PLAYOFFS OPENING ROUND
Each of the top seeds won their Tier I matchup, with the Lobos looking like one of the league’s hottest teams. Meanwhile, Tier II featured an upset of sorts, and its semifinals are set. Free throws tended to play difference-maker for more than a couple of opening-round battles.
FM Home Loans Game of the Week
Gold Seals 63, Pittsburgh Strong 56
These teams featured a contrast of styles, with Pittsburgh Strong relying on quickness and Gold Seals with a more balanced approach and an advantage on the interior. The teams traded leads for all of the first half, with Gold Seals claiming a 29-24 halftime lead, punctuated by a buzzer-beating jumper from Eli Gruenberg.
The teams continued to battle in the second half, with Pittsburgh Strong hanging onto a lead at the 12-minute mark. But down the stretch Gold Seals maintained a four point advantage and seemingly could not miss from the free throw line, ultimately coming up with a seven-point win.
While all six Gold Seals who logged minutes contributed in meaningful ways, they were led by the inside-outside duo of Yosef Hochner and Eli Gruenberg. Hochner was too much for Pittsburgh Strong on the interior, combining elite size with excellent footwork an touch to dominate in the post. Gruenberg wowed spectators with acrobatic finishes, flashy assists, and shooting from all levels to will his team to victory.
Gold Seals will meet Cross River Mooseheads for the second time in less than a month in a quarterfinal matchup. Pittsburgh Strong’s great season comes to an end.
A. Rafi & Tommy’s 52, Power Mishna 48
Following their heartbreaking loss in last week’s FM Home Loans Game of the Week, A. Rafi & Tommy’s had to settle for the #6 seed and face a red-hot Power Mishna squad who won each of their last two games in convincing fashion to earn a Tier I spot. Power Mishna got hot late, hitting a couple of outside shots to give them the lead inside of two minutes to play. But AR&T weren’t feeling so giving, as they took the lead play and wouldn’t relinquish it, forcing back-to-back turnovers and making free throws to seal the deal. AR&T will take on Sy Savages in a quarterfinal matchup reminiscent of their matchup earlier in the season, which the Savages took in a close one.
Lobos 69, Bad Boys 32
In a prominent display of how an emotional victory can propel a team to greater heights, Lobos, on the winning end of the potential Game of the Year last week over A. Rafi & Tommy’s, looked like a bona fide powerhouse in beating the Bad Boys. Ben Hamer had the first nine Lobos points, who didn’t allow a basket for the first 11 minutes of the game. The Lobos will look to continue this incredible momentum in next week’s quarterfinals matchup with Shraga. Shraga defeated Lobos in the season’s opening game, rather comfortably at that. But both of these teams have evolved. It should be an exciting matchup.
Aliya Glory 42, Loketch Group 32
In what was a closer game than what the score indicated, Aliya Glory advances to the Tier II Semifinals. The game was tied 19-19 at the half, but Aliya Glory relied on interior scoring and made 13-14 free throws, while Loketch Group could not hit from the charity stripe. After starting the season 0-4, Aliya Glory has now won three of its past four games. While it was too little, too late for them to qualify for Tier I, they will be considered a legitimate threat to take down top-seeded Rap City, with a spot in the Tier II championship on the line
Falafel Ballers 51, Invaders 46
Sixth-seeded Invaders looked determined to pull off the upset, building what at one point was a 10-point lead, but Falafel Ballers wouldn’t let their season end on this day. Led by guard Emmanuel Dicker, the Ballers didn’t settle for bad shots, attacking the paint and finishing, or getting to the line and making free throws. Falafel Ballers will take on Ashreinu Holy Bagels in the Tier II semifinals. This will be a rematch of the tightly-contested matchup from the season’s opening weekend, which was won by Ashreinu Holy Bagels.