California Shockwaves Win All-IndoPak Final
California Shockwaves (L-R): Ripp Singh, Amir Patel, Kaushik Vinjamur, Ketan Patel, Vivek Vinjamur, (Commish), Manav Ahoja, and Himanshu Singh;
MVP Ali Azizikia of the Maryland Five Pillars.
Commish's Interview with S. "Audacity" Smith
Final Tournament Rankings
Individual Awards + All-Tourney Teams
This Tournament's Registration/Info Page
Next Vegas National Tourney (8/20-21, 2005)
Previous Vegas National Tourney (9/4-5, 2004)
April 3, 2005
LAS VEGAS, NV -- The California Shockwaves and Maryland Five Pillars both survived cut-throat pools and brackets to feature a championship of two of the dominant IndoPak teams in the country in Dream League's first-ever Asian Elite Tournament that collided the Japanese, Filipino, and IndoPak community strongholds of Asian basketball. The Shocks jumped out to a 16-9 first quarter lead as the Five Pillars' Irfan Jamil came out cold, missing on 4 attempts, 3 of them from beyond the arc.
But in the 2nd quarter, the Pillars battled back. The Pillars' Manish Pabla came off the bench and rejuvenated his squad with 4 of his 6 timely, clutch rebounds. With the score 26-21 in favor of the Shocks, Himanshu Singh and Vivek Vinjamur took themselves out of the game. Perhaps it was fatigue from the tournament's marathon format, but the half ended with the score tied, 27-27, and Singh and Vinjamur's 33 combined ppg on the sidelines. This was definitely going to be a struggle, as both teams knew each other well and it was the 3rd game of the day for the Shocks, the 4th for the Pillars.
The road to the championship was a grueling one for both teams, a sign of how deep the field was, despite the fact that the Bay Area HEADS and Houston OCP had dropped out only days before the ground-breaking tournament was set to begin.
One team that filled in was Island Heat, comprised of UNLV athletes. Led by brothers Cody and Brad Angerman and pogo stick Aaron Spencer, Island Heat started out by getting edged 66-65 against the Minneapolis Lakers. After that, the Heat gave the Shocks a run for their money, succumbing 75-73 in pool play. Spencer had a dunk off a rebound with under a minute to go that would have tied it, but one of the most spectacular plays in Dream League history was waved off as an over-the-back call by the semi-inexperienced local Vegas ref, who has yet to learn that Dream League doesn't play by high school rules. The crowd chanted the ESPN highlight jingle to no avail. The Heat then managed to stave off San Diego APIBA in the final pool play game, but without the Angerman brothers, were soundly eliminated by the Pillars in the single-elimination playoff brackets.
Another team that suffered similar heartbreak losses were the Dream League All-Stars, which lost by one point each to the Minneapolis Lakers in pool play and to San Diego APIBA in the playoff brackets. However, this was a team missing three regular starters from their Sacramento and Vegas Japanese/Chinese tournament champion squads. Center Brian Liang and point-forward Jameel Uddeen were the only starters left to carry the team, but with usual MVP Karl Gusner playing for the East Bay Cardinals, the Dream League All-Stars had no outside attack. It was not meant to be this time around.
The East Bay Cardinals were pretty diluted as well. Outside of Gusner, the Cards' backcourt relied on the young Brad Nakano, who sometimes gets stuck in either 5th or 1st gear and still needs more experience in high- intensity tournament play. Gusner, who has averaged about 20 ppg while grabbing two MVP trophies in the Vegas Japanese/Chinese tournament, only mustered up 11 ppg here. The Cardinals haven't been the same since Johnson Bui took some time off after their 2004 Summer championship in Dream League's highest division back in the Bay Area. Without Bui, the Cardinals didn't have the glue to make the frontcourt attack of Vannack Phann, Huy Tran, and Andrew Lee less predictable. Alas, the Cards were the only team to beat the Shockwaves in the entire tournament, but they ran out of steam as the Shocks exacted revenge in the playoff brackets, shutting the Cards down to just 2 points in the 3rd quarter en route to a 30-to-9 second half drubbing.
The Five Pillars actually lost 3 games in the entire tournament; one of them was to San Diego APIBA. Roger Galang was a consistent clutch shooter. The 2-guard averaged 17 points and tore the hearts out of the Dream League All-Stars with critical three-point baskets. Jeff Espiritu was also a huge factor, with his wiry 6'4" frame grabbing rebounds and hitting shots over bodies, reminding Bay Area people of the Associates' (aka Setai Cossa) Dennis Yuen. Cesar Gumapas provided the big body down low. APIBA eventually was eliminated by the Shocks by just 4 points as Galang ran out of gas, gunning for just 2-for-9. The team only had six players available for the tournament -- not an ideal situation considering the level of competition involved.
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER|
Ali Azizikia, Maryland Five Pillars
James McRoberts, Minneapolis Lakers
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Hank Huang, Minneapolis Lakers
MOST INSPIRATIONAL PLAYER
Manish Pabla, Maryland Five Pillars
ALL-TOURNAMENT FIRST TEAM
G - Ali Azizikia, Maryland Five Pillars
G - Roger Galang, San Diego APIBA
G - James McRoberts, Minneapolis Lakers
F - Himanshu Singh, California Shockwaves
F - Hank Huang, Minneapolis Lakers
ALL-TOURNAMENT SECOND TEAM
G - Aaron Spencer, Island Heat
G - Cody Angerman, Island Heat
F - Vivek Vinjamur, California Shockwaves
F - TJ Valera, Vegas ABL Select
F - Alberto Farias, Vegas ABL Select
Another gunner, the Minneapolis Lakers' James McRoberts, took the tournament's 3-Point Champion trophy with his incredible percentages from downtown (there was not enough time to run a 3-point shootout). McRoberts finished with an astounding 47.4% shooting from 19'9" or further as the Lakers made a nice run, but were ultimately vanquished by the Five Pillars. Power forward Hank Huang was the usual monster, solidifying the paint all tournament long for the undersized Lakers. Huang went down fighting against the Pillars with a 25-point, 10-rebound performance. Slasher Huy Nguyen wasn't as much of a factor as he was in the 2004 Summer tournament.
Vegas ABL Select was the other team that defeated the Five Pillars. With a relatively easy pool after waxing the depleted Dream League All-Stars and spanking the fill-in Jumpmen, Vegas ABL edged the Pillars 60-57 with 2004 Summer Vegas tournament MVP TJ Valera leading the way. With the Pillars' survival win over the Lakers in the first round of a tiered playoff bracket, Vegas ABL had to face the Pillars again and this time, fell victim by the exact same score of 60-57. In this Final Four matchup, the Pillars' hit their first five shots and Azizikia and center Khalid Hanif had an inside-outside combination that forged a 39-28 halftime cushion. By the start of the 4th quarter, Vegas ABL was down by 14 points and mounted a furious rally as the Pillars didn't score their first field goal of the 4th until 6:22 remaining. Forward Alberto Farias and guard Mike Miranda hit some tough shots, but overall were cold. Valera was nowhere to be seen except for a late three-pointer that wasn't enough as the Pillars sealed the win on the free throw line. Shockingly, Valera ended up with only 5 field goal attempts. The 2004 Summer Vegas Tournament champs would not repeat. Also, Vegas ABL Select did not have the services of two-time Vegas ABL MVP Michael Carboni.
So the nine-team field had dwindled down to the two IndoPak stalwarts deadlocked at halftime in a low-scoring 27-27 affair. The Shocks and Pillars combined for only 5 turnovers up until that point and it felt like the intensity could get no tighter. The Shocks started the 3rd quarter 0-for-5 for the first 3 minutes, but Ali Azizikia, Jamil, and Shiraz Hussain combined to go just 1-for-9 from downtown in that quarter -- the Shocks ended the quarter up 41-38. Near the stretch, the Shocks' Ripp Singh hit a couple of timely threes and the Shocks came out of their last timeout confident, shouting, "Gold ball!" instead of the usual "Defense!", in reference to the championship trophy waiting on the scorer's table for a new owner. When the final buzzer sounded, it was 57-52 with the Shocks as champions.
Azizikia was named tournament MVP. Battling through cramps toward the latter part of each day, the former Salisbury State University player seemed to have a knack for delivering timely three-pointers and incredible dimes, a small fraction of which were not converted by teammates under the basket. His MVP honors were more a statement of gutsiness and showmanship on a team that nearly pulled off what would have been a 4-0 run on Day Two in one of the most competitive fields ever assembled. At 15.1 ppg, Azizikia scored the most points in the tournament despite missing the majority of the third game on Day One with leg cramps.
Azizikia's teammate Manish Pabla was named Most Inspirational Player. Just come watch any Five Pillars game in which he is, with the utmost psychotic intensity, screaming at the top of his lungs in support of his teammates from the bench and you'll see why the choice was easy.
The Minneapolis Lakers swept the other pair of top individual awards, with power forward Hank "Karl Malone" Huang earning the Top Defensive Player award and the aforementioned McRoberts scorching the nets from downtown. Huang finished at the top of the leader boards in rebounding and by a wide margin in blocked shots. He also finished 2nd in scoring even though his award was for defense. McRoberts led the tournament in scoring at 18.0 ppg and shot a sickening 47.4% from beyond the arc, while taking twice as many as two of the six players and three to five times as many as the rest that finished ahead of him on the 3FG% leaderboard (which has a low 6 3FG attempt minimum).
To round out the All-Tournament Selections, Himanshu Singh directed traffic for the Shocks just like Scottie Pippen did for the Bulls in his prime. Often times, Singh had to double as the "MJ" on his team as well, leading the championship team in scoring. He probably could have won the MVP award as well. Teammate Vivek Vinjamur got the nod on the All-Tourney Second Team. The only other player not already mentioned in depth is Vegas ABL Select's Farias, who made it on the Second Team despite the occasional technical foul for mouthing off. Farias was a key to his team's success, but at times he also cost them. His selection on the All-Tourney Second Team is a reflection of the impact he has on the game and his team's chances. Unfortunately, no one on the Dream League All-Stars or East Bay Cardinals stood out above the crowd and made the All-Tournament teams.