Consolation victory

After losing in the semis, we were paired in the consolation game against AOC Rond, the team we’d tied in the preliminaries. They’d lost to WOOM (the reigning world champions) by 3 points in the other bracket. (That was quite a game, with AOC coming back from a 10-point deficit, and getting a good 3-point shot at the buzzer which bounced off the rim). We knew we were well-matched and that we’d have to play our best game to win.

We changed up the starting lineup a bit, bringing in Frank (who AOC Rond hadn’t played against) and Jimbo to give us a different look. Both teams started off well, working their offenses and getting good shots. Adam “Adamatic” was on fire for us, hitting a number of open looks as we worked the ball around, and our size down low with Mark and Frank gave us a number of offensive rebound and layup opportunities. We stayed ahead the entire first half, mostly by 4 or 6 points, and went into halftime up by 2.

The second half started similarly, with both teams working for scoring opportunities and making baskets. We retained our 2-6 point lead in much the same way we had in the first half; down low scoring and outside shots from Adam. The game changed, though, when foul trouble started to assert itself. It had been a physical game, and Mark picked up his fourth foul on a questionable call; we sent him to the bench and switched to a three-guard lineup. Then, AOC’s best shooter picked up his fourth foul trying to steal the ball from Lance, and soon after that earned a technical foul (and a permanent spot on the bench) by throwing his unicycle across the court protesting a non-call on a ball pickup (also by Lance).

With about six minutes left we had a seven-point lead, and we started to work on the clock. And for the first time, our offense really started to click; when we were intentionally trying to slow the game down, we finally had the patience to really run the motion offense and wait for a great shot. Adam hit a few more open shots, our defense clamped down, and our lead slowly grew. By the end we had the game in control, winning by 12, 54-42.

It was great to finish with a win against a good team, and to see us execute our offense the way we know we can. We’ll be working towards the next world championship (in Montreal in 2014), and we may try to get a team together to travel to France to compete in one of their five yearly tournaments. Getting to play uni basketball against solid opponents is a rare opportunity; we had a great time here in Italy, and we can see more what we’ll need to do to take home the title.

Viva la Revolution!

The Revolution falls in the semi-finals

We easily handled Cycl’hop in the quarter finals, setting up a semi-final match against AOC Square, one of the top French teams. They have two brothers, Adrien and Jeremy, who play a lot like our own Jeremy; extremely fast and aggressive, going for steals in a full-court press. We started out well, using solid passes to beat the press and score a number of easy baskets, and at halftime we were up 18-14. In the second half, we were less accurate in our passing game and turned the ball over too much, allowing the Squares to start with a 14-2 run for a 28-20 lead. A timeout allowed us to regroup, and we pulled to within 2 points at 28-26. AOC regained a 4-point lead with less than a minute remaining, and Lance nearly had a chance for a three-point play when he was fouled hard in the lane with 11 seconds left, his shot rolling off the front of the rim. He made one of the two ensuing free throws as we called timeout again. We nearly got a steal on the inbounds play, with Mark Wilder intercepting the ball, but he was called for a questionable foul on the play. They successfully threw a long inbound pass to Jeremy who scored a layup for the final basket. Final score, 32-27.

We’re still in contention for a medal, today in the third-place game, which is a rematch against AOC Circle, the team we tied with in the prelims. It should be a great match with a big crowd, mostly cheering for the French. Viva la Revolution!

The championships are on!

We started off our championship run with a shootout against AOC Rond, the team we tied on Monday. The format was like a soccer shootout; the teams took turns sending their best 5 shooters to the line for one free throw each. After 5 shots, the shootout was tied 3-3, so we got down to the benches. Both sixth players missed, and then Frank (who just arrived in town yesterday) came up and hit his free throw (we were shooting first). AOC Rond had their best shooter back on the line, but he missed his shot, giving us the tiebreaker.

That means that we get a first-round bye (against the Puerto Rican team that didn’t make it to Italy), followed by a game against Cycl’hop, a team we already beat in the round robin. Assuming we win that, we’ll play the winner of AOC Square (another French team) and the Gladiatores, the lone Italian entry in the tournament in the semi-finals. If we get that far, we’ll be playing on Friday in any case, either in the final or the consolation game. We’ll know by tonight.

Viva la Revolution!

UNICON Basketball preliminaries

The tournament is on!

The preliminaries were set up with four divisions of four teams, with a round robin within each division. Each game was two 12-minute halves (running time, no clock stoppages until the last 2:00). We got a crappy draw, having to play one of the three good French teams (AOC Rond) in what turned out to be the only important competitive game of the first round.  We each crushed our first two opponents (by over 20 points, the cap on the point differential tiebreaker), and met in the last game of the day. The crowd was active and noisy, and they watched an intense defensive struggle, as neither team was able to get fast break points, and half-court offense was hard to come by. AOC Rond (a.k.a. “the Circles”) led 12-9 at the half (after we missed two free throws with no time on the clock), but we shut them down in the second half and took the lead at 13-12 with 2 minutes left. After a missed AOC shot with about 50 seconds left, we nearly secured the rebound, but Beau uncharacteristically fell off his uni and lost the ball out of bounds. On the ensuing play, their big man, Tiery, got fouled in the lane and went to the line for two free throws. He made the first (tying the game 13-13) and we called timeout to talk about the scenarios. The second shot clanged off to the left, and Adam secured the rebound with 34 seconds left, but Tom was called for travelling on the ensuing possession. (Tough call in that situation, but the French refs call games tight). AOC had the ball with a chance to win, but only managed a long three-point shot which hit the backboard and front rim at the buzzer.

The prelims have tight time constraints, so there are no overtimes; this left us exactly tied with AOC Rond in record (2-0-1) and point differential (+40). The tie will be broken, European soccer-style, by a shootout on Thursday morning before the tournament.

For the record, I hate shootouts in soccer and I hate them more in basketball. I’d rather play an overtime. But in the end, it doesn’t matter much; either we’ll win, and have to play AOC Square in the semis and WOOM or AOC Rond in the finals, or we’ll lose, and have to play WOOM in the semis and AOC Square or AOC Rond in the finals. If we lose in the semis, we’ll play a consolation game for third place.

Our secret weapon, Frank, will arrive in town on Wednesday, which will change some of the dynamics. The next three rounds are on Thursday, with the final at 3:00 PM local time on Friday.

Viva la Revolution!

Preparing for the tournament

Yesterday we had six solid hours of basketball, and got to play against most of the people we’ll be competing against in the tournament.  Things start tomorrow, the 23rd; we’re playing three games in our round robin bracket.  The tournament is structured so that no one will be eliminated on day one; the round robin will set the seeding for a single-elimination tournament (16 teams) starting on Thursday.  Our goal is to get the #1, #2 or #3 seed, so we won’t have to play the best opponent until the final.  More updates when we have them!

Adam taking it up the court