Sunday, December 28, 2008

Basketball final

We’re sitting at the MacArthur café on Sunday morning. It’s windy off the North Channel, but comfortable. Last night was the annual Cypress Christmas party. The Cypress group runs the café and some ground maintenance. As usual the food was fantastic, highlighted by litson, [sp. lechon] or roasted pig. There was plenty of music and spirits to go around.

The basketball tournament final, which was postponed after Baywalk beat Aces on a final second, controversial basket in game two, tying the series at one each, finally resumed last Tuesday. The game was scheduled for 3:00, but since everyone works until 3:30 or so, that was not to be. Finally the game time was announced as 4:00, but then they had to wait for one of the coaches, and so it started about 4:30.

Marcia and Steve were, of course, seated at courtside. Rico, the tournament commissioner, and head of the Coast Guard, told the players that the decisions of the refs were final, in hopes of avoiding the bad feelings that had erupted after the last game. Ronilo, the island manager, took control of the microphone and did the play by play, making sure that he stressed the decisions that the refs made were to be accepted, Someone had brought brandy and beer, so we enjoyed a few spirits during the game.

Warm-ups began on one side of the court where some Baywalk players were shooting, then a couple of non-players like Carmello, and even the first couple of Aces joined in. Those not shooting were exercising their lungs with a smoke or two. When enough Aces arrived they took their own side, but no one takes warm-ups too seriously.

The game started out one-sided, and as usual Aces, with their superior height and strength, got off to a 10-0 lead. Baludbod, the smallest and quickest guard in the tournament, was already nursing a severely sprained right thumb. He injured a knee very early in the game, hurting Baywalk’s chance for a comeback. He came in and out several times, and it was obvious that they needed him, as the score swung up and down with his presence or absence. By halftime the score was 50-48 Aces.

Coming out strong in the second half, Aces made four straight baskets for a 10 point lead. Eventually they brought it up to 11 with a free throw. When Aces was clicking, they would complete stunning fast breaks, usually with Taton scoring. Baywalk countered with great play by their guards as well, Constantino being their main guy when he was not sharing time with Baludbod. Baywalk specializes in stealing the ball from dribbling opponents, almost always leading to a basket.

With just a couple of minutes left to play, Baywalk trailed by eight, Baludbod was benched for pain, and it looked all but over. But basketball can be a funny game, and all of a sudden the basket on the Aces size got smaller and nothing would go in, while Baywalk’s basket must have looked like a garbage can, and everything went in. Baywalk wrapped up a 96-93 victory, in a final as closely matched as you could ever want.

Constantino, one of the chain smokers when not playing, was named the tournament MVP. Trophies were also handed out for best cheerleader, best uniforms and best sports, (to make sure that all five teams got trophies) and third, second, and first place. The first place trophy was almost as tall as the shortest player, and certainly bigger than the National Championship trophies that Michigan State’s basketball teams won in 1979 with Magic Johnson, and in 2000.

In fact, the trophy is only exceeded in size by hockey’s Stanley Cup and the Indy 500’s Borg Warner Trophy. If size be the judge, this is the third biggest championship in the world. All joking aside, it truly was a grand finale to a great tournament.

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