With under eight minutes until the tip, it’s more than a little worrying to see that only one end of the court apparently has a team ready to play, the other containing a handful of men in street clothes who chat amongst themselves without making any real attempt to warm up. As the countdown to the jump reaches five minutes, it’s announced that Vezzeo are still waiting on their uniforms and that the game is to be delayed as a consequence. I’m not complaining about the wait, though; sitting two to my left is legendary EBC coach Mousey, who keeps our section of the bleachers entertained with a loud argument that sees him and a man to my right go back and forth with barbs mostly related to Monday’s first game, which saw Team H3 destroy D Block.
By the time the ball goes up, Vezzeo have their jerseys (but no shorts) and the crowd is louder for having had to wait for the start. The first few minutes see some high-quality hoops, with both sides trading mid- and long-range jumpers to make it 9-6 to Crusaders. Vezzeo’s shorts and Fat Joe arrive with about fifteen minutes left in the half, and following a timeout, the game takes a turn for the worse. The big men see a lot of the ball at both ends, and the result is a stretch of scrappy basketball that sees neither team find the hoop with consistency. When the guards decide to move away from the inside-out game, Crusaders step up the defence and make three steals in as many minutes, converting them into a pair of layups and a short jumper, giving them a 21-11 lead with a little under ten minutes to go in the half.
Vezzeo find scoring a little easier in the next stretch of the game, but they can’t manage to contain Crusaders, who maintain their lead with a string of second-chance buckets. However, Vezzeo’s “The Last Don” finally finds a tactic that works for them, penetrating from the perimeter for pull-ups, teardrops and dishes to the forwards. Their run, which brings them to within five at the half, isn’t enough to keep Fat Joe in the park, and he and much of the crowd filter out at the half, presumably to catch the start of the Miami-Dallas game.
The Last Don tries to keep the wheels turning at the start of the second, but when his first shot attempt is swatted, it becomes clear that Vezzeo won’t be making it to the goal with such ease. However, both they and Crusaders are beginning to heat up, and there’s a three-minute period in which neither team misses a jumper. Vezzeo are the first to misfire, but a thunderous two-handed put-back gives them their first lead of the half at 51-49.
Things run fairly evenly for the next few minutes, with the trees providing the scoring for Crusaders, and The Last Don for Vezzeo, who introduce a full-court press with four minutes on the clock. While Crusaders break through on the first attempt for an open layup, Vezzeo go up 77-73 on the back of two free throws and a quick three. Although Crusaders are able to pull it back to 77-76 with an and-one reverse layup, The Last Don again gets the job done, finding his pivot wide-open under the hoop to triple his team’s lead.
Unusually, Crusaders, down only three, decide to intentionally foul with more than a minute left on the clock, and when Vezzeo hit both, steal the ball back and hit another pair, the game is all but done. Crusaders continue to stick with the foul-and-shoot plan, and end up going down 85-79 as a result.