Watched over by legends, the 2018 Drew League Championship Game surpassed every expectation as Nation Wide Souljas and Redemption faced off in a match with historical implications and personal stakes for both teams and coaches. The student became the teacher as coach Keion Kindred’s Redemption overcame coach Roland Jones’ Nation Wide Souljas, 99-92, to become the 2018 Drew League Champions.
When Nation Wide’s center Big Baby Glen Davis failed to make an appearance, it looked like Redemption might have the clear cut size advantage. But the Souljas have been playing smaller than most of their competition all season. They’re used to the pressure. More importantly, they’re used to applying it to their opponents, and that’s exactly what they did against Redemption’s squad of forwards, double-teaming point guard Jonathan GIbson and daring anyone else to make the play.
Unfortunately for Redemption, for the majority of the game, they couldn’t do it, as Nation Wide displayed their full defensive prowess. Aaron Harrison and Cuttino Mobley proved perfectly capable of keeping Chris Johnson out of the paint, and though Chuck Garcia and Gibson were able to keep their team within striking distance, Nation Wide maintained their lead through the first half.
After halftime, though, Redemption found their drive after a reminder from Kindred.
“The reason we’ve been successful all through playoffs: we’re bigger than everybody,” he said after the game. “I have the luxury of having five 6’9 [players]. It’s hard to match up with that. I told them, ‘Be bigger and be better.'”
They took his advice to heart as Johnson and Garcia began to dominate inside and forward Ekene Ibekwe started to impose his will on the boards, yanking down 18 rebounds on the game.
Tied at the end of the third quarter, the game became a dogfight, with both teams bringing every offensive weapon they had to bear. When Marcus Williams went down in the third with an ankle injury, Jordin Mayes stepped up for Nation Wide, tearing through Redemption’s interior defense for 21 points. Forward Mike Martin acquitted himself well both inside and out, challenging every defender to step, while Mobley showed off his fundamental, nearly unstoppable midrange game. Williams even made a devastating return in the final quarter, bombing three after three to apply pressure to Redemption’s defense.
It wasn’t enough. Garcia continued to beast in the paint, proving to be the most dominant player under the basket, Gibson stormed to the cup over and over, and Marc Wilson aka “Starscream” sealed the deal with long bomb that gave Redemption an insurmountable lead right before the watchful eyes of Kobe Bryant and three-time Drew League MVP Frank Session.
“Give Nation Wide Souljas credit,” Keion praised his former mentor’s squad after the game. “They’re one hell of a team, coached by one hell of a coach. It was dogfight, which Championship games are supposed to be.”
In the end, Keion and Redemption turned out to be toughest dogs in the yard, securing Kindred’s first-ever championship and a place in Drew League legend.