What up YoungBloods. After several weeks of playing the later games at the Leisure Centre, GBBL went back to its roots and were back at the Velodrome at the regular time of 8:30pm. Unfortunately, most people forgot that the Velodrome is a sauna inside, and with the lack of subs on this week’s rosters, players were forced to dig deep and gut it out 1 final time for 2019. With all 5 teams being re-drafted thanks to the Soldiers Dynasty, who would claim top spot going into the winter holidays and begin their own Dynasty? Let’s get to the action.
Zeed made his inaugural 2019 debut as captain this week and wasted no time in getting MVP candidate Awais. Awais is quickly turning into the Karl Malone of GBBL; top player in the league who gets to the finals often but hasn’t taken home a championship. In our eyes, it’s only a matter of time before Awais is a champ, and this week would be as good of a chance as ever, given the lack of players showing up. Zeed then went with sharpshooter Adeel and Mr. I Do Everything Neal to round out the team. The Mambas looked as dangerous as any team entering the week, and quickly proved it with 3 wins in their first 4 games, off the backs of big time 3’s by Adeel and Awais. Zeed himself has turned into a very capable shooter over the past few weeks and would help his own cause by hitting some big-time baskets to claim big wins for his team. Unfortunately, gassed by game 5, the Mambas dropped a pivotal game against the Soldiers to the tune of 7-0 and needed 1 more win in the final game of the night to punch their ticket to the big dance. Going up against the Legends, the Mambas took the final game of the night 4-1 and were off to the finals. Typically, players are happy to get to the finals, but on this night, there was no smile on big man Awais’ face, as he was all business, trying to get that 1st championship that has been eluding him through 8 weeks, while Adeel & Neal were also in search of their 1st championship in season 2.
The “Fadeaway” man himself, Fahad, took the reigns of the Legends this week and instead of strategizing each draft pick, he simply took the best available player when his turn came up. This proved to be a smart strategy (often people overthink the draft), and he had turned the Legends into a formidable team on paper with himself, reigning GUT MVP Archie, Mustafa & Arif. All 4 of these guys are proven players, who can grind, score, rebound and create with the best of them. Unfortunately, a last-minute mother in law appearance, forced Arif out of action and was replaced by 2 brand new players who no one (outside of Baseer) had ever seen. To further decimate his team, the Legends were playing with a very sick Archie, who could be seen trying to catch his breath anytime there was a stop in play. The warrior he is, Archie was not going to miss this game, regardless of how sick he was (and he was dead sick!!!) and would do everything in his power to help the team win. Unfortunately, game 1 started off rocky for the men in blue, as they quickly dropped their first game to the Soliders. Game 2 had the Legends tie the Ballers 5 a-piece, but that would be it for the rest of the night, as the Legends would not gain any more points. With too many factors working against them (2 new guys who have never played with anyone in the league, losing Arif and playing with a sick Archie), Fahad and Mustafa did what they could but to no avail. Sometimes, you could have the best team on paper, but things outside if your control take over, and this week proved that. The 2 new substitute players played admirably for the Legends, but with little to no chemistry with the regular players, it was an uphill battle from the get-go. The Legends did not let this losing week phase them though, as the they were seen smiling and having a great time (apart from Archie) despite not winning. Kudos to the boys in blue in showing everyone else that sometimes, its better to have fun than to be overly competitive.
The Horace Grant of GBBL, Shahzad (the headband, the goggles etc..) finally made his debut as captain and wasted no time in building probably the strongest team on paper shortly after the draft. Shahzad Grant has turned into not only a strong defender and pesky player, but a quality scorer in 2019. Shaz has the most unconventional shot in the league but could be the most effective as well (the bank is always open for him). The Ballers were surrounded by 2 big men in Baseer and Siad who were talking trash all day on how they will post everyone up and dominate inside, while they also added defensive specialist Hamid (albeit at less than 100%; flu season killing GBBL lately). The Ballers did not start the week as planned. Down by 1 to the Soldiers in game 1, the captain decided to end it himself and Shaz hit a big time 3 to take the win, but games 2 & 3 saw the boys in white go winless. With Baseer getting harassed all night in the paint, Hamid decided to take over and use his quickness on many occasions and take it to the rack, while Siad was manning the rebounds and hitting shots when called upon. Ending the night at 3 wins and 1 tie, the Ballers sat around anxiously waiting to see the result of the final game of the night between the Legends and Mambas. A Mambas loss would send the Ballers to the finals. Unfortunately, the Mambas took care of their own business and with their win, eliminated the Ballers.
Omar came into the week captaining the same team he completed the Dynasty with over the past 3 weeks and took over the Soldiers for himself. Trying to replicate what they had accomplished in the past 3 weeks, Omar drafted sharpshooter Zahid, which made sense, but the rest of the draft is what left many wondering what he was thinking. With himself and Zahid already on the team, Omar decided to take 2 more average height sharpshooters in Jav & Riyad to round out the team. With an average height of 5’8”, the Soldiers would need to hit ALL their shots without having to rebound and strategize how to defend against bigger opponents. All 4 Soldiers are capable defenders and rebounders, but with no subs on the night, coupled with the Velodrome turning into a Sauna, the Soldiers would have to dig extra deep to find that extra gear required to get to the finals. After a heartbreaking game 1 loss to the Ballers, the men in red took game 2 before dropping another heartbreaker to the Mambas, and a disastrous showing against the Wolves (7-0!!!). Knowing they would need to win out, the Soldiers quickly regathered and attempted a box and 1 zone defense instead, along with more ball movement off screens on offense. It seemed to work nicely against the Mambas as they won 7-0 but ran out of gas (and legs for that matter, from trying to outrebound people much taller) against the Wolves and with that, were eliminated from this week’s championship round. A good showing by the boys in red, had someone been a bit taller, or they hit some of their shots, it could have been a different outcome.
Captain Hummaad drafted on paper, probably the best team on the night (initially). With big man Raheel on the roster, Saleem was free to shoot as often as he liked, knowing the big man would coral the rebound. Hummaad then ensured his team was bigger than most and took Tabish as his secondary rebounder for the night. Rounding out the team was Mo “Mamba” Kala who showed up wearing a hoodie in 30-degree weather in the Velodrome, which is mind boggling, because Mo will wear a t-shirt outside in minus 5 weather (???). With all the pieces in place, the Wolves were handed a crushing blow as Tabish was forced out of action late in the day. With the complexion of the team completely turned around, the gods gifted the Wolves with another super sub; Taher “T-Man” Mirza. For those who don’t know, Taher has been an annual showstopper in softball, and rumors were, he was as good a basketball player as he was a softball player. With a full roster (this team had a sub), the Wolves would look to make some noise on the night. After dropping their 1st game against the Mambas, the Wolves made sure they wouldn’t drop anything else, rattling off 5 straight wins. Mo consistently made teams and players look foolish again and again, outrebounding people and hitting big shot after big shot. Mo’s play almost got Riyad subbed off his team (and the Soldiers had NO subs) after hitting multiple shots over him. With the top record on the night, the Wolves had punched their ticket to the finals and would look at getting the franchise, its first championship ever.
WEEK 8 FINALS – MAMBAS vs. DIREWOLVES
Week 8 finals would showcase 2 storylines of the same nature. On both sides, we had multiple guys trying to win their first championship (Awais, Neal, Adeel, Hummaad & Raheel), while the Wolves were looking to get their first championship as a franchise, in history. The game started off with the Mambas taking a quick 2-0 lead from big time buckets by Neal and Awais. Neal was all over the place in the early stages and ended up with a team high 5 rebounds. Not to be outdone, the Wolves would keep it close with buckets by both Raheel and Taher. With a score of 4-2 heading into the half, the Wolves would rely on their super sub Taher even more as he went on to finish the game with highs in all categories (4 points, 1 3-pointer and 8 rebounds). The Mambas refused to go away and played one of the most complete team games in the finals, with EVERY player on the roster scoring. Tied, the Mambas went back to their captain, and Zeed hit a big shot to put team black ahead by 1. With the heat getting to everyone, Neal was forced to the sidelines with under 2 minutes to play due to leg cramping. With little time left, the teams played 3 on 3, and the legend of Mo took center stage. After a miss shot from the Mambas, Mo somehow was able to get the rebound and keep the ball in play (while doing the splits – yes, we have video footage of this). After gathering himself, he quickly got the ball back and laid it in to tie the game with a minute to go. Tied at 5, the Wolves would not be denied on this night, as Raheel used his brute strength and put the Wolves up with 10 seconds to go. Utilizing the foul rule, the Mambas sent Raheel to the line, who calmly drained both free throws, gaining an extra point and possession of the ball. Good defense forced the ball back to the Mambas, and a 3 pointer at the buzzer by Adeel, which would have tied it, was nowhere close, giving the championship to the Wolves. With the championship, Captain Hummaad and big man Raheel claimed their first championships of the year, while the legend of Mo has now crossed over to basketball, as he too now has claimed a championship. On the flip side, MVP candidate Awais (who has played in the finals for 3 straight weeks) will now have to wait 3 more weeks before another chance at his first championship, but Neal has gotten off the sidelines, and claimed his first set of GUT points on the year.
With the week 8 finals in the books, GBBL will now take some time off for the holidays and reconvene in 3 weeks, on January 7th, 2020. Please take the time to spend with your loved ones, heal up any injuries or illnesses you or your loved ones may have and come back refreshed in 2020. Just under halfway through season 2, 24 of the 25 regular players have now claimed at least 1 GUT point, while the Mambas franchise remain the only team not to win a championship this year. There is still lots of time left and a lot of basketball to be played, so anything can and will happen. For those who are participating, please remember, December 30th, 2019 is the GBBL 2K tournament in which we will aim to raise some money for some much-needed charities, while hanging out together. If you have not yet responded and would like to reach, please let Jav know. Until then, peace out Young Bloods and enjoy the holidays.