Baltimore has been a basketball haven since the late 70s. Each decade since then has created some legendary players and tales that are told to each generation. In the new millennium, Baltimore has become a forgotten town when it comes to hoop dreams.
The Brunson Basketball league has brought an energy back to the city that it hasn't seen in a long time. Since Opening Day on June 4th up until July 30th, Baltimore locals have packed inside the UA House, also known as the Old Melo Center, to watch the best ballplayers in Baltimore battle it out inside the "Lion's Den".
Now it's time for the playoffs, which mean that the intensity, emotions, and competition is about to increase. The regular season finale between PTF and Team Muhammad gave an indication that anything can happen in the playoffs. The heavily-favorite PTF mob with Will Barton, Tone Barton, Quinn Cook, and Roscoe Smith suffered their third loss of the season thanks to Omar Strong go-ahead trey ball with four seconds remaining.
People may not remember but, Team Muhammad was expected to be one of the bottom feeders of the league after they were blasted in the first week by the Warriors, 86-60. The Warriors were 11/23 from the trey line and shot 66% from the field. Muhammad will get the opportunity to get some revenge in the opening round of the playoffs, and they will walk into this game as a favorite. The Warriors have struggled against the top competition, suffering losses to LND, PTF, Sam's Ballers, and CMB. This game will be about backcourts, Omar Strong v. Terry Hosley, Aquille Carr v. BJ Smith, while Wes Moreland and Dylon Cormier will look to cancel each other out. Carr or Tione Womack was not part of that first-week matchup, which makes this game a lot different. And the Warriors are missing their big man Michael Anderson, who scored 14 points in that opening game.
Will Barton suffered his first loss since joining PTF July 2nd. PTF, a favorite to win it all, will have the most size and experience in the front court, not to mention an NBA talent. They will be without Ferrakohn Hall who is overseas in China, but Cleveland Melvin and CJ Fair are still on-call. The late acquisition of Quinn Cook gives the PTF mob more depth, putting him alongside Will's brother, Tone. Since Will is on the team, everyone in the league is giving PTF their best stuff, so they will not have an easy path to the chip. All eight of PTF games this season have been decided by a total margin of 29 points, five games decided by 3 points or less (3-2 in those games). Despite going through the gauntlet of the league, knocking off the Warriors, Lyfe, CMB, and Team Focus (with losses against One Love, Sam's Ballers, and Team Muhammad), it's still one team they have not faced yet....
Longwood & Dukeland.
The boys from LND, who are also the defending champs, are quietly walking into the playoffs as one the best mobs in the league. Stanton Kidd, who is having himself an MVP summer, leads LND in scoring averaging 24 points per contest. LND's only loss this summer came against Sam's Ballers in a 72-70 thriller, one of the best games of the summer. As stated though, LND is quietly running thru the comp, much different from last season. What hasn't changed is how cohesive this unit is. Everyone understands their job; Donte Pretlow being the scrappy floor general, Sean Farr and Kemp McCray working hard in the middle, Kavon Pyatt and Malcolm Tatum providing athleticism on the wings, and Louis Birdsong being the ultimate 6th man. Everyone on this team has a job and they do it well, the reason why they are 7-1.
Earlier this season, I mentioned Sam's Ballers as the team that will stir up the pot in The Brunson and that's what they did. The number 1 team in the field has been in exciting games every week this summer. The "DC Team" as everyone claims them, has ran through the gauntlet, knocking off PTF, LND, Warriors, Lyfe, and One Love. Mo Creek has become a fan favorite inside the Lion's Den, earning respect from the Baltimore crowd. He leads a team that has three players averaging at least 14 points (min. 4 games appearances). They are the definition of team basketball, a lot ball movement mixed with great chemistry. Boo Jackson, another favorite inside the Lion's Den, is the crafty scorer out the bunch. Boo had one of the best moments of the summer when he introduced himself to Dante Green and Lyfe with some tough buckets. Pops Haley had another moment when he put Isiah Muhammad on a poster. And how can we forget the infamous game between One Love that had everyone emotions on 1,000. Sam's Ballers earned their #1 spot but can they run thru the gauntlet again?
I'm sure One Love will have something to say about that.
Alvin Parker leads the run-n-gun group of athletic wing players. One Love is a top four team in the field with wins over Team Focus and PTF. Parker leads the league in assist, averaging 9.4 dimes a game this summer. He also set the league record for assist with 18 dimes against Team Finesse. Parker's main gunners are Akeem Echols, Kendall Allison, and Wayne Sparrow. All three give One Love the length and athleticism to compete with anyone on both ends of the court. One Love will be an underdog to win it all but don't be surprised if they catch a team sleeping at the wheel.
Team Focus is another underrated team, who could easily be the top four if it wasn't for their 23-point loss to One Love. Focus has great team chemistry and a deadly backcourt, who some consider the best in the league. Last year's MVP, Brent Arrington, and Corin Henry are two dynamic guards with different styles. Arrington aka Mr. Do It All can play both ends of the court at a high level, while Corin is a hard guard for anybody. Team Focus best quality is their willingness to make the extra pass, which is uncommon in summer Pro-Am basketball. Each player looks for the next man but all can find their own shots also. DJ Bryant gave them an official big man to help work the paint and give power guard Antonio McMillian some assistance. This team is a true sleeper.
Lyfe has underachieved this summer, similar to the Warriors. A squad that reached the semifinals last season has struggled against the top squads this summer, but they're good enough to make a run for the Championship. With a full roster of notable hoopers, Lyfe has more than enough to go far but can those players put it together, cause so far they haven't.
CMB was last summer's runner-ups and came into this summer with a chip on their shoulder. They will be without Trevlin Queen who set the Brunson on fire this summer but they made it last year without him. When this team is on, they can out-shoot anybody in the league. Deon Queen is possibly one of the most underrated guards in the league, along with Camote Griffin and Devin Spencer. When this team is on, they can out-shoot anybody in the league.
The bracket is set up to give the fans the best possible matchups. One potential matchup is LND v. PTF in the Final Four. The two squads have not squared off yet this summer. If you recall going back to last fall, Will Barton announced that he will play in the Brunson League because of the late Devin Colston dominance. LND is without Colston, but Stanton Kidd is dominating the league in the same manor. A Kidd-Barton matchup is what the fans want to see.
Championship Weekend is scheduled for August 12-13. Stay tuned!