July 14, 2012
By Morgan Wenger
For the third year in a row, the Dawg Days Basketball championship series was decided by a single basket. Each time, that basket has been a three pointer. Ricky Jackson (2010) and Tom Port (2011) both stuck daggers into the hearts of the Zacour brothers as they went after their first tournament championship. This year looked like another heartbreaking defeat for Team Zacour until a furious comeback was capped off by a 25 foot Stephen Zacour bomb from the right wing gave them their first tournament championship in seven years.
Once again, the tournament field featured a deep pool of talented players. Team Zacour took the conventional route to the finals. In what looked like it could be a championship preview, Team Zacour fought off a very game Road Warriors squad in round 1. The game was nip and tuck until the Zacours ripped off 12 straight points to claim a 30-19 victory. In round 2, Team Zacour found itself in a battle with some very familiar faces in Ricky Jackson and Angelo Edwards of Team MOB. The Zacours, led by Daniel Zacour's 14 points, dispatched of MOB 30-22 to advance to the winner's bracket finals for the third straight year. The winner's bracket finals brought another familiar foe to the court in Tim Vandervaart and his Good Ole Days squad. Once again, the game was close until about the midway point when the Zacour brothers went on a huge run to pull away and win the game 30-18. That gave Team Zacour a long rest while the remaining teams battled for the other spot in the championship round.
The first round of the loser's bracket featured one of the tournament's best games as Hiland battled the Road Warriors. The Road Warriors, easily the biggest team in the tournament, tried to punish a much smaller Hiland team inside. They were able to succeed on a limited basis, but diminutive Hiland guard Jason Mishler made up for his lack of size on defense nearly every time he touched the ball. Mishler drove into the lane for baskets and kicked the ball out to open teammates on nearly every successful Hiland possession as Hiland prevailed 30-27. This knocked the Road Warriors, one of the early tournament favorites, into the elimination round after just two games. MOB had defeated Hiland in round 1 of the winner's bracket, and after both teams dispatched their respective round 2 loser's bracket opponents Orrville and Fairless, they met again in the loser's bracket. MOB, led by 10 points each from Edwards, Jackson, and Rel Johnson, was able to send Hiland to the elimination bracket by defeating them 30-23. This left MOB to face Good Ole Days in the loser's bracket finals. Led by Rishawn Norwood's 16 points, Good Ole Days prevailed 30-24 to send MOB to the brink of elimination.
The elimination bracket featured another battle between Hiland and the Road Warriors. Once again, led by 24 points from Jason Mishler and Nick Brown, Hiland was able to win a tight game down the stretch 30-26. The Road Warriors were led by Antonio Davis' 13 points. In their second tight matchup of the day, Orrville was able to defeat Fairless 30-24 behind 14 points from Jonathan Landis. Fairless, who was led in scoring by Dave Quinn, had defeated the Riders in the winner's bracket earlier in the tournament. Hiland, with Seger Bonifant knocking in 13 points, knocked off Orrville 30-19 to earn a rematch with MOB in the elimination bracket finals. The third time would not be the charm for the Hiland squad as Ricky Jackson bullied his way to 16 points in a 30-21 victory for MOB.
This left MOB with the daunting task of trying to defeat Good Ole Days twice to earn a berth in the best of three championship series. Good Ole Days jumped out to an early lead against a seemingly tired MOB team, but the rugged, physical inside presence of Ricky Jackson kept MOB close. Near the 20 point mark, MOB was able to gain some separation and gain a 30-26 victory. Jackson led MOB with 14 points while Good Ole Days was paced by 14 points from Vandervaart. This set up a rematch in the loser's bracket finals. Good Ole Days, perhaps feeling fatigued for the first time all day, stayed right with MOB the entire way. Rishawn Norwood put his full offensive arsenal on display as he scored inside and out. Not to be outdone, three time tournament MVP Edwards drained four 3 pointers to answer Norwood's exploits. Norwood's final 3 point attempt, with Edwards seemingly inside of his shirt, rimmed in and out and MOB was able to convert a basket to win the game 30-27.
That set up a championship series between a team that had played eight games (MOB) and a team that had played three games (Team Zacour). At this point, it looked as if Team Zacour might cruise to their first tournament win. The beginning of game 1 suggested nothing different as Team Zacour hit their first four 3 pointers to take an early ten point lead. Stephen Zacour kept pouring it on as he scored 15 points to lead his team to the 30-24 game 1 victory. Ricky Jackson led MOB with 10 points in a losing effort.
This put Team Zacour in the same situation they faced a year earlier. They needed one more win before they lost twice to capture the cash prize. MOB, seemingly comforted by the fact that they were facing elimination, turned up the defensive pressure and forged into an early lead. Led by a balanced scoring attack and a bullish effort on the boards by Jackson, MOB was able to give Team Zacour their first loss of the day 30-23. As has been the case in previous years, Team Zacour was haunted by some costly missed free throws at key junctures of the game.
This set up a winner take all game 3 with the $1,200 cash prize up for grabs. MOB struck first, using Edwards as a decoy to free up Rel Johnson. Johnson, being guarded by the much bigger Daniel Zacour, found a comfort zone penetrating into the lane and firing in 3 pointers. This led to an early 13-3 MOB advantage. Team Zacour, who was in control all day long, suddenly was up against the ropes. They turned to their offensive leader, Daniel Zacour, to bring them back. Daniel Zacour used a mixture of face up and back to the basket moves to bring his team within three at 22-19. A nifty finish by Edwards, however, put MOB up 24-19 and in the driver's seat. Then Paul Zacour, reluctant on offense most of the day and championship series, popped out after setting a screen and drilled a 3 pointer from the left wing to bring his team to within two. After a stop and a rebound, Daniel Zacour continued his stellar game by hitting an open 3 pointer from the same spot Paul had hit one moments earlier. This sudden 6-0 run gave Team Zacour a 25-24 lead heading into crunch time. Not to be deterred, Johnson fired in a 3 pointer to put his team ahead 27-25. Stephen Zacour, quiet for much of game 3 after scoring prolifically all day long, found his way inside for a tying basket. With the game tied at 27, Team Zacour guarded the 3 point line tightly. Seeing the lane open, Johnson once again found his way inside for a basket that gave his team a 29-27 lead. With, possibly, one last chance to avoid another heartbreaking loss in front of them, Stephen Zacour came off of a screen and knocked in a 25 foot 3 pointer over the outstretched arms of Ricky Jackson for a 30-29 win and tournament championship. Rel Johnson led all scorers in the final game with 19 points while Daniel Zacour led the winners with 16. Stephen Zacour was named the 2012 Dawg Days Basketball MVP.
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