Cruisers Capture Crown Once Again
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Well – it’s a good thing some of you were paying attention!
Not long after posting the NL preview to the Spartans-Cruisers match-up on Thursday, folks started chiming in with how I was mistaken with my facts.
A team had made the improbable probable by coming back from a game down to a double-e holding team in the past.
I probably should have pointed out that I meant to only speak of the NL division (so, yes AL A Ball you did that before against 6 Feet Under, I remembered that).
What I didn’t remember – what I overlooked – why I need an editor before I publish crap, is that in the summer of 2005, mighty Da Bien had actually come from down a game and swept the double-e holding Oh Holla! in back to backs to take home the crown.
How could I forget? After all, I was very close to that Oh Holla! team, a season in which I followed them around everywhere.
Well, I’ll tell you how.
Who could remember, other than someone who played for the team, that Da Bien actually lost in the opening round of that season’s playoffs to an upstart La Nueva team led by Joe Yen?
From that point on, Da Bien had to earn their way back to the top, and they not only did it, they did it with flying colors – blowing everyone out along the way back up till they tossed aside Oh Holla! in two.
Even though Da Bien had the disadvantage, you just had this sense that they would do it.
They did it again.
That’s never been the case as much with all the other teams who’ve needed to win two to win it all.
Well, not only do I have egg on my face for having been one short on my facts, but now we can add one more to that total thanks to the newly minted RL Cruisers doing the possibly impossible on Thursday night again.
With wins of 63-45 and then 65-59, the Cruisers recaptured the crown by outplaying the Spartans over 8 quarters of grueling basketball that really, truly had the sense of a heavweight championship bout.
That makes it 3 chips for the Cruisers in 4 seasons of DL play – not a bad batting average.
After taking last season off due to the tragic passing of their coach Rob Lee, there were questions about the Cruisers at the out start of this season as they seemed to still be reeling, having taken some time off, and then gotten off to an 0-2 start – unheard of in Cruiserland.
Then after losing to the Spartans in a semifinal two weeks ago, it really seemed that the mighty Cruisers maybe had come down a bit overall despite rebounding from the 0-2 start and 2-3 record to finish 6-3 by the regular season’s end.
That they had to come into Thursday night winning twice over the sleek Spartans seemed simply out of the question. The Spartans had been on their own mission all season to prove they ruled this roost.
Stan's amped: 11 assists in the 2 games.
I’ve used the boxing analogy way too many times in my career, but if there were ever a more appropriate match-up to use it for, this championship series was it.
Maybe it’s because while I was in LA recently, I watched Rocky III twice in a row during a Rocky telethon (man, Mister T. is a terrible actor, but he’s damn scary), but as the bout between the Cruisers and Spartans unraveled over the course of the extended evening, the gym started to smell like an old boxing ring (or was that just Jerry Tanaka’s feet)? Blows were traded. Legs dragged. I’d look up and see George Chan hunched over while waiting for someone to shoot a free throw. Tony Hu (who was on that Da Bien team who came back to beat Oh Holla!) at times was literally gasping for air on the bench. Eddie Wang would return to his corner kicking and throwing things so worked into a lather was he over the fight. The Spartans’ ringmen (their bench) shouted instruction while their fanbase (about 10 women) screamed louder than women at a JT concert. The Cruisers’ new/old coach, who made his first appearance of the season (an interesting time to make it), worked the officials vehemently over body blows and moving feet much like a boxing coach would for low blows and head butts.
When Leon Chu left the court in Game 2 because he was bleeding, Eye of the Tiger started to play in my head.
That the Cruisers pulled it off – that they came from down a game to pull it off – only adds to their lore and to the great Finals achievements that we’ve been privy to here over the years.
Granted, the Cruisers cruised in Game 1, outscoring the Spartans in every quarter to win going away. But even though they did, you never got the sense that the Spartans felt defeated or scared that they would lose it overall.
As Mark Lee conceded the game in the 4th quarter of Game 1, saying, “Save energy, yo,” he seemed to merely be saying, “Let’s bring on quarter 5, yo!”
22-22 FTs. I smell an MVP.
The Spartans, defeated soundly in Game 1, simply grinned widely and welcomed more of what the Cruisers offered. As if they were one boxer taking the other boxer’s best shot and saying, “That all you got?”
With a 13-2 start to Game 2, the Spartans threatened to end this championship in the 5th quarter, but the Cruisers – and what made this match-up so classic, countered with a left, right, jab, one-two combo that ended with Leon Chu punching home a triple at the quarter buzzer to close the Cruisers within 16-13 – a huge swing for if they hadn’t ended the 1st with an 8-0 run, the Spartans might have been smelling blood for the knockout already.
Instead, by bringing the Spartans back down to Earth, the game settled into a back-and-forth affair with each side getting their punches in consistently.
If there were ever a time to criticize someone for being too unselfish, it would be now and it would be with James Choi who lit up the Cruisers in the 6th quarter (or is it eighths if they play 8 frames?) for 10 points, not missing a single shot.
The Cruisers kept it close, but why oh why did JC suddenly get gun-shy in the 7th?
He took a single shot, and while the game entered into the last period with the Spartans up 2, one got the feeling that had JC let loose, they’d have been sitting prettier.
They left the door open however, and that’s all a former proud champion needs to muster up the strength to break on through.
Chan popped off inside and CB Liu off various curls and the Cruisers pulled away with 1:41 left after a Choi 3 pulled the Spartans within 1.
As an exhausted Hu (who went 22 of 22 from the line on the evening overall for 36 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 steals) leaned over to Chan towards the end of the game and whispered something in Cantonese, it capped the job that these two behemoths had done. They’d run the jack rabbit quick Spartans into the ground – something the Spartans had hoped to do to them.
What did Hu say exactly?
We’ll never know.
But it wouldn’t be surprising if it translated into something like, “We did it, G. We did it for Rob.”
2007 Summer/Fall NL Champions: RL Cruisers.
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