As has become the norm, only one team is anywhere to be seen with the clock nearing six, and even the best work of “The Politician”, the EBC’s in-house announcer/comedian, can’t keep large parts of the crowd from leaving the Rucker even before the ball has been thrown up.
Things soon change, however, as the first member of the Terror Squad team ambles onto the court, a scruffy-haired Adonis who is immediately recognisable as Ron Artest, known in here as “Tru Warier” (his spelling, not mine). Immediately, the cell phones and two-ways come out, and within five minutes it’s announced that the park has been locked down. Also to be seen courtside are Terror Squad owner Fat Joe, today rocking a white-and-pink outfit along with a pair of aviator shades that look to have cost a little more than an average two-bedroom apartment, and Atlanta’s Al Harrington, whose grin might be wider than my head.
Although Ms. Jones’ X-Men are overmatched on paper, they come out of the gates fearlessly, knocking down a two and a three around a Ron Artest miss to take a 4-0 lead before Ron-Ron finds the bucket on an open triple. His effort at the other end of the floor, where he makes a diving steal and pins a shot within the space of a minute, sets the tone for Terror Squad, whose improved effort results in a string of jumpers and cutting layups to put them in charge.
The X-Men refuse to go down without a fight, however, and they’re right back in it after a pair of defensive stops which they turn into made threes. While Terror Squad begin to go hard to the hole, their inability to make free throws puts them in trouble, and some slick interior passing from the X-Men gives them a couple of layups that bring them within a point at 27-26. They’re able to gain more ground when Terror Squad fall in love with long-range jumpers that aren’t falling for them, and by the half things are all tied up at 35.
While the second stanza starts with the two teams trading mid-range jumpers, thereafter they both go on an ugly scoring drought which leaves me with nothing to note but airballs, bricks and turnovers for some three minutes. X-Men’s “Hammer” is the one who finally snaps the funk, knocking down a tough, and-one leaner to which Kareem Reid responds with a board and bucket that puts Terror Squad ahead by three. Terror Squad follow his example, dominating the offensive glass and racking up second-chance baskets to take a six-point lead.
A few more buckets from Kareem Reid stretch it to 65-56 with a few minutes to go, and X-Men appear to have taken the loss already. Fat Joe is accepting congratulatory dap from the crowd with Ron Artest on the line, and ninety seconds later the game is called with the Terror Squad taking it, 79-62.