In contrast to the evening’s earlier contest, Monday’s Game Two begins with a bang. While Joakim Noah isn’t around for this one, his team have little trouble scoring early, with Justin and Africa putting five quick points on the scoreboard with a pull-up three and a layup, respectively. While Ms. Jones’ X-Men manage to stay close with a free throw and two improbable jumpers, H3’s Antifreeze keeps them at bay with a tough three that pulls them into an early 7-5 lead.
The X-Men heat up in the coming minutes, however, and Antifreeze’s crossover-layup combos can only keep them from falling further behind after consecutive threes from “Greg” put his team up by three. It is at this point that Danny “The Guardian” Artest (Ron’s “little” brother), a 285-pound mass of muscle and mean looks, decides to take matters into his own gargantuan hands, backing down anyone (teammates included) in the paint en route to consecutive layups.
Even his efforts can’t keep the X-Men from streaking further ahead, though, as they continue to find the bucket on twenty-plus-foot shots which H3 seem to allow for the most part. An Artest power move which prompts Hannibal to exclaim “Thank God he wasn’t in Detroit” and a surprisingly smooth jumper from the top of the key keep his team afloat in the minutes leading up to the break, with a made pull-up J from the charity stripe by Antifreeze leaving them down only 32-28 going into the half.
Although Antifreeze and Africa (my favourite player in this year’s EBC, for the record) give the fans a few highlight plays to start the second, H3 can’t contain the appropriately named “Hammer” at their own basket, having no choice but to send the brawny big man to the line for five free throws in half as many minutes.
H3’s defence is noticeably improved following a timeout, although they make the mistake of committing to too quickly on the perimeter rotation twice in a row, gifting “Lil’ Nate” four points in the process. While my man Africa (also known as “The Motherland”) breaks out a sick crossover for a simple layup, buckets from Lil’ Nate and Reggie make it a 50-38 game with under five minutes remaining.
It’s J-High who steps up for H3 this time, knocking down three tough shots inside (including an and-one teardrop) to keep the “W” in sight. The X-Men, however, play their strategy to perfection in the game’s decisive phase, stalling the ball and forcing their opponents to implement a full-court press which, inevitably, results in foul after foul. While H3 do make some ground with this tactic, outscoring the opposition 14-10 to finish the game, they leave it too late to make their run, and end up walking off the court as 60-52 losers.