Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Championship To Remember and Cherish

Monday night, my team (Black - #1 seed) took on the Green team (#3 seed) in the championship game of our Summer Basketball League.  My team was undefeated though hadn't played well the past few weeks and barely beat Grey (#4 seed) 59-52 last week to make the championship game.  On the other hand, Green was a mix of young and old guys and they had upset the Gold team (#2 seed) to make the championship.

There was no consolation game prior so I did not expect too many fans and potentially a low key championship game.  However, the Green team's young guys brought a bevy of friends and family along.    In addition, several of Green's players who had missed a few weeks due to other things, decided to return.  Instead of focusing on just a couple of guys on the Green team, my team had to contend with two others (a older big guy and a younger guard).  I don't know how my teammates were feeling prior to the game.  I was pretty relaxed and actually liked having the crowd there.  That usually makes me focus and play better.

Safe to say the championship game was NOT low key and both teams played at a very high level.  Both teams had opportunities to win but at the end my team played off a thrilling 73-72 OVERTIME win over the Green team.   The win finished off an undefeated (10-0) season.  For me personally, I tallied a game high 24 points (12-17 FT's) to lead my team.   My teammate Paul added 19 while another teammate Duane scored 15.

I could write a dozen pages on all the happenings during the game but I won't do that.   I'll just say that our team had plenty of miscues late in the game, all of which could have lost the game for us.  Yet we hung together, stayed mentally tough and withstood Green's challenge to win.

I do give credit to Green though.  They were incredibly tough and both teams deserved to win.  It was a shame that someone had to lose.  There was some obvious disappointment from some of the young kids but they will have plenty of years ahead of them still.

For me, I absolutely loved our team.  It's a rare thing to get a team of guys that all get along but we did.   Even though we finished undefeated, we had our ups and downs but the chemistry helped us stick together.  

Including Monday's game, this was my 12th championship game that I have played in.  Monday's game ranks as the best and most memorable.   I will remember this game due to the drama, the overtime and all the miscues we had to overcome.  Plus, my 24 points was the most I've ever scored in a championship game.   All of my teammates agreed that Monday's game will be something they will remember for years to come.

Wrapping up, I am thankful for being given the Most Inspirational Player award for my team.  Winning the championship was a GREAT bonus.  Thanks to the league coordinators, my teammates and the other teams were a terrific summer.  I hope to see a lot of the folks again soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Most Inspirational Player / Inspiring Others

Last night, my Monday night summer basketball league kicked off it's playoffs with an exciting evening of action.  The Green team (3rd seed) led most of the game before a furious rally by Orange (2nd seed) in the 4th quarter to take a 1 point lead.  Alas, Orange could not hang on as Green eventually won by 4 points.   Playing the second game, My team (Black - 1st seed) led pretty much the whole way but Grey (4th seed) battled hard.  My team barely pulled away for a 7 point win to join Green in next's week championship game.

In between the two games, the league passed out some awards.  The awards were for the Most Inspiration Player for each of the five teams that participated during the summer.   In a bit of a surprise, I was given the award for my team.  

I've had some personal things I've been dealing with for a few months now.  I've had my good days and some not so good days.   Basketball was a good get away, whether I was playing on my Monday / Tuesday night leagues (during the summer) for my Saturday pick up games with some friends.

However, getting the award this particular summer was special.   I needed a "pick me up" and the award made me feel good.  It's not that I needed something external to make me feel better.  In fact, the trophy I got isn't a big deal.   It was the fact that the trophy made me reflect and clarified some things I need to improve on for the future.

While I am generally cool headed on the court and don't take things personally when someone makes a mistake, I am MUCH harder on myself both on the court and in personal things.   I realized I need to take a step back in some of my personal things and be more understanding when things don't go right.

The other thing I realized that I am very blessed in many ways though I haven't been feeling that way a lot lately.   I realized that I need to use some of my gifts to (no pun intended) INSPIRE others.

The reason I thought I needed to inspire others is that this was NOT my first Most Inspirational Player award.   I've gotten a few awards over the years and I detected there may be a trend.  Life may be telling me that I need be more of a good example to others ON and OFF the court.

Friday, August 05, 2011

It's a Wrap: Looking back at my 20th season of summer basketball

As I mentioned early in June, I was playing in my 20th season for one of my summer basketball leagues.  That particular team had a very GOOD season.  Despite some close calls (including two OT games), the team played well and finished undefeated (7-0) in the regular season.

In our particular division, there are 16 teams divided into two brackets (let's call them Bracket A and Bracket B).  The top two teams from each bracket would make the playoffs.   My team was in Bracket A and so we would play the #2 team from Bracket B in the playoffs.   However, the #2 team from Bracket B was probably better than the majority of the teams we played in the regular season and we lost 56-45.   While the score didn't look that great, it was due to free throws at the end.  We were well within striking distance throughout but missed shots hurt us quite a bit.

My team was obviously disappointed as we had a chance to win the game.  Yet, as I look back, I hope the young guys are proud of how they hung in there throughout the season.   The team won games in all sorts of ways this season.  We played one game without our star, fell behind by 10, but managed to win in overtime.  We played one game with six players (meaning I played A LOT) and won by double digits.  Plus these guys are still improving and with more experience, they will be a lot better next season.

For myself, I look at things in two ways.  As a coach, I think I did alright.  I mainly ran subs and focused on defensive strategy rather than offensive.  I've never been much of an offensive coach so I was content to let the guys just play.  Of course, if there were things I saw that could be improved, I mentioned them. If I wasn't playing, I probably would have been in a better position to coach.

As a player, I didn't do too well.  I admittedly had some personal things I was working through and that affected me a bit during the games.  But the fact is I was an old guy playing in a young player's league.  The teams were quick and fast and I was a little outmatched.  I hit a few shots here and there, got some rebounds and tried to fill in where I could.   But for the most part, I was a bit player letting the young guys do their thing.

For me personally, while it would have a nice present to celebrate my 20th season in the league to make the championship (and even win it), I was quite happy to just have an undefeated regular season.   Yes, we did end up losing our playoff game, but a 7-1 record is still pretty darn good.

To illustrate how good the record was, I have played 20 years in the league.  In those 20 seasons, my teams have made the playoffs 9 times.  Out of those 9 times, I have been in the championship game 4 times (winning two / losing two).   My two championship teams were 10-0 and 8-1 overall.  All the rest of the teams had 3 or more losses.  Essentially, short of winning the championship, my 2011 team finished with the 3rd best record out of the 20 seasons I have been playing.

All in all, I am proud of my team and was happy I got a chance to play with a different set of guys.  I think the young guys have a bright future and my hope is they stick around and grow together.  As for my future, nothing is set in stone.  I'll still be playing somewhere and if need be, I could play again next summer in 2012.