By: Law Murray
Coming into Week 9, only four teams were officially eliminated from playoff contention in the Drew League: #Juglife, Robin Hood Project, Kings of LA, and Hank’s Spiders. Week 9 burst a lot more bubbles, while also seeing several teams keep their playoff hopes alive.
In terms of star power, the Game of the Week was Problems vs. La Familia. The Game’s squad broke a four-game losing streak in Week 8 with the help of Metta World Peace, but the much anticipated return of DeMar DeRozan was bolstered with the additions of pro teammates Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross. Yes, that meant mainstays like Frank Session and Kwame Alexander came off the bench for La Familia. Problems, coming off their worst loss of the season in Week 8 against Cheaters, didn’t back down from the suddenly loaded La Familia squad. In fact, after falling behind by ten early, Problems took a 41-40 halftime lead and a 62-54 lead going into the 4th quarter. Legendary leaper Kirpatrick McCauley was all around the rim for Problems, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds. But La Familia put their foot on the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, dropping 35 points in the final period (19 in the final 2:37 of the game) as they won 89-81. Lowry in particular hurt Problems with his ability to get to the line, as he made 14-of-15 from free throws; Problems only made 4-of-8 for the game. The La Familia win moves them to 5-4, the same record as Problems now, who are on a three-game losing streak.
“It’s fun playing with DeRozan,” said World Peace, who finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and five steals.
In terms of an incredible display of dominance, the Game of the Week was Kings of LA vs. The Clozers, which tipped off right before PRO vs. LAF. Brandon Jennings couldn’t be stopped in Week 8, as The Clozers got to .500 in a blowout win over SoleClinics thanks to Jennings’ 57 points. Kings of LA, a finalist in 2013, is playing for pride at this point. Dorell Wright returned to the Drew League for this matchup, and the gym was so packed that the fire marshal had to temporarily suspend the game in order to open up some space. The Clozers had a hard time stopping KLA early, giving up 56 first-half points to a team that scored only 62 points in Week 8. Wright scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half, while Jennings had 25 at halftime. Going into the fourth, Kings of LA held a 72-64 lead.
That’s when Jennings decided to go off. Unlike the game against SoleClinics where The Clozers had complete control of the game against the worst defense in the league, Jennings had to save The Clozers from a demoralizing defeat, and his big game bones were stronger than ever in this one. Every Jennings three-pointer was complemented with Kings of LA blowing a layup or missing a free throw. With The Clozers down by four at one point late, Jennings even baited Wright into fouling him on a three, which he of course made, adding the free throw to tie. But Wright, Dijon Thompson (21 points), and the rest of Kings of LA would hold a 92-91 lead with 17.1 seconds left. Everyone at King-Drew knew Jennings would get the ball – and he was fouled again while shooting a three! Jennings would make the first two free throws to give him 56 points for the game, but he missed the third, setting up an opportunity for KLA to win the game. But Clozers F Malik Marquetti doubled Wright, forcing a pass to an unprepared Justin Cobbs, who wasn’t close on a would-be game-winner. The Clozers won 93-92, moving to 5-4, while Jennings has put up a mind-blowing 113 points in two games.
And in terms of the best teams on the floor, you had Cheaters vs. Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars. Both teams came into the game tied at the top of their divisions (along with Jaguars) with 6-2 records. The hyped matchup was between Cheaters perimeter players Baron Davis and “Money” Mike Efevberha and Houdini’s All-Stars perimeter players Antonio “Swag Champ” Biglow, Tim “Bugatti” Johnson, and Garrett “G Money” Nevels. Cheaters usually starts Justin Johnson, but he was absent; Kenny Wright started in his place, along with Alan Williams and Ekene Ibekwe (making his 2014 Drew debut).
The game was close throughout, with Houdini’s All-Stars leading for the most part through three quarters. Money Mike and G Money spent the game dueling back and forth, taking a ton of shots with mixed results. But Davis hit a three to start the fourth quarter, giving Cheaters their first lead of the second half, and for the first time in awhile, Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars didn’t look like they had the depth or firepower in the frontcourt to come out on top. Cheaters won 85-76, outscoring Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars 22-11 in the fourth quarter. Cheaters got huge games from Wright (18 points on 5-of-6 from the field, 4-of-4 threes) and Ibeke (13 points, eight rebounds), while Williams pulled down a game-high ten rebounds. It’s the second time in three weeks that Houdini’s All-Stars gave up more than 80 points.
Other Week 9 Games you should know about:
Hank’s Bulldogs vs. Citi Team Blazers: The Bulldogs came into this game on a 1-6 slide, and needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. They actually had a ten-point lead in the 3rd quarter, but Frank Robinson came off the bench and played a role in two separate big runs to give the Blazers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. However, a frustrated Larry Anderson left the game early and the Blazers nearly blew it late, as the Bulldogs fell just short at the end of a 75-74 decision. Hank’s Bulldogs will likely miss the playoffs, but it sounds like Citi Team Blazers will need some chemistry adjustments over these next couple of weeks.
Hank’s Panthers vs. NWA: Citi Team Blazers are the only team to knock off NWA, the only team with only one loss all season. Playing without co-MVP Jonathan Gibson and Charles Garcia, NWA got off to a slow start against the Panthers, who took a 21-9 lead after the first quarter. The Panthers, on the bubble coming into the game with only three wins, were without Coach Lovely, so Charles Stone served as player-coach. It looked like the Panthers had a huge upset, as they led 71-63 with 2:19 left in the game. But Panthers PG Kevin Houston missed a front end of a one-and-one late, and NWA G Patrick Rembert made two free throws to give NWA a 77-76 victory. The Panthers are longshots to make the playoffs, but NWA lost starter Terrell Hendrick to a torn Achilles’ tendon.
C.A.B.C. vs. Salvatori’s No Shnacks: Both teams came into this game with 4-4 records, but C.A.B.C. is undefeated since adding C Mamadou Ndiaye and PG Kyle Fogg. No Shnacks was led in the first half by Byron Wesley (14 of 18 points in first half) and PG Sango Niang nearly triple-doubled (25 points, eight rebounds, nine assists). But C.A.B.C. got five threes from Jeff “Unabomber” Ledbetter and hung on for a 88-81 win, moving them to 5-4. At 4-5, No Shnacks is holding on to the last playoff spot in their division, one game better than SoleClinics; those two teams will play in Week 11. Unfortunately for No Shnacks, Niang is on his way back to Canada.
Hank’s Cheaters 2 vs. SoleClinics: SoleClinics came into this game on a four-game losing streak, giving up an average of 87.5 points per game during that stretch. Hank’s Cheaters 2 hadn’t scored more than 85 points in a game all season. But pro Casper Ware, Jr. made his 2014 Drew League debut, and he and Malik Story combined for 59 points in a 95-74 win over SoleClinics to get to 5-4. Ware spoke after the game about returning to the Drew League.
M.H.P. vs. Hard Times: Hard Times was another team that needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and M.H.P. didn’t have Nick Young and Paul George like last week. HT got off to a good start, taking a 20-10 lead. But Victor Rudd came into the game off the bench for M.H.P. and obliterated Hard Times, scoring 22 of his game-high 36 points in the first half. It was over by halftime, as Hard Times was outscored 36-11 in the second quarter and lost 95-76. 2013 Co-MVP Nick Porter’s team is done at 3-6, barring a miracle.
LA Loop vs. Hank’s New Image: While LA Loop has had one of the best players in the league in G Vince “The Body Snatcher” Camper, their poor start to the season put them on the bubble coming into this game. When asked before the game how he planned to stop Camper, New Image Coach Jimmy said, “We’re not,” explaining that Camper can go off as long as everyone else was shut down. That’s pretty much what happened. Camper scored 31 points, but needed 26 shots to get there as Hank’s New Image won 92-82. LA Loop (3-6) also needs a miracle to make the playoffs. New Image C Keith Closs spoke about his performance (21 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, one three) after the game.
Jaguars vs. Tradition: A few weeks ago, DJ Young Free mentioned that the Jaguars always play too early or too late. They started 1-2, but came into their game with bubble team Tradition on a five-game winning streak. For the fourth time in nine weeks, Jaguars played the last game of the day, and they started slow, as Tradition took a 34-33 lead at halftime. But PG Jacques Streeter scored all 13 of his points in the second half, Eric Williams had a game-high 22 points, and Tristan Wilson spent the game getting easy dunks (17 points, 8-of-10 from the field) as Jaguars eliminated Tradition from playoff contention with a 77-69 win. The Jaguars now have the longest winning streak in the league at six games, and one of those wins came over Cheaters, so they own the tiebreaker at the top of the Kenny Brunner division at 7-2. Not bad for a team playing all the dark games.
And just a note to end: Tradition, Hard Times, and LA Loop all lost in Week 9 to drop to 3-6. La Familia beat Tradition in Week 1, Hard Times in Week 2, and LA Loop in Week 3 before dropping four in a row. But with La Familia getting to 5-4, they clinched a playoff berth. Hard Times needs to win out and hope Problems loses out or they miss the playoffs. LA Loop needs to win out and hope Sky Ryse loses out, or they also miss the playoffs. It will be an interesting next two weeks.
Law Murray is in his fourth year in Los Angeles via Philadelphia. He has been at grad school at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism since 2012, and graduated from California University of PA in 2009 with a degree in communication studies. Law has also served two years in City Year and covered the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia. He specializes in breaking down teams and players on a variety of media platforms.