July 10, 2016
By Morgan Wenger
The Canton Ballers defeated Team Zacour two games to one in the best of three championship series of Dawg Days Basketball 2016. The series was a rematch of last year's championship series, which saw the seven time champions sweep Team Zacour two games to zero. Mario Edwards claimed the tournament MVP trophy. The younger Edwards was joined on the winning team by older brother Angelo Edwards, Tim Vandervaart, and Andrew VanDierenDonck. Angelo Edwards has now been on the winning team in an amazing seven of the tournament's eleven years.
The returning champions found themselves on the top half of the winner's bracket to start their day, and found themselves in a battle right off the bat against Team Square. A hot shooting Drew Frizell (15 points) kept Team Square in position to steal the first round game throughout. The veteran Canton squad stayed calm, however, and repeatedly went inside to Tim Vandervaart to win the game 30-26. Vandervaart and Mario Edwards combined for 28 of their team's 30 points for the game. Next up for the Canton Ballers was a second round game against 614. Mario Edwards started this game with two three pointers, and never let up in leading his squad to the 30-19 win. Edwards finished the game with 21 points while helping his team advance to the winner's bracket final. The other side of the winner's bracket saw a first round matchup between what has developed into a fierce rivalry between Team Bonifant and Team Zacour. The two squads have had numerous fiercely competitive games throughout the past four years. Team Zacour was focused from the beginning until the end in this chapter of the rivalry and defeated Team Bonifant 30-22. Team Zacour used their momentum to advance to the winner's bracket final by dispatching of The Bucket Gang 30-10 in the next game.
The winner's bracket final was the first game in tournament history that didn't have a team reach 30 points before the time limit had elapsed. Given the amount of offensive firepower that almost every team in the tournament possesses, this is not likely to happen again anytime soon. While some missed shots definitely contributed to the end result, the two teams were locked into each other defensively from the first possession of the game until the end. In his customary fashion as he has advanced in age, Angelo Edwards was adamant about leaving his footprint on a game of this magnitude. After only scoring a basket or two in the earlier rounds, he poured in 12 points to lead his team in this back and forth affair. Paul and Daniel Zacour combined to score 17 points for their team, but it wasn't enough as the Canton Ballers hung on for a 28-23 win to advance to the championship series.
After being blown out in their initial game against Team Zacour, the Bucket Gang rebounded strongly with a convincing 30-21 win against Team Square. Marquise Jones connected four times from beyond the arc en route to his game leading 16 points for the Bucket Gang. Dalton Bolon led the way for Team Square with 13 points. Team Bonifant also showed that they had plenty of basketball left in them as they overwhelmed 614 by a 30-13 score in the opening round of the loser's bracket. Seger Bonifant and Nick Harney combined for 21 points for the winners, with Harney throwing down a two handed soft slam for the game's final points.
The elimination bracket always has teams playing with a different level of desperation as they are in a win or go home situation. This brought out the best in 614 as they dispatched of Team Square 30-24 behind a game high 10 points from Steve Isaac. Seger Bonifant kept his hot hand by pouring in 12 points to lead his team to the loser's bracket final with a 30-19 victory against the Bucket Gang. The Bucket Gang, still undeterred, promptly went to the elimination bracket and notched their second win of the day by blitzing 614 30-17 behind a 21 point explosion from the sharp shooting Marquise Jones. With their seemingly inevitable rematch against Team Zacour now a reality, Team Bonifant had their sights set on righting their earlier loss to their rival. Daniel and Stephen Zacour proved to be too much to handle though, combining for 28 points in their 30-22 win. Daniel Zacour finished the game with a nasty turnaround, fadeaway jumper along the left baseline over the heavy contest of the taller, longer Nick Harney.
That left arguably the tournament's most talented team on the brink of elimination. Team Bonifant wasn't done yet though. Harney, Bonifant, and Jason Mishler scored eight points each as they were able to eliminate the Bucket Gang by the score of 30-11 and earn one more opportunity against Team Zacour. Although faced with the unenviable task of beating Team Zacour twice just to advance to the finals, Team Bonifant seemed to be hitting their stride as they opened up a comfortable lead against Team Zacour. The ultra talented and skilled Nick Harney was specifically starting to find his way against the always tough, physical defense of Paul Zacour. Harney used his handle, length, and soft shooting touch as he pumped in a game high 21 points to force the Zacour quartet to the brink of elimination. Stephen Zacour led his squad with 13 points in the loss. With a championship series berth now within their sights, Team Bonifant looked strong in taking an early lead in the next game. However, Team Zacour was able to keep the game close behind 10 early points from Stephen Zacour. Seger Bonifant and Zak Kirkbride were complimenting the offensive aggression from Harney for Team Bonifant. After getting loose for big games earlier in the tournament between the two teams, Daniel Zacour was being limited by the Team Bonifant defense as he had only five points as the game entered its final stage. With his team trailing 27-22, Daniel Zacour drew a foul against the smaller Mishler and went to the line to trim his team's deficit to 27-24. After getting a defensive rebound after a couple of empty possessions for both teams, Stephen Zacour was able to rattle in a heavily contested three pointer to tie the score at 27. Suddenly facing a fierce surge from Team Zacour, Team Bonifant threw the ball away due to miscommunication on the next possession. Daniel Zacour retrieved the loose ball about 25 feet from the hoop and immediately rose up and let loose of a cold blooded, game-winning dagger to send his team to a championship rematch against the Canton Ballers.
Game 1 of the championship series was never really in question as Team Zacour seemed to be battling fatigue against the much more rested Canton Ballers foursome. Tim Vandervaart looked especially spry as he used his dizzying array of post moves on his way to a game high 18 points in his team's 30-22 victory. At this point, it seemed like another championship series sweep over Team Zacour was inevitable for the Canton Ballers. Seemingly refreshed by the break in between games, or perhaps just finding a sense of comfort with their backs against the wall again, Team Zacour came out strong in game 2 of the best of three championship series. With Stephen and Daniel Zacour both pouring in 15 points, they were able to give the Canton Ballers their first tournament loss since 2014. Angelo Edwards scored 13 points in the 30-25 loss for the Canton Ballers. This left a winner take all game 3 for both teams. While several of the tournament's final games have had dramatic finishes throughout the years, Mario Edwards was determined to eliminate all of the drama early on this year. Three early bombs from three point land by the younger Edwards put Team Zacour in a huge hole that they could never recover from. Daniel Zacour caught fire in the middle part of the game, and ended up scoring 14 points in a losing effort. Mario Edwards finished with a game high 15 points for the champions, followed by Angelo Edward's nine points as they claimed the $1,200 grand prize with the 30-23 win. David Zacour (Team Zacour) and Andrew VanDierenDonck (Canton Ballers) provided valuable contributions to their teams throughout the day as well.
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