous sessions and another transitioning from the Monday A League, all these teams know each other. Established dynamics and no surprises will make for some interesting matchups, and I’m curious to see how teams adjust to gain an advantage. Onto the previews!
8.) We The Ones! → I am once again putting my own team at the bottom of the league. Lots of progress has been made over the last few sessions, but with our two best players in Anthony Gurley and Sayvonn Houston both pulling out right before the start of the season, it will be difficult to make up that production. Still, captain Keith Baranowski will undoubtedly pull something out of his ass, as he always does. Garrett Stanowicz has been a proven scorer at this level, and Jordan Carter has always stepped up when called upon, while Keith himself provides very solid all around play on both ends. Other than that, I’ll be out until like week 7 or 8, and Keith keeps listing names of random guys who are “week to week” in the group chat. Pretty funny that I know more about every team in the league than my own. Still, this group is a mess, so unless we add someone with some serious firepower who can show up consistently, we are once again a bottom tier team.
7.) Team Takeover → Team Takeover returns to Thursday A League after taking a session off and then transferring to the Monday A League last session. They never have a shortage of talent, but frequently fail to close out games and allow other teams to go on huge second half runs. Still, captain Michel Toney is an extremely reliable floor general who can shoot and distribute at a high level, while Trevor Parker is arguably the most talented player in this league, though he needs to prove he can be consistent week to week. Jared Johnson is another very strong player, who has proven he can do much more than catch and shoot, while Joel Nkounkou is an athletic freak inside who can hold down the paint defensively. Other than that, though, guys will need to step up on both ends, and this team needs to prove that they can play together (especially on defense) before they move up in the rankings.
6.) The Spida Men → The Spida Men are difficult to gauge because they won the league only a few sessions ago and they have no shortage of talent and chemistry, but in recent sessions they’ve gotten rolled on multiple occasions and they’re getting up there in age. Jamal Brown has battled injuries recently, but when healthy is a perennial MVP candidate. Danny Martin Jr. is always steady down low, but simply had too many games last sessions in which he wasn’t aggressive enough. He’ll need to take (and make) more shots, while guys like Tim Gallivan and Nick Mazzeo will simply need to attend more games. Lucio Dahlstedt-Brown steadily improved during last session, and Cedric White is always ready when his number is called, but they also lost Hallvard Lundevall and Billy Battaglia, replacing them with John Lithio. Lithio can dominate the lower leagues and I expect him to have a solid session at this level, but I don’t think that makes up for Battaglia’s shooting prowess nor H’s athleticism and motor. The Spida Men have proved me wrong before, we’ll see if they do it again.
From here, it’s really a toss up, and any of the top 5 teams have a strong case as the best team in this division.
5.) Ronin Blood Warriors → Putting RBW here is kind of wild on my end, but frankly I’m just less familiar with them than the others. They’re coming off a Monday A League title last session, losing a competitive game to NADB in the Unification Championship game, but they could honestly be the best team in this division (I truly don’t know). Deven Palmer is the type of guy who can just walk the ball up the court and pull a deep three and it’s a good shot, while Jacquil and Maurice Taylor both have a Division 1 background. Alonzo Cooper is very solid at the 1, playing strong defense and providing good pace on offense. Kerry Weldon abandons his Suffolk squad to bring his strength to RBW, and Guy Pistone has been dominating B2 and B1 leagues for a while now. Frankly I don’t know the other players, and I can’t say I even know much about the players I already listed, but RBW have been a force in every session they’ve played and I fully expect them to compete with the other top teams in this league.
4.) Zards → Again, Zards at 4 is wild, but they haven’t updated their roster so I don’t even know who’s on their team, and they fall short in the playoffs in every session because they only have 3 players who show up to every game and then find random fill-ins. Still, Dan Wohl is perhaps the most polished scorer in this league, and he’s shown time and time again that he will torch any and all defensive gameplans, you just have to hope he misses. Again, no roster updated at the time of writing, but I’ll assume they have Mike Kearney, who’s a solid point guard and high IQ defensive player, Craig Mellilo, who is one of the most reliable shooters in the league and a high energy defensive guard, and Dan Aronowitz, who will likely find himself towards the top of the league in rebounds while adding a strong offensive arsenal. Other than that, I don’t know who these guys will bring. Maybe Nick Pagliuca, who can shoot, or Chris Egi, who’s a strong big, but the Zards history of questionable attendance has them fourth in the power rankings. Still, this is not a team you wanna see in the first round of the playoffs.
3.) West Coast Shooters → WCE has rebranded themselves appropriately, as Derek Retos and Eric D’Aguanno are two of the best shooters I’ve ever seen in person, and their offense caters to their skill sets perfectly. In previous seasons, WCS have generally decided to play minimal defense and just run and gun, relying on their high powered offense to simply outlast other teams. This season, though, it seems they’ve merged with Shooters Shoot, adding Stephen Tam, David Reynolds, Matt Pattyson, and Jordan Rote, all of whom will thrive in this offense, but who will also play defense. Add in Jack Fay at the point, Tom Palleschi down low, and newcomer Jack Simonds, and this team may have the most talent top to bottom out of any group in the league. My only question is chemistry and dynamics, as every player on the roster is capable of scoring in double digits. Retos and D’Aguanno often shoot 10+ threes/game each, but guys like David Reynolds and Jordan Rote can get going at any time, as can Jack Simonds. With Tam, Fay, and especially Pattyson, I’m not really concerned about their defensive effort anymore, but they may have too much of a good thing on offense. Still, this is a good problem to have, and I am excited to see a WCE(S) squad that tries on defense.
2.) Suffolk → Suffolk were impressive last season, and while their loss in the finals against NADB was a disappointing end to their season, they still made it to the finals and finished with the top seed. Bolden Brace is a triple double threat every game, though he needs to be more aggressive to put his team over the top. Still, he’s the highest level player in the league, and when he’s locked in I don’t see many teams beating Suffolk. George Grillakis also had a stellar session, finishing top 3 in scoring by going right every single time. Sam Holtze is a menace on both ends, and I expect him to once again be among the league leaders in steals and assists, while providing reliable scoring as well. Mid-Range Mike McEneney and Logan O’Donnell provide interior size on defense as well as reliable scoring on offense, even though both of them have said that they only care about their own stats at the end of each game. Bret Edwards and Yusuf Liban are both knockdown shooters off the bench, and Nick Budesheim has college experience, so I fully expect this roster to finish as a top seed and make a deep playoff run.
1.) Not A Dime Back → NADB are the reigning champs (of Unification, too), losing only one game last session to Cobras in which they didn’t have three of their best players. Total domination all season, with clinical ball movement, connectivity on defense, and high level shot making. These guys have 99 overall chemistry, which is insanely annoying to play against in a men’s league, but they also have top level talent to back it up. Jon Luster and Dom Black are a devastating backcourt, with Luster being one of the best off the dribble shooters I’ve ever seen as well as a league assist leader, and Black relentlessly attacking the rim and getting to any spot he wants while being a hound on the defensive end. Dre Kontopidis is a monster inside on both ends with a reliable midrange jumper and great court vision out of the high post, while Chris Conner continues to elevate his game, shooting over 50% from deep on 7.4 attempts per game (wtf???) while adding some size inside on defense. Jeff Coulter returns with his swiss-army-knife game, doing everything on both ends and cementing himself as the best cutter in the history of men’s league basketball, and Marcus Giese is a solid big man who can finish inside, hit jumpers, and defend the best bigs in the league. Chris Cusano and Mike Synott are the ultimate glue guys, moving the ball quickly, knocking down open shots, and playing strong defense to help make the NADB engine run as smoothly as it does. Until proven otherwise, these guys are the favorites to repeat.
I didn’t think I would see the day where West Coast Elite play a solid game offensively and simply get outshot and outran by an opponent, but Suffolk did just that in our first game of the night. These guys came out in attack mode, and while they didn’t shoot particularly well from three, the downhill pressure and mid-range shot making got them out to a 60-38 lead at the half. WCE are an offensive juggernaut, and got the game a bit closer in the second half, but the result was never in doubt, as Suffolk won by a final score of 106-91.
It’s hard to even start with someone in this game, as four of the five players for Suffolk went crazy. Sam Holtze had 24, 6 boards, 8 assists, and 2 steals, Steffon Mitchell had 25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals, George Grillakis had 26 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, and Bolden Brace had 26 and 13, plus 7 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block. Some overall strong statlines obviously, but I was impressed with the chemistry and pace from a team with only five guys. Holtze has to be the quickest mf on the planet, him breaking my ankles last session put me back on IR. He did a fantastic job getting downhill for finishes and mid-range turnarounds, but he’s a fantastic passer as well, finishing with a game-high 8 assists and consistently making the right decision after collapsing the defense. Grillakis also makes great decisions getting downhill, mostly because he just goes to his right and makes a layup every time. I can assure anyone reading this that he’s going to his right and that he will finish high off the glass through contact, but he did a nice job distributing in this one as well. Steffon Mitchell was a fill-in today, not sure how valid it is to have a guy averaging 17.3ppg in Norway this season fill-in, but Mitchell showed up and controlled the entire first half. He was hitting shots from all over the court, finishing four of twelve from deep, though he was like four for nine in the first half. Just a very controlled, smart player who got what he wanted offensively, not surprising that he’s a pro. Even with Mitchell filling in, Bolden Brace was still the best player on the court, shooting four of seven from deep and adding 7 assists. I can’t tell if he’s going half speed and not trying or if that’s just his game, but either way it works. Total dominance on both ends, WCE had no answer for him, and he’s the MVP frontrunner at the moment. Bret Edwards added 5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block, shooting one of seven from deep. That said, he’s a football player, but he can definitely hoop. He’s got a nice looking shot, and as he gets more reps with his team, I think he’ll hit some big shots in close games when he’s left open. Suffolk is easily the early favorites to win it all, even without Mitchell in the lineup.
West Coast Elite played a decent game, just got outgunned in this one. Jack Fay led the way with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists, shooting three of seven from deep and attacking well inside, even against Suffolk’s size. Collin Sawyer added 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 assist, attacking well and hitting two threes. Eric D’Aguanno added 15 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block, playing a decent game but shooting only three of eleven from deep. He’s a top three shooter in the league, and will undoubtedly bounce back in the coming weeks. Derek Retos got going in the second half to finish with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals, going four of seven from deep on some deep bombs. Holtze did a nice job denying him the ball, but like all great shooters, he eventually found his spots and capitalized. Tom Palleschi added 11 points, 7 boards, 4 assists, and 1 steal, missing a few shots he would normally make but still playing solid and throwing dimes from the low post. Colin Richey made his session debut with a very solid performance of 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, finishing well on the attack and throwing some solid passes as well. He’ll be a nice addition to this roster. Tough game for WCE, but I still consider them a top team in this division, and I expect them to bounce back.
NADB entered this game without their two main creators in Jon Luster and Dre Kontopidis. Everyone on the roster can play, but with clearly defined roles I was curious to see how guys would fill in, especially for Luster, who initiates the entire offense. The Cobras took a 41-37 lead into the half, and while NADB kept the game close, Cobras capitalized on the zone to maintain their lead and pull out a 75-67 win. Great team effort defensively, and some big shotmaking from a few guys helped them pull away at the end.
Warfa Abdillahi showed up right at the tip, and with no warm up, he started pulling immediately. He finished with 17 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block, going four of six from deep and pulling up for some tough makes in transition. DeAngelo Alston also went four of six from three to finish with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal, but he brought tons of energy on the defensive end, organizing his team and acting as a clear vocal leader while backing it up with big shots on the other end. Carter Burruss hit three threes to add 15 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 big blocks, using his athleticism to find space, lock guys up, and patrol the whole court. Great to see him get aggressive on the offensive end, but I still think he should drive more. Ray Miller added 12 points, 3 boards, 5 assists, and 1 block, going two of four from deep while penetrating the zone well off the catch. I still think he has a lot more to give on the offensive end, despite a strong game in which he initiated great looks for his team. Yusuf Liban hit two threes to finish with 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal, and Jamal Fiin added 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal. Will Rowe finished with 5 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block, struggling to find spots in NADB’s zone and failing to convert on his threes. Still a top player, who will bounce back. Kevin Querusio added 1 rebound and 1 assist in the win.
For NADB, Chris Connor finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal, going five for nine from deep, including some heavily contested threes down the stretch. He’s a great three level scorer, but he stepped up majorly in this game without Luster in the lineup. Jeff Coulter also stepped up, putting up 22 points, 8 boards, 2 assists, and 2 steals, showcasing his insane finishing skills. A few people in the gym noticed that this guy can finish anything, putting him at the top of the A League with 99 overall layup. Marcus Giese stepped into the facilitator role at the center spot without a true PG, finishing with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in a super well-rounded effort from the big man. I think he could look for his shot a bit more, but he does a lot for them defensively as their only true big, while also just being extremely reliable on offense. Chris Cusano added 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists, while Mike Synott chipped in 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in the loss. Despite the shoddy attendance, decent outing from these guys in the loss, but credit to Cobras for closing it out at the end with some strong defense.
As one of the league favorites, I did not expect DRBL to play a close game against WTOs. Credit to WTOs for improving significantly and making this a close game, but DRBL secured an 82-73 win by pulling it all together at the end on both ends.
Mike Thompson led the way with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal, showing off his dynamic game and shooting two of six from three and four of five from the line. Strong outing from him, as he will be their go to guy in crunch time when his team needs to generate a good shot. Luka Vlajkovic was a bit less aggressive in this one, but still played a strong game with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal, moving the ball well and hitting a few threes in the process. I expect him to get better looks as he gels with the team, but he’s a bucket either way. Anthony Colozzo hit two threes to finish with 12 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 1 steal, operating well in the P&R, and I expect him to hit a few more threes in the coming weeks. Lasse Gummerus added 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. He’s a knockdown shooter on offense (two for three) while providing some serious interior size on defense. Will Brodnitzki and Jonah St. Clair added 10 points each, with Brodnitzki chipping in 8 boards, 3 assists, and 2 steals and St. Clair adding 1 rebound and 1 assist on two of four from deep, both playing strong interior defense and finishing well, too. Salim Belkebir hit two threes as well, putting up 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, and 2 steals. These guys are a dynamic group, gambling on defense, pushing the pace on offense, and using momentum to their advantage at all times. Definitely one of the more exciting teams in the league, who are still among my favorites to win it all.
We The Ones have made a big leap this season with the addition of the Belhouchet brothers, and now Josh Bonnie in the backcourt. Bonnie showed up late to the game, but made an immediate impact with his energy alone. He finished with 22 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal, going four for eight from deep, attacking well in transition, and finding open guys for good shots. He doesn’t add much size, but his activity on defense more than makes up for that, and I expect him to take on a huge role for this team. Garrett Stanowicz continues to get buckets under any circumstances, putting up 25 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 4 blocks. He’s lethal in transition, has a strong mid-range catch and shoot, and busts his ass on every play. I expect him to make big plays on both ends for these guys and lead them in scoring. Karim Belhouchet really struggled shooting in this one, going zero for seven from three. That said, he’s still an excellent shooter (five for five FTs) and the threat of his shot allowed him to have a big impact regardless. He grabbed 3 rebounds, accumulated 3 steals, and led the game with 8 assists, finding guys for open looks even when he couldn’t hit himself. He will be their most important player, but has already shown his ability to play winning ball. Keith Baranowski added 8 points and 10 boards, plus 1 assist and 1 block. Keith was finishing well inside, and his 1 assist doesn’t reflect his solid passing either. Still, he’ll need to hit more jumpers to keep the defense honest and open things up for everyone. Jordan Carter chipped in 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist, while Aidan Stanowicz added 4 points, 8 boards, 1 assist, and 1 steal in the loss. Still, admirable effort from WTOs.
In a game in which neither team shot particularly well, Spida Men capitalized on their interior presence and chemistry to pull away in the second half. They took a 32-26 lead into the half, expanding it to a 60-44 win as they pounded the ball inside. Ultimately, though, their strong defensive effort (eight steals, five blocks, thirty-one Drebs) put them over the top in this one.
Jamal Brown led the scoring with 14 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals. While Jamal still doesn’t quite look like himself, he played a strong overall game, attacking well inside, hitting a few threes, and throwing out 5 assists. A few of his 5 steals were timely defensive stops that got his team four or five point swings, and I only expect him to find his groove as the season progresses. Billy Battaglia hit two threes to add 12 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 2 steals, showing off his versatility on the offensive end and using his shooting threat to find openings in the defense. Tim Gallivan made the first left handed layup of his career to finish with 10 points, 13 boards, 2 assists, and 3 blocks, simply dominating inside on both ends. He also went zero for four from three, so he has plenty more to contribute, as his long ball is one of the best parts of his game. Still, a lefty layup from Gallivan is a storyline in its own right, and I’m proud of him for even attempting one. Cedric White once again showed up late, and once again entered the game, immediately got buckets, and subbed out. He hit his only three point attempt and three lefty hooks (probably) to finish with 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists, showing off some nice touch inside. Danny Martin Jr. added 8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block, not his best game but still a solid outing down low. Lucio Dahlstedt-Brown hit a three to add 5 points and 2 assists, and Hallvard Lundevall finished with 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block, also showing up very late to this one. A solid effort from the Spida Men on defense, and I think their offense will pick up over the course of the season.
Bing Bong are still a strong team in my opinion, despite their offensive struggles. Griffin Perry got off to a hot start, finishing with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. He’s strong inside and hit two threes as well. He was pretty frustrated late in the second half after a few defensive lapses by his team, noting that “these mfs got out of bounds plays,” always a disheartening realization in a men’s league game. Aside from Perry’s 15, no one else scored in double digits for Bing Bong. Gavin Keough finished with 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block, hitting only one of his seven three-point attempts and getting some unlucky rolls on the rim. Tyler Lennon also couldn’t find the range, but hit three nice floaters in the lane to finish with 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals. I fully expect both of these guys to bounce back offensively. Aaron Jaynes added 4 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals, bringing the energy on both ends, while Steve Azums came up with 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal, both guys rebounding well. Mike Boaheng hit a three to add 3 points and 3 rebounds, Andrew Frazer also hit a three for 3 points and 1 board, while Dante Duncan had 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals in the loss. Bing Bong have the pieces, but will need to figure out their substitutions and lineups to allow guys to find a rhythm.
West Coast Elite:
West Coast Elite returns after a dominant regular season and disappointing first round exit last session. I fully expect these guys to make a deep playoff run, as they will be back with a vengeance. The shooting tandem of Eric D’Aguanno and Derek Retos combined for 11.6 threes per game last season, with D’Aguanno shooting 45.8% on twelve attempts per game and Retos shooting 48.4% on twelve and a half attempts. With their offense tailored around the shooting prowess of these two, WCE is insanely annoying to defend. Jack Fay adds his own shooting threat while being one of the top passers in the A League, while Tom Palleschi has shown some impressive touch while picking defenses apart from the low and high post, which only makes their shooters more dangerous. Collin Sawyer is their primary attacking wing, who can light it up from deep while slashing through the lane for tough finishes in transition and in half court sets, while Sam Dowden acts as a versatile stretch big who can do it all. Devin Jensen is arguably the best player in any CAC division, and if he shows up consistently these guys will be among the favorites once again.
We The Ones:
Keith has once again returned with a mishmash of players who have never met each other, so I am expecting 0 organization from this group initially. That said, Keith himself is a solid stretch big/wing who can consistently hit shots and defend, and Garrett Stanowicz returns as a 20ppg scorer with a high motor on both ends who can finish as well as anyone in the league. His brother Aidan returns after a season off, adding some interior presence on defense and a capable mid-range shooter and passer, and Jordan Carter is back in the guard spot as a knockdown shooter. The addition of brothers Karim and Marat Belhouchet add some much needed guard depth, but their skillset is unknown as of now, though Keith says good things. Sayvonn Houston is a huge addition to this team, as just a few sessions ago he had a monster season for Mambas, and he will look to plant himself firmly among the league’s top bigs by the end of the season. A lot of unknowns here, but past records make me hesitant to rank these guys too highly.
The Spida Men:
The Spida Men are coming off a lackluster season after winning the A League the session prior. The talent and chemistry are always there, but attendance has been an issue and guys will need to be more consistent going forward. Jamal Brown leads the offense at the point, using his strength to make himself a constant triple-double threat and a perennial MVP candidate. He will need to bounce back after last session if these guys want to get back to the top. Danny Martin Jr. brings his signature hook shot and insane motor to the front court, providing a double double average and a go-to scorer outside of Jamal. Tim Gallivan brings his interior size as well, holding down the paint defensively while adding a lethal three-point threat as well. He’s never taken a layup on the left side, but still finishes well anyway. Billy Battaglia has one of the prettiest jumpers I’ve ever seen, adding a facilitating threat from the guard spot as well. He will need to find his shot more consistently to balance the inside-outside attack on this team, but he’s been a steadying backcourt presence for these guys the last two sessions. Hallvard Lundevall has been a versatile threat as well, bringing his athleticism, defensive prowess, and pure shooting stroke to the backcourt. Cedric White brings his signature lefty hook and mid-range bank shot back to the table, with new addition Lucio Dahlstedt-Brown making his A League debut from the guard/wing spot.
This Suffolk squad has some familiar faces, though they seem to have split from Cobras. Captain George Grillakis returns from injury looking to only drive to his right, though I don’t know if anyone can stop him from doing that. He might not be the tallest, but he’s definitely one of the strongest, putting tons of pressure on defenses in transition and on any kind of perimeter attack. Sam Holtze has moved his BC squad over to Monday A League, but will be a welcome backcourt addition to this team. He will be vying for defensive player of the year again, and I’m curious to see how aggressive he is offensively. He’s shown that he can lead a team deep into the playoffs as the #1 option, but with other players of his caliber on the team, we’ll have to see how that dynamic plays out. Logan O’Donnell, Kerry Weldon, and Mike McEneney all played D3 ball and should be good additions to this roster, especially with O’Donnell and McEneney both standing at 6’10”. Bret Edwards will be interesting, as he had a strong football career at UNH, but can he hoop? Or is he going to embody this video? Only time will tell. One thing I do know is that Bolden Brace rounds out this lineup, and he would be my preseason pick for MVP. A high level player who can score at all three levels and defend well, I’m curious to see how other teams match up with him while Grillakis and Holtze attack the rim and other guys provide serious size down low. Definitely some unknowns here, but Suffolk looks to have a strong roster.
Not A Dime Back:
The WPI squad return with the exact same roster that found them some good success last session in their first run in the A League. Jon Luster leads the way at the point, where he’s as good as anyone in this league. Luster always plays the right way, as he’s unselfish and intelligent, but for NADB to take the next step, he will need to be more selfish, either looking for his shot or attacking lanes more often. He’s just too good not to. Chris Connor returns after a stellar season beyond the arc, shooting 45.7% on over eight attempts per game as a capable stretch-4. He also showed off some good court vision in the high post, making him a key in their offensive attack. Jeff Coulter is another guy coming off of a strong season, where he established himself as one of the league’s best defenders and continued his strong finishing inside off of backdoor cuts. He also showed off some range, shooting the three ball well on low attempts. Marcus Giese slots in at center, patrolling the paint defensively and causing tons of turnovers through his blocks, steals, and deflections. He’s also an excellent mid-range shooter and a reliable finisher inside. Chris Connor and Mike Synott add shooting from the guard spot, plus some very solid defense and ball movement to fit nicely with the others. Dre Kontopidis will be the x-factor for this group, as his size and skill make him a devastating offensive threat when he’s in rhythm, but his three-ball is inconsistent. Regardless, I expect these guys to be competitive in every single game.
DRBL returns with a very similar roster to two sessions ago when they finished the regular season with only 1 loss and made it all the way to the championship before falling to the Spida Men. Mike Thompson has that superstar flair, as he’ll pull from halfcourt, explode through the lane for a crazy finish, and throw a pinpoint behind the back pass in three consecutive possessions. When he’s hot, he’s a top player in this league, but some ill advised shots may cost his team some possessions. Avery Davis won DPOY a few sessions ago, as a fearsome perimeter defender who can also get inside at will on offense for floaters or quick shovel passes for easy finishes. He’s an excellent decision maker, and the more he’s involved on offense, the better this team plays. Lasse Gummerus and Will Brodnitzki add some size down low, with Gummerus finishing well inside off of dishes, but mostly being a three-point sniper with his high release point. Brodnitzki is an early candidate for strongest player in the league, who has provided some clutch performances for this team in key games while battling anyone and everyone inside on both ends. Anthony Colozzo adds a serious deep threat with his lefty long ball, plus some strong facilitating skills and shit talk to match, while Jonah St. Clair and his strange three-point form bring one of the most well rounded skillsets in the league to the table. Think Shawn Marion, he can make shots but his defensive presence, rebounding, and passing make for an great all-around player. Unfortunately, DRBL has parted ways with my guy Hassan Paige and have replaced him with Luka Vlajkovic and Salim Belkebir. Don’t know these guys, but I’ll give them and their team the benefit of the doubt. I think DRBL will be among the favorites to win it all once again.
The Cobras return after a lackluster regular season, followed by an impressive playoff run last session. Warfa Abdillahi will be getting his shots up from the point guard spot, and much of their team success is predicated on his shooting splits. He’s more than capable, and I’ll be curious to see if he can facilitate more consistently. He had a few games last session with 5+ assists and he makes good reads out of the P&R, but a few games where he didn’t get much ball movement going. Jamal Fiin had a stellar performance last session, averaging nearly 15ppg on 42% from three, plus his steady defensive presence and tough rebounding. He showed a lot of progress as a slasher last session, and I’m hoping to see him in attack mode putting pressure on defenses once again. Carter Burruss also returns with his crazy bounce, and I would definitely like to see him get more aggressive on offense. He’s a decent shooter, but is at his best attacking the rim, he just needs to get more looks and get aggressive. Yusuf Liban is a sniper, so he’s either going six for eleven or one for eight from deep, but has shown off some strong passing skills as well. Curls will need to find his rhythm early, and he’ll be a fantastic bench guy for them, as will Kevin Querusio, who has shown he can battle with bigs down low and stretch the floor on offense. Will Rowe will be the key for these guys, as he’s a super skilled big man who has excellent footwork and touch, but can also extend the defense with a respectable three-ball. His defensive presence is key, and with his Suffolk season over, I expect him to be in attendance for most of the games. Cobras did lose Mike Gillespie and Chris Cardoso, who were perhaps their two most talented players last session, but they added DeAngelo Alston who had a solid run at ENC, and Rayshawn Miller, who played the 1 at UMass Amherst. Two good players on paper, but we’ll see what they bring to the table.
I don’t know a single one of these guys, and I like that. Instead of doing research, I’m just going to let them play and make my judgments from there. I also forgot to do this and am now rushing to finish. Regardless, this is a young team, with no one over the age of 27, and making the jump right to CAC’s top league tells me that these guys are confident and ready to compete. They’ll have a good test against Cobras in our first game of the entire session.
Pre-Season Power Rankings:
N/A: Bing Bong → don’t know these guys, let’s see what they got.
7.) We Them Ones!! → Keith! I’m sorry my guy but have no choice other than to put you here after the last two sessions. Also tough as this is the team I play on when healthy, but they need to secure some wins before they move up.
6.) Cobras → Curious to see what Alston and Miller bring to the table, and I’m confident that this team will remain competitive in most, if not all games. Just need to see that consistency on both sides first, as they’ve shown some serious disinterest on the defensive end the last few sessions.
5.) The Spida Men → these guys won it two sessions ago and could easily be higher, but they looked a bit too sloppy last session. I expect them to rise as the season goes along, but can’t give them the benefit of the doubt after their first round exit last session.
4.) Not A Dime Back → These guys are as solid as they come, playing smart, skilled hoops at all times, plus their chemistry is unreal. I put them at #4 as I question their size against some of these other teams, but if anyone can overcome that, it’s probably a team with their shooting and chemistry.
3.) West Coast Elite → No shortage of talent as always, but need the defensive effort to turn up and want to see guys showing up consistently. Still one of the favorites in my opinion.
2.) Suffolk → A LOT of unknowns here, but the combo of Brace and Holtze is a scary one for opponents. Throw in Grillakis on the relentless attack, plus some of their interior size, and these guys could be pretty damn good.
1.) DRBL → I feel like there are probably better teams on paper, but one thing I learned with DRBL is that they will find ways to win games. They always bring the energy, they go hard on defense, everyone knows their role, and everyone is confident in their role. I expect these guys to come out firing and have no doubt they can get back to the championship.