|Teams come and teams go, but teams don’t fully arrive until they go through growing pains first and then earn their stripes through battle-tested times, putting it all on the line in their pursuit of the finish line.|
Okay, that was some half cheese, but half true stuff that just came at ya. And it’s no cheesier or truer for the NYC Gritty Committee who has that look of a team finally coming to fruition.
Jiwon Kim founded this franchise a few season ago and though it’s been mostly bumps and bruises, this season, after stabilizing their roster with a couple of moves, it’s been some smooth sailing.
First came a 7-2 record and an overall 2-seed for the playoffs. Now, tonight, comes a semifinal match-up against A Ball 2. If you’d asked this team before this season started whether they thought they’d even get this far, they would have – to a man – probably said hell yes, but inside had some severe doubts.
Run vs. Lee: A pivotal match-up.
After big Elbert Kwak took himself out to Hawaii last month, things looked even bleaker for the boys, but in a coming of age display of basketball last night, the Gritty said aloha to EK’s memories with a two-game sweep of Fast Forward Boogie and then #1-seeded Thelonius Dunk in a doubleheader evening.
Tonight’s semi will be Gritty’s 5th game in 2 weeks, but the way they’re running, the more, the better. They’ve already beaten AB2 in the regular season (albeit by 2) and so the confidence is fully there now that they can get to the Finals against Team Biny, who awaits.
What is it about this team that has helped them seemingly arrive overnight? (Or, over the course of this season?)
First, the continued growth of Victor Chia. Chia is already on All-DL lists, but this season he grew upon his last season and now that EK is gone, all work down low falls on his broad shoulders and he’s shown he’s not afraid to take it. In last night’s 2 games, he had a combined 33 points and 26 rebounds – double doubles in both games which tied him for, interestingly, EK for 1st in the AAA-Premiere.
Next, the addition of point guard Jason Chin. The veteran USAB Warrior has been instrumental in stabilizing Gritty’s team. Prior to his arrival, Gritty seemed like a chicken running around with its head cut off. That’s probably cause they were a chicken running around with its head cut off (they had no true point guard.) JC not only scores (12.3 ppg), but he hands out dimes (3.3 apg), and is legit on D (he had 9 steals in the 2 games Wednesday.)
Finally, they’ve been throwing K’s. No, not like the AL has at the NL over the last 13 years in baseball, but K’s all the same.
Jae Kang Kim, Jiwon Kim, Kyu Lee, Kwon Lim. K-K-K-K-K, and that’s not even counting Kwak, who’s probably bopping around in Kona or Kuaui right about now.
In every game this season, and the playoffs have been no different, one or two K’s has stepped it up. Against T-Dunk, Kwon had a 12 point, 12 rebound double double. Against Sands of Time in their playoff opener, Kyu had 14 pts, 8 rbs, 3 assts, 5 stls, and 0 turnovers.
Generally speaking, you throw K’s at a team, you’re gonna get them out.
Gritty has been playing well on both sides of the ball and that should continue against an A Ball 2 team whose 2 may as well be dedicated to Jeff Moy and Nihar Jhaveri who do the bulk of scoring for this team. Moy is 3rd in the division at 17.4 ppg and has the greenlight from anywhere on the floor. NJ has shown more aggressiveness this season and sprung for 11.2 ppg including 22 in the team’s 69-52 win over T-Dunk.
Drew Chen, Brent Morita, and Jack Run can and will score in bunches and aren’t afraid to push the tempo while Jae Ha Hwang, Peter Hwang (no relation), and Chris Kim remind some of the 3-headed big man monster on the Chicago Bulls of the 90’s – Cartwright, Wennington, and Longley. These guys just do whatever they need to and get out of the way of MJ (in this case, NJ) on offense.
This game ought to go down to the wire. Gritty seems to be wanting it more right about now, particularly as AB2 has lost 5 out of their last 8. No doubt Gritty has grown. Thursday night, we find out how much.
When Team Biny’s sensational senior guard Derik Kumagai was lost to graduation and thus the West Coast last month, conventional thinking was that as DK left the building, so too did Biny’s hopes of doing any damage come playoff time.
Look who’s laughing now.
After a two, count ‘em, two, similiarly stellar performances last Thursday night – on the full length court no less at Poly – Biny has bounced into their very first Finals ever and captain Rich Cheng, who used to not be able to get 4 guys and a sheep to show up to his team's games, has a smile wider than the straight between Taiwan and China.
Near identical wins over NYC Gritty Committee and A Ball 2 – by scores of 63-47 and 64-51 – proved that with no DK, all is still OK in Biny land.
In both games, the team started out slowly in the 1st, had huge 2nd quarters and finished with flourishes in the 4th.
They were down 11-7 against the Gritty and 20-8 to AB2 after the 1st quarters, but then collectively outscored both those teams 45-22 in the two 2nd periods to take control of the games come halftime.
You’d think that Eden Chuang was the savior who made the team forget DK, but alas, as is his signature move, he missed one of the games, leaving his mates to fend for themselves.
Chris Di and Jeff Fang made names for themselves – cause players always make names for themselves in the playoffs – with 34 points & 17 rebounds and 40 points & 5 assists respectively across both games.
When we say they made names for themselves, we really mean it.
Di Fang literally translates into "a place" in Chinese. Their Di Fang was the basketball court as they owned it. And Fang and Di individually translates into “house" and "ground” in Chinese and on this night, it was entirely appropriate as Fang housed his opponents with 40 points and Di was the team's foundation playing brilliantly on offense as well as on D. If these two keep on trucking on being Chinese, it’ll be Eden Ch-who?
The team needs him like the Rockets’ did Yao against the Lakers, but should EC pull more stunts and not show up, Biny has proved that with Di Fang finding their place, they may be making Rich Cheng a happy man regardless come the Finals.
Team Biny, in the Finals. Who woulda thunk?
Who they face is a mess waiting to sort itself out still as 4 teams remain alive in the drive for the top.
Fast-Forward Boogie and the Gritty have the longest ways to go as either team has to win 5 games in order to claim the chip from where they sit. The season’s #1 seed, Thelonius Dunk, is proving it may just have been too good to be true after the shellacking they suffered at the hands of A Ball 2, speaking of which, AB2 must win 3 still to take the crown in their inaugural season. Think having Mike Owh around might help them? The man, after all, does have championship experience on this level before, but after making a surprising comeback, since the middle of the season, he remains missing. His departure conveniently coincided with AB2’s nosedive this season. It’s been a tough second half of the season for them and although they got 42 and 37 points in 2 games on the same evening from Jeff Moy and Nihar Jhaveri respectively on Thursday, their tank looks empty.
Biny is in complete and utter control. To say that of anything Cheng and Chuang are related to, if you know them well, is unbelievably scary.