Another Berkeley Late Night Championship brought to you by East Bay United this past Friday, November 21st. This season stood out for a new reason: our success brought out some new competitors, new teams that came into the league with the express purpose of knocking us off. D Block came in flush with stone cold shooters. People's Park added a few ringers in the championship game hoping to cash in. In the end, they both put up good fights, as did Bucky's Blue Devils, but to no avail. EB United took the gold for the fourth straight season. Final score against People's Park in the finale: 68-48.
Each season we refresh with new players and a slightly new look. This season Tim Wilder and Ty Witherspoon joined the squad, and June Jackson and D-Money rejoined us. Both Tim and Ty bolstered our defense, Tim as a ball-pressure guard and Ty as a shot blocker and rebounder down low. D-Money brought a new level of defensive intensity, as well. In general, our defense sparked the offense. Teams that put up 80 0r 90 points against lesser competition couldn't break 50 against EB United.
In the last three games, everyone got very serious about their defense. Erv, Paul, Ty and June started really cleaning up the boards. Anton pushed everyone to play harder, stronger and smarter. The results were many fewer turnovers on our end and many more forced errors by the opposition. After struggling with some anger management issues in the previous two games, Dorvez Barnett had his best game of the season in the finale. He helped shut down People's Park's marquee player A.D. McCollough, and on offense, he weaved his way through multiple screens to hit numerous treys. Hats off to Vez who did a serious impersonation of Reggie Miller in the championship game.
Tim Wilder just brought his A game every night. Solid defense, good ball handling, good decision-making, great toughness inside, what's not to like? Erv made sure that no one even thought about trying to out-muscle us inside. He hit key freethrows, put up big blocks coming from the weak side, hit his inside shots and was a calm and confident presence in the team huddles. Ty gave us some spectacular dunks and blocks, along with a lock-down defense that gave the opposing forwards fits. People's Park forward, Antoine Hodges, had to back up to 30 feet to shoot against Ty in the finale and ended the game way below his average.
June became a dominant inside offensive player in the second half of the season. Isolation plays to June were almost automatic. Often it was June who put the game away for us in the second half.
Like Kobe in the Olympics, D-Money showed us another side of his game this season. With the pressure off him to produce big numbers on offense, he became a defensive stopper, a frustrater of the opposition. And he got stronger as the season progressed. He did whatever we asked of him, and he did it well.
Paul gave us his usual very solid performance with some noteworthy highlights. In the championship game, he just shut down the People's Park big man, Jimmie. Then he pulled the People's Park defense apart with several threes from the top of the key and a three-point play in the middle that took the wind out of any attempt to make a run at the end of the game. He and Dorvez teamed up to make a key steal off the opposing point guard, A.D. McCollough. He also got better as the season progressed.
Teion Connor gave us his usual star performance for the games he was able to make, but the team found new ways to score in the games where we were missing Teion. June stepped up. Vez stepped up. D-Money and Paul stepped up. Finally, Anton put to rest any question of who the best point guard in the league is. Straight up against A.D., who we all love and respect, Anton just outplayed him in every way. Eye pokes and cramps aside, Anton took care of business. Game, set, match.
Thanks to everyone for a great season. It was a pleasure to play a small part in the success of East Bay United. Thanks to Juanita for the great video work and for calming Vez down. We may need to look for new worlds to conquer next year. As Flaherty says "stay up." And remember, there is no referee that can stop us, only we can get in the way of our own success.