SPARTANS SIMPLY PERFECT: FINISH 13-0 SEASON
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Yoshi Kagitomi has been called many things before in the DL.
Pogo, sick, that guy who played pro in Japan, ageless, an awesome father, Y2K, unstoppable, the serious stretcher (he usually performs calisthenics for about an hour before a game to get himself going), smiley (he’s always smiling), the list is endless.
After 5 calendar years, a gaggle of seasons, and countless games played, you can finally add to that list: champion.
Some rookies get lucky, some journeymen who don’t contribute much are on the right team at the right time, and some of the greats are just always surrounded by the right cast. Whatever it is, garnering championships comes to some easily, and to others, it remains rather elusive. For these others, like Y2K – and the Spartans for that matter – it’s destined that they must pay their dues before claiming it. And for those, there is no question that it’s that much sweeter.
On Monday night, A Ball aced their game and certainly deserved to win Game 1 of the DL NL Finals, but in the end, it was destiny who named the Spartans champs as they overcame the scorching hot cousin combo of Usama Nausrudeen and Ray Mohammed and prevailed 70-66 at the finish line, setting off the celebration of all celebrations we’ve ever seen DL champions have. Usually teams just quietly line up to shake hands with their opponent as if it were another regular season game (lame), but the Spartans ran around the court, dogpiled one another, and you could literally feel their joy. We believe Kagitomi actually shed a tear too. After their victory parade down Jay Street (Y2K’s son was throwing confetti), the team took their celebration deep into the night, stopping off at Gama for spirits and soon dubu.
The players are hung over this morning and punch drunk with happiness, but this alright with them after the many seasons paying their dues.
Y2K: At last.
The Spartans have long been one of the most formidable teams in the DL, but this was the season when finally everything came together. With the addition of players like Tony Hu, Steve Hong, and Leighton Kuet, they capped the first and only completely undefeated season in DLNL history finishing a pristine 13-0.
For much of Monday night, it looked like the Spartans’ perfect mark would have a blemish and this series would be forced to go to a Game 2. As Jeff Moy tapped in a shot to beat the 1st quarter buzzer (and then literally left the gym for Peru), as James Park held his own inside with the Spartan bigs, as A Ball withstood a Spartan 2nd quarter run to stay ahead at the half, and as the cousin combo kept hitting deep 3’s in the 2nd half, A Ball held a 9 point lead as late as the last minute of the 3rd.
But then, in the 4th, as the bartender at Gama named Myong Choi guessed, the Spartans depth took over.
No matter how well an opponent starts off, one always gets the sense that the Spartans will make a comeback to take over a game. This one was no different, but throughout, A Ball really made the Spartans sweat it out.
A Ball led for 32 minutes of the 36 minute game. After the Spartans came back and took over the game late in the 4th by pounding the ball inside, A Ball took the punch square in the jaw and still managed to come back and tie the game at 66. In fact, it looked like they would take a 69-66 lead off a Danny Chin trifecta, but destiny wasn’t having any of it and she wiped it out with a questionable traveling call which turned into 4 Mark Lee points the other way, the last 3 of which was a dagger of the bank variety that only made Y2K’s smile smilier when it somehow went in.
After the game, Y2K, who started the game with the Spartans first 7 points proving how badly he wanted this, after his teammates dog piled him, after all the congratulatory handshakes, backslaps, and obligatory phone call from President Obama (okay, that didn’t happen), Y2K could be found huddling in a corner with his beautiful wife and Kagi, Jr.
A few words in Japanese were exchanged that were hard to decipher being that this reporter speaks not a lick of the language. We’d like to think it went something like this:
Mrs. K: You did it, baby!
Mr. K: We, darling. We. My Spartans and I together.
Mrs. K: Yes, we did it, baby!
Mr. K: I am so happy.
K, Jr: But you always look happy, daddy.
Mr. K: No, but this time, I am truly happy. Inside.
And with that, they embraced and walk off into the night arm in arm.
At last, Yoshi Kagitomi’s legacy had been cemented.
2009 Winter/Spring NL Champions - Spartans. L to R: L. Kuet, J. Kim, S. Hong, Y. Kagitomi, M. Lee, T. Hu, C. Youn, M. Lee.