July 5, 2008
By Morgan Wenger
As has been the case the previous two years, the Top Dawg division provided spectators with an impressive array of basketball talent. Several first time participants brought their games with them as they tried to play their way into the winner's circle. However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Canton Ballers won their third consecutive tournament title, and Angelo Edwards was voted unanimously as MVP of the tournament for the third straight year.
As with any two time defending champion, the Canton Ballers opened the day as the heavy favorites to defend their crown. While they successfully continued their reign of dominance on the tournament, several capable teams made them earn it all the way until Marco Morgan's dunk sealed the final game against Team Owolabi.
Team Zacour (David Zacour, Paul Zacour, Daniel Zacour, and Stephen Zacour) met the Canton squad in the second round of the winner's bracket and gave the champs all they could handle before ending up on the short end of a 30-28 score. A late missed free throw by Team Zacour allowed the Canton Ballers to escape. Free throws would prove to be a critical part of how the tournament played itself out. Team Zacour would go on to defeat Owolabi in the loser's bracket to set itself up for a highly anticipated rematch in the championship series against the Canton Ballers.
Team Owolabi had other ideas. After dispatching of a scrappy Kent Ballers team, made up of Race Baker, Jake Baker, and Dale King, they faced the daunting task of defeating Team Zacour twice to advance to the championship round. Led by lead guard Jason Mishler, Team Owolabi was able to pull away from Team Zacour in the first game 30-22. Their efforts were aided by four three-point shots in the latter stages of the game. With both teams facing elimination, the following game was a nip and tuck affair destined to go down to the wire. With Zacour leading 24-23, Mishler cut his finger attempting to block a shot and had to leave the game to stop the bleeding. With the game tied at 28, David Zacour nearly ended the game with a layup attempt as he was fouled. His ensuing free throw rimmed out and gave Team Owolabi new life. Mishler, with his bleeding finger under control, was able to draw a foul on the next possesion. He clinched his team's spot in the finals with the free throw.
In the first game of the best of three championship series, both teams got off to a sluggish start. The Canton Ballers started the contest by trying to exploit their size advantage inside by posting up Marco Morgan. Team Owolabi's Dan Owolabi proved equal to the task as he forced numerous violations on the powerful Morgan. As the game came down the stretch, it was once again Edwards that provided the difference in the game. Mixing his long range game, pull up jumpers, and a nifty backdoor cut, the three time MVP led his team to a 30-26 victory and a 1-0 series lead. With the momentum clearly in hand, Game 2 provided a little less drama than Game 1. Preston Owens sparked the Canton foursome early with a vicious two handed slam along the baseline off a crossover dribble. Owens had a knack for making the spectacular plays all day long as he had numerous dunks in traffic and several impressive blocked shots. Keithon Poole also sparked Canton in the final game with his steady play and timely shooting. Team Owolabi played hard until the final emphatic throwdown of the day by Morgan sealed their fate. Along with Owolabi and Mishler, Team Owolabi featured leading scorer Tyler Renner and guard Jessie Schlabach.
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