By: Tuesday and Friday
In a game dripping with Durham final four intensity, Memorial punched their ticket to the QCIBT Championship by defeating Central 66 - 63 in overtime. The leading scorers in the game were Zoubel Iradukunda with 27 points, Troy Pelletier with 24 and the Memorial Maintenance Man with 20 wipes of the court. Memorial Maintenance Man? That is correct. This gentleman was as important as any player, coach or referee that participated in this Holiday Classic at 1 Crusader Way.
2 Thoughts were present before the start of the game. One, we would learn more about Memorial in this game than Central. Second, a lot of fans stated this semi final was the championship game for the 2012 QCIBT. Well, after Memorial had secured a 4-0 overall record so far this season between regular season and holiday games, it was against teams with a combined 1-11 record.
The Crusaders made a statement in this game, that regardless of record of any team they've beaten, Memorial arguably might have the most talented starting 5 in D1. As far as whether or not this semi final was the championship game..... Exeter will have to answer this question at 7:00 pm tonight.
Memorial principal Arthur Adamakos fired up the crowd with a stirring rendition of the pronunciation of the last names of the Memorial starting five. Memorial's athleticism was evident early in the game as they got out to a quick 18 - 13 lead at the end of the first. All their weapons were on display in a marvelous display of slashes, put backs and kick outs for knock downs from the outside. Dawson Dickson helped Central stay close with 5 points in the first period.
Memorial's depth, which had been a question before the game, was tested early. Tong Akat picked up his 2nd foul mid way though the period. Kabongo picked up his 3rd foul with 2:20 left and stayed in. 30 seconds later Makris had the ball in the paint with Kabongo defending. The Crusader faithful held their breath. Kabongo stood his ground on the Makris up fake and on his next motion blocked the shot. Sigh of relief from Crusader fans. Kabongo avoids picking up his 4th foul in the first period.
Central out scored Memorial in the 2nd period 21 - 12. The Little Green was lead by Troy POY...... I mean Troy Pelletier who had 14 points. Pelletier knocked down two 3's along with some athletic takes to the rim. Troy POY..... I mean Pelletier added a couple of medium range jumpers to his impressive 2nd period performance. You'll have to forgive my keyboard. Every time I go to type Pelletier it wants to type POY. Tong Akat picked up his 3rd foul with 6:01 left in the half. Memorial depth truly tested. Central was up 29-23 and with Akat and Kabongo on the Memorial bench the game seemed in danger of slipping away. There's that word again: slip/slipping.
Enter Memorial senior Zach Eddows. With all the athleticism on this Crusader squad leave it to this Crusader who bulled his way into the paint, bulled his bank shot up that went in and then bulled his And 1 FT through the net to cut the Central lead to 29 - 26 with 2;35 left in the half. Biggest play of the first half for Memorial.
Central took a 34 to 30 lead to the locker room at halftime. Now, here comes the Memorial Maintenance Man. Never was a plaid shirt and jeans so important to a QCIBT game in it's 50 year history. The halftime crowd milled about putting remnants of the recent snow storm all over the across from the benches sideline. The MMM shouted at every one to get off the court. he went by time and time again to wipe the surface. Slippery floor under control for the 2nd half? Not exactly.
Slips, slides and glides became the norm in the 3rd period. Travels, sliding out of bounds and turning over the ball on falls became omnipresent in the 3rd period. Referees, players and fans pointed to MMM to come mop it up. The blue mopped man logged as many minutes and miles as any player in the 3rd period. Memorial clamped down defensively on Pelletier. Both teams were tired and hanging on each other, shots fell short. Zoubel seemed the most fit of any player as he exploded for 9 points. He was a step quicker than all, except for the Memorial Maintenance Man who scurried from baseline to baseline trying to keep the Crusader court dry.
At the mid way point of the 3rd a defining moment came. Hansen was fouled driving to the hoop. In frustration Kabongo slammed the ball to the court and received a technical, which also counted as his 4th foul. Hansen missed the 2 FTs. Doc summons Dickson from the bench to take the 2 technical FTs, which he knocks down. Memorial depth tested again. 46 to 45 Memorial at end of the 3rd.
Tong Akat picked up his 5th foul with 4:49 left. Memorial had a scant lead, but Central was staying close with Hansen and Pelletier. With 2:06 left Kante finishes a huge And 1 drive to give Memorial a 53 - 49 lead. With 1:50 remaining Hansen snaked his way through the Crusader defensive paint and put in a soft runner to make it 53 - 51. The next minute or so featured mad scrambles in the paint, wild shots, travels, slips and you guessed it: More court time for Memorial Maintenance Man !!
With 36 seconds left and memorial clinging to the 2 point lead Kabongo made an ill advised forced move to the hoop and was called for a charge. It was his 5th foul. With 14 seconds left Pelletier is fouled and hits 2 FTs to tie the game at 53. Kante threw up a back rimmer at the buzzer. Overtime. Memorial has no Kabongo and Tong. Enter Eddows and Kabongo's freshman brother, Tshief. The 6'4 freshman scored 6 points in the OT. Zoubel put backs and runners gave Memorial a 64 - 57 lead with under a minute to go. Wait, this is Central with the 7 point deficit. They won't go softly. At 32 seconds and 15 seconds Makris and Hansen hit back to back 3's to make it a 64 - 63 game. Tshief is then fouled. He calmly hits 2 FTs, Central misses a buzzer beating 3 and Memorial slips by into the Championship game.
Memorial played a more disciplined game in beating Central. They took more time off the clock on offense. Defending Memorial will be a nightmare for opposing coaches. If Memorial runs and guns you have to score 65 to 80 points to beat them. If they want to slow it down offensively..... Good luck defending Zoubel, Tong and Kabongo for 25 to 35 seconds. Brett Hansen in a short month has gone from a complimentary player to a definite go to guy for Central. Can you say All State whispers for the slippery, slithery snake-like sophomore? Troy POY.... Darn there it goes again..... Pelletier was magnificent in defeat.
Things will get better for Central as they wait for junior guard Mike Plentzas to come back from a hand injury. Memorial plays Exeter at 7:30 pm tonight for the QCIBT Championship. Mark the calendars for Feb. 1st at 7:00 pm when Central hosts Memorial in the regular season for round 2 between these 2 D1 heavy weights. Forecast is for 2 to 4 inches of snow this afternoon into tonight. You know what that means? The biggest key to the QCIBT Championship tonight might be with the blue mop of the Memorial Maintenance Man.