In the words of the Voice of the Drew, George Preciado, there are no upsets in the Playoffs. With two rounds down and two rounds to go—that’s just one weekend left in the 2019 Drew League season, folks—upsets by George’s definition were few and far between, but there were still plenty of surprises last weekend as the 16 best teams in the league got to show what they were made of.
After Saturday, only eight teams remained and by Sunday, that number was further reduced to four as some teams turned up their intensity in the “real” season and some withered under the pressure.
In round one, we saw a wealth of blowouts as top seeds ran through the competition, with one or two close competitions sprinkled in to add drama. The exception: Young Citi, who were narrowly defeated by just one possession by the lower seeded Panthers in the first game on Saturday.
While I-Can All-Stars and Hometown Favorites both earned their eighth seed spots, neither team could muster the discipline to overturn their respective opponents on a sleepy Friday night—although I-Can did keep things interesting by taking a 14-point lead into halftime against the reigning champs, Redemption. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hold onto it, and Redemption easily advanced alongside All In, the other No. 1 seed.
MHP put up the highest scoring total of the weekend against Baxter’s Legacy, whose resurgent season finally came to an end thanks to the bigger, faster MHP. Public Enemy dispatched Tuff Crowd after TC’s mercurial point guard Brandon Jennings got himself ejected from the game, possibly still smarting about Tuff Crowd’s controversial prior loss to Public Enemy during the regular season. A vintage Frank Session performance (25 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) helped close the deal. Blazers took advantage of some sloppy Reapers play and LaMelo Ball led No Shnacks over the smaller Nationwide Blue Devils to end the day.
Sunday, the matchups got much closer. First, All In stayed within striking distance of MHP all game but couldn’t put the brakes on Askia Booker’s scoring outburst (35 points) or MHP’s all-around playmaking and scoring. For the first time in a long time in their Playoff history, MHP relied on team ball more than individual talent and the newfound approach paid huge dividends down the stretch.
Next, Public Enemy and Panthers put on an absolute thriller, going to overtime as their similar play styles crashed into each other like the clash of the titans. In the end, it was Session’s defensive drive that solidified PE’s victory, as he swatted the last-second shot attempt that would have sent the game to double OT on the blow-by.
Blazers and No Shnacks also went to overtime after Ball nailed three three-pointers in a row and an easy layup on a Blazers turnover. Blazers forward Malcolm Thomas (29 points, 21 rebounds) was the difference maker, as No Shnacks lacked the frontcourt size to match up well.
Thomas’ veteran savvy is just as difficult to match as his size, giving Blazers the slim advantage they needed to overcome. Finally, Redemption was unseated as the favorite to win it all as Problems proved to be the dominant force they hinted they were all season. The Evil Empire looked ascendant once again as Garrett Nevels delivered an All-Star performance (24 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) that may help him steal some of that MVP limelight next season.
(1) Redemption 75, (8) I-Can All-Stars 59
Player of the Game: Sek Henry (29 PTS, 7 REB)
(1) All In 85, (8) Hometown Favorites 54
Player of the Game: Stephaun Branch (19 PTS)
(2) Young Citi 62, (7) Panthers 64
Player of the Game: Selom Mawugbe (13 PTS, 11 REB, 6 BLK)
(4) MHP 103, (5) Baxter’s Legacy 83
Player of the Game: Josh Christopher (40 PTS, 10 REB)
(3) Public Enemy 93, (6) Tuff Crowd 76
Player of the Game: Franklin Session (25 PTS, 8 REB, 5 AST)
(2) CitiTeam Blazers 91, (7) Reapers Black Ops 73
Player of the Game: Casper Ware (24 PTS)
(3) No Shnacks 92, (6) Nationwide Blue Devils 82
Player of the Game: LaMelo Ball (24 PTS, 8 AST)
(4) Problems 88, (5) CABC So. Cal 76
Player of the Game: Garrett Nevels (23 PTS)
(4) MHP 90, (1) All In 82
Player of the Game: Askia Booker (35 PTS, 8 REB, 5 AST)
(3) Public Enemy 93, (7) Panthers 70
Player of the Game: Franklin Session (15 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST, 1 BLK)
(2) CitiTeam Blazers 102, (3) No Shnacks
Player of the Game: Malcolm Thomas (29 PTS, 21 REB)
(4) Problems 100, (1) Redemption 94
Player of the Game: Garrett Nevels (23 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST)