Watching this game, I find out that when people say it takes time to earn respect at Rucker Park, they ain’t lyin’. With Ron Artest, Kareem Reid, Al Harrington and Fat Joe all having left the building, the majority of the fans have gone the same way, and those who haven’t seem to have stayed to heckle. Given that the two teams facing off in the Day Three nightcap are new to the tournament, there’s more than enough reason for them to boo in the early stages, with both sides failing to impress with their nervous play.
The Queens-based Rich Soil Monstars are the first to settle themselves, twice working the ball inside for layups that give them an early 4-0 lead. Following more shaky shooting and a continued hostile reaction from the crowd, Long Island’s Finest call timeout, and many of the fans take this break as an opportunity to leave. Many stop short of the exit, however, when it’s announced that Mike James is in the area and planning to play for LIF.
This seems to hype up the team as much as the fans, and their very next play is a forty-five-foot alley-oop which draws the first applause of the contest. Still, they have trouble hanging with the Monstars, whose “R.B.” is successful time and time again at breaking down the defence and getting to the charity stripe. It’s only the sharp shooting of LIF’s E-Star that keeps the game close at this point, without which their six-point deficit would likely have been more than double that.
They soon lose their focus, though, and RSM make the most of it with a run of free throws and easy layups which is only broken up by a vicious double-clutch reverse by Long Island’s T-Spring. Mike James arrives on the bench just in time to see his team give up a fastbreak layup that leaves them down 42-25 at the half.
The quality of play somehow deteriorates further after the break, with Mike James’ presence doing little to improve his teammates’ performance. Back-to-back bricks from three-point range by the NBA guard set the tone for LIF’s half, which is characterised by clanked jumpers and sloppy defence. While RSM are unable to take advantage initially, they soon discover that their opponents are happy to bail them out with fouls for as long as they continue to attack the rack.
A mere seven minutes after he checked in, Mike James decides he’s seen enough for one night, and he changes out of his uniform in front of the whole park. While LIF threaten to make it a game with a mini-run of short shots, defensive stops and consecutive treys by E-Star, they quickly relapse, allowing “Special Effects” a huge one-hander in traffic and a layup in the space of thirty seconds. That effectively finishes it, and when the clock expires two minutes later, the Rich Soil Monstars walk off the court 71-57 winners.
– CYE in NYC