June 21, 2009
By Morgan Wenger
Four teams returned to Village Green Park today with hopes of walking away with the $2,000 prize that comes with the tournament championship. Each team fought valiantly before a Jeff Gibbs free throw sealed game 3 of the best of three championship series for Team Jacko.
The first game of the day featured a match up of undefeated teams in the winner's bracket final. The Ballers started off strong and were close early after Phillip Sales emphatically dunked the rebound of a shot by teammate Brandon Short. The momentum was short lived, however, as Team Jacko big man Jeff Gibbs started imposing his will on the interior. Gibbs repeatedly worked his way inside for dunks and layups while drawing numerous fouls and setting up his teammates for uncontested jump shots. The Ballers tried to respond late with a couple of Adrian Stockman three pointers, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Columbus based Team Jacko. Jeff Gibbs led his team to the 30-14 victory by scoring 10 points. Stockman led The Ballers with 6 points. The victory put Team Jacko into the finals of the tournament while sending The Ballers to the loser's bracket to face the three time defending champion Canton Ballers.
During the course of their three year run of dominance, the Canton Ballers have always saved their best for the last day of the tournament. It was evident early on that this year would be no different. Canton took control early by distributing their offense between guard Angelo Edwards and big man Tim Vandervaart. Both players hit two three pointers on their way to double figure scoring games. The Ballers became increasingly frustrated as the game went on, drawing a late technical foul before the end of the 30-16 contest.
That left The Ballers and Team Owolabi in the elimination bracket. The winner faced the daunting task of winning the game at hand, and then defeating the Canton Ballers twice to reach the championship series. Team Owolabi established control of the game early as Jason Mishler repeatedly got into the paint and created for himself or his teammates. Owolabi had a 23-8 lead when The Ballers came storming back behind some crafty Brandon Short drives and 3 three pointers from Adrian Stockman to draw within 2 at 28-26. Team Owolabi went inside to their 6'5" forward Tyler Renner on their next posession. Renner was able to draw a foul on Stockman and iced the game with his free throw. Renner and Mishler shared scoring honors with 9 points each for Team Owolabi while Short led The Ballers with 12 points. This set up a rematch between two of Dawg Days Basketball's most established teams with a trip to the finals on the line.
Heading into Sunday's action, Team Owolabi had been the only team to defeat the Canton Ballers in tournament history. Both teams displayed incredible amounts of grit and toughness as they battled back and forth as the game reached its midway point. Tyler Renner and Tim Vandervaart went toe to toe inside displaying great footwork and a soft touch as the teams went back and forth. Jason Mishler and Angelo Edwards were staging their own battle of sorts on the perimeter. Canton started to pull away, but a couple of Renner hoops and some missed Canton free throws allowed Team Owolabi to regain the lead at 29-27. Suddenly Edwards, who seems to live for these situations, delivered a step back three point dagger from the corner with a defender right in his face to seal Team Owolabi's fate and put his team into the championship series for the fourth straight year. The Canton Ballers success against Team Owolabi is similiar to the success Team Owolabi has enjoyed over Team Zacour throughout the tournament's four year history. Team Owolabi has been eliminated all four years by the Canton foursome.
This set up a much anticipated best of three finals series between the three time defending champion Canton Ballers and Team Jacko. As was the case with all teams in the tournament, Canton had their hands full handling Jeff Gibbs in the paint. Jeff Gibbs opened up the game by throwing down a massive dunk in the midst of Preston Owens and Tim Vandervaart after catching a lob pass from the wing. Undeterred, Vandervaart began attacking Jeff Gibbs on offense with a dizzying array of post moves and soft jumpers that gave Canton the edge as the game neared the midway point. Jeff Gibbs presence in the middle continually gave his teammates wide open looks from out front, but the team hit a cold stretch as Canton started to pull away. Several nifty buckets by Vandervaart put the defending champs up 29-24, and it appeared that Team Jacko was finished. Jeff Gibbs promptly drained a three pointer from the right wing to put the pressure back on the Canton Ballers. The champions handled the pressure well by going to Vandervaart who scored the final 2 of his game high 21 points to seal the victory over Team Jacko and give his team a 1-0 series lead.
With his team facing elimination following their first loss of the weekend, Jeff Gibbs came out exerting his energy on the boards to begin game 2. His energy was aided by an early hoop from teammate Andre Mock that gave Team Jacko an early lead. Canton was unfazed and perhaps smelling blood as they came right back despite Jeff Gibbs brilliant play underneath to cut the Team Jacko lead to 1 at 15-14. The game took a significant turn at this point as Jeff Gibbs took himself out of the game for a breather. At the same time, Antwan Gibbs was ejected from the game for arguing with the official, and his brother Jeff was forced back to the floor. Interestingly, Canton went predominantly with a three man team during the finals, leaving combination guard Keithon Poole on the sidelines to match up with the size of Team Jacko. Poole has been the second most prolific scorer on the Canton squad throughout their reign of dominance in the tournament. The decision left a great deal of responsibility in the hands of three time tournament MVP Angelo Edwards to initiate the offense and shoulder his share of the scoring load. Edwards reminded everyone how capable he was of handling both by draining two straight three pointers following the younger Gibbs ejection that had the Canton Ballers up 20-15 and eyeing a fourth consecutive title. As brilliant as Edwards was, it appeared during this stretch that banging on the powerful Jeff Gibbs was starting to wear down Vandervaart. With their eye on the finish line, Canton decided to stay the course with their matchups. Jeff Gibbs, perhaps sensing the swing in momentum in his personal battle with Vandervaart, started imposing his will even more on the interior as he scored 6 of his 18 points and assisted on an Andre Mock three pointer to give Team Jacko a 24-20 advantage. Vandervaart hit a three pointer on the next Canton Baller posession to draw his team within one at 24-23, but they would get no closer as Team Jacko closed the game out 30-25. Vandervaart led Canton with 9 points in a losing effort.
This set up the first game three in tournament history. At this point the advantage clearly seemed to be with Team Jacko. Jeff Gibbs , who operated efficiently underneath the hoop with post moves both crafty and powerful and finishing with layups and dunks throughout the tournament, got the game started with a hoop underneath before heading to the sidelines to take a breather and nurse a fresh cut on his shooting hand. With Team Jacko's star on the sideline, the opportunity was there for the defending champs to make their move. Jason Elliot, Mock, and the younger Gibbs were able to hold the fort down until Jeff Gibbs was ready to return to the game with his team down by only a point. Canton, going with the three man rotation of Edwards, Vandervaart, and Preston Owens looked to be tiring at this point. Now playing with renewed energy after taking the breather, Jeff Gibbs started to dominate the game on the inside by punishing Vandervaart with dunks and layups set up by post feeds and offensive rebounds. Jeff Gibbs was able to rebound his own miss and score a basket several times in the final game. The elder Gibbs also shot 100% from the free throw line throughout the tournament and was becoming increasingly more verbal with his leadership to his teammates. Vandervaart, who never quit going at Jeff Gibbs on offense, scored twice inside to keep the game close. At this point, surely sensing his team being in trouble for the first time ever on these courts, Edwards showed his MVP pedigree once again. He matched Jeff Gibbs basket for basket and free throw for free throw as he consistently found his way into the lane throughout game 3 of the finals. Jeff Gibbs threw down a monster two handed dunk to give his team a 28-26 lead and put the Canton Ballers on the ropes. Vandervaart hit a free throw to bring the score back even, but Gibbs closed out the scoring and secured the tournament title by executing a free throw after being hammered by Vandervaart after another strong post move. Jeff Gibbs finished game 3 with 18 points and was named the tournament MVP. Edwards and Vandervaart both finished with 14 points apiece for the Canton Ballers.
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