Whats up YoungBloods and welcome back!! After a 2-week layoff, GBBL was back in full swing for Week 5 and the question entering this week would be how the layoff would affect the defending champ Ballers and their quest in becoming a Dynasty. Other big questions entering the week would be would the remaining players who have not earned a single GUT point finally break through? With a month left before the Christmas break, everyone was out this week (including a special Hall of Fame Sponsor) to claim GUT points and this week’s championship.
Captain Adeel entered the week drafting his 2 closest cousins with his top 2 picks, in MVP candidate Shehryar and GBBL Season 1 legend Saleem. Adding to this already stacked squad of shooters, Adeel would add the ever-dangerous Neal and Mr. Reliable Adil Merchant to round out his squad. The squad on paper looked like a championship squad and Adeel was ready to take his 1st championship of the season. That is until around 7:30pm when his entire game plan went out the window. Super Sub Saleem fell ill and informed the league he would not be able to make it. We wish Saleem well in his recovery from his mysterious illness that he only found out 1 hour before tipoff. Down to 4 players, league management scoured the regular subs list for a replacement, but with so little notice, the Mambas were forced to play without a sub on this night. Not to be deterred, the Mambas were not going down without a fight. After a few losses to start the week, the Mambas beat the defending champ Ballers in a hotly contested match, while also tying the Soldiers 6 apiece to make their record more respectable. Sherry as usual was doing Sherry things, while Neal and Adil made life miserable for everyone inside. But the lack of a sub (a 1st round pick), coupled with no real big men on the team, proved too much for the Mambas on this night.
The Gentle Giant finally got a crack at captaining his own team this week, and Hamza wasted no time this week in assembling his squad. Pairing himself with Awais (who is probably the most complete player in this league) to form their own version of the twin towers, Hamza surrounded himself with shooters and playmakers Zeed, Fahad and Riyad. Although some questioned his draft strategy, 5 weeks into the league and Hamza knew exactly what he was doing, studying everyone’s game and telling everyone to trust him. The Legends came out of the gate strong against the shorthanded Mambas. The real test would be against the defending champ Ballers in game 2 where the Legends came out flat footed. Down 6-1, Zeed hit 2 big shots to make it 6-5, and Riyad nailed a 3 pointer to complete the comeback. The next 2 games would see Hamza take over down low. Showing his move set and quickness as a big man, Hamza continuously punished people, while Awais would open lanes for his shooters. Fahad played out of his mind on this night as well, hitting fadeaway after fadeaway, stealing games with big time buckets for the Legends. With 4 wins, the Legends would drop the last 2 games and would prove costly. Tied with the Wolves for the final playoff spot, the Legends would sit the finals out based on point differential. Not the result he wanted, but Hamza has now gotten a taste of captaining his squad and will only be a matter of time before he captains a championship team.
The defending champs came into the week without their number 1 pick from last week, super sub Uzair. Having to replace Uzair, captain Mustafa wasted no time in replacing 1 super sub with another, and Umar “King” Khan was added to the Ballers. With the champs pretty much at full strength, there would be no reason or excuse this week for this team to not repeat. And then we witnessed what a 2-week layoff does to some of the older guys in the league. Siad spent the past 2 weeks playing COD and instead of draining 3’s, was setting up playdates with other GBBL members for COD meets. Jav spent the past 2 weeks in Dubai and he would’ve been better off smoking sheesha on Jumeira Beach, because he was getting smoked on the courts this week. With jet lag sinking in, the commissioner was not in his usual form to play. Mustafa spent the past 2 weeks planning on how to repeat. Unfortunately, he’ll spend the next 2 weeks on the sidelines, as Riyad crossed him up and broke his ankles badly as he fell to the ground and couldn’t recover on this night. Finally, Shahzad’s luck of making big time shots when needed ran out on this night. Even the Ballers sub Umar was not his usual self and could not help this team dig themselves out of the hole they created. Losing heartbreakers to the Soldiers (they were up 5-1) and to the Ballers (they were up 6-1) to start the week, killed any chance they had at repeating.
Arif finally got his 1st crack at captaining his team in Week 5, and Arif, as he did in season 1, wasted no time in building himself a team to reckon with and get him his 1st championship on the season. Quickly adding sub extraordinaire Zahid to his team essentially guaranteed him a finals appearance as Zahid has appeared in 3 of the first 4 weeks championship games (and won 2 of them). In typical Soldiers fashion, Adil was added to the Soldiers and the team again took turns looking out for the kids in between games. A surprising late draft pick, Baseer was supposed to miss the 1st 2-3 games, yet was on the court at 8:32pm. Had other captains known he would be on time; the landscape of the draft would have been different. Rounding out the Soldiers would be the ultimate team player, Omar. The Soldiers started off the week hot, with a comeback win against the Ballers and would rattle off 3 more wins, to finish the round robin with the top record of 4-1-1. The Soldiers were seen between each game, strategizing and coming up with plays for their players. This is something never seen in GBBL, but the Soldiers may have shown the blueprint to other teams on how to effectively play in this league. Although started out as pickup, with GBBL turning into a real league, setting and running proper plays is the next step for captains to think about. As he did in season 1, Arif built a solid team and rode the success of that team all the way to a final’s appearance.
5 weeks in and we’re still waiting for the Wolves to make an appearance in the finals. The only way to fix that was to add a 2-time champion from this season, Hamid as its captain. Captain Hamid got the ball rolling and drafted probably (on paper) the most complete team this week. With reigning MVP Archie by his side, Hamid would add the best mid-range player in GBBL Umar, the ever-evolving big man Tabish and the quiet, yet sneaky sharpshooter Hummaad to round out his team. The Wolves didn’t start the week off as planned, as they dropped 2 of their first 3 games played, including a stinker of a game against the Legends, losing 7-1. Knowing that the week was slipping away from them, they quickly adjusted and rattled off 2 straight wins against the Mambas and Ballers. The Wolves would be set up with 1 last game against the shorthanded Mambas to determine the final playoff spot. Unknowing to anyone, the Wolves had to win by 4 in order to punch their ticket over the Legends. The Mambas played their hearts out but playing 4 players all night finally caught up to them and the Direwolves took full advantage. Tabish was punishing everyone inside and put the Wolves up 5-2 with about a minute left. With under a minute left, Archie got the ball at the top of the key with no one around him (seriously, he took like 4 big breaths, stood their for 30 seconds and no one was rushing him) and as we expect from a reigning MVP, calmly sunk a dagger 3 and punched the Wolves ticket to the finals.
WEEK 5 FINALS – DIREWOLVES vs. SOLDIERS
The finals showcased the Soldiers against the Direwolves in what would be the inaugural finals appearance for team gray. A tale of two halves, this final showed just why you never stop playing until the final buzzer. With the Wolves just having to play a game to clinch the finals, they were gassed, and it showed. With no ball movement or crashing of the boards, the Wolves would come out like a team that didn’t deserve to be there, while the Soldiers (who as usual on this night, came up with set plays) would make them pay. The game started off with a shellacking by the Soldiers, to the tune of a 7 spot. Off the backs of big time 3 pointers by Zahid and timely rebounding by Arif and Baseer, the Soldiers would go into the half with a comfortable 7-0 lead. Standing courtside was GBBL HOF Sponsor Mo “Mamba” Kala, Kala made the bold prediction that the Wolves would come out in the 2nd half and tie the game. From this writer’s point of view, Mo made no sense, but has since begun harassing Mo to make sports bets on his behalf. The Wolves came out firing on all cylinders in the 2nd half and big buckets by Tabish and Hamid would get them closer. With time running out, and down 1, the Wolves utilized the foul rule and sent Zahid to the line. Zahid calmly drained his free throw (that was the only point the Soldiers scored in the 2nd half) and put them up by 2 with 9 seconds left and the Wolves with the ball. In a thrilling ending, Umar “I’m More than a Mid-Range Player” Ilyas, took a desperation deep 3 and drained it, sending the crowd and the Wolves into a frenzy. The game would need this year’s first 2-minute OT to find out who would stand tall. In the OT, both teams had their chances but neither team could score, which resulted in the very first “Golden Bucket” scenario. With the game on the line, captain Hamid saw a wide-open Archie under the basket, but sent the ball sailing into the stands, giving possession back to the Soldiers. With some quick ball movement, the men in red got the ball back to their sharpshooter Zahid, who would drain a deep 3 to give the Soldiers the franchises 1st this year. Although not the highest scoring game, this game proved why you play to the end and provided unbelievable entertainment for those who stayed back to watch.
Week 6 will now have the Soldiers attempting to repeat and become the 1st Dynasty team of the 2019-2020 season. With no weak link in their system, the Soldiers are set up as probably the best team to repeat so far in Season 2 and will get their first crack at it next week. With the holiday season approaching, we are set to miss a few regulars for the next few weeks leading to the Christmas break, which will give big opportunities for others to shine in their absence. We now have 23 of the 25 regular players with at least 1 GUT point, while super sub Zahid leads everyone in total GUT points going into week 6. It’s time for the league regulars to step up and take that spot back, and with the competitive spirit rising, week 6 will be a prime day to start that. See y’all next week YoungBloods!!!