TOLEDO — Let me tell you about one of the best basketball games in the county this year.
“But didn’t the season end in three months ago in March, why to bring it up now, aren’t you forgetting one of the key news values of timeliness?” you are probably asking yourself.
I’m talking about a summer league game between Newport and Toledo.
Ultimately, this game doesn’t matter. The score is unimportant, 73-72 after an overtime period, I believe. Sure, other games had more at stake with championships on the line. But for pure entertainment value, Tuesday’s game ranks up near the top after a winter filled with memorable games and moments.
This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill summer league game. There was what appeared to be a game-winning shot, then a half-court shot at the buzzer for the win. There were bloody lips and bruises. A premature fake smoking of a victory cigar in a tie ball game with 0.2 seconds left. And there was lots of trash talking and at times, and the line between what was acceptable and unacceptable became blurred.
“We are sitting over there saying that this has got to be the most intense summer league game of all time,” said Newport head coach Doug Sain.
“The intensity of this game made everyone on the floor better,” said Newport’s Justin Plechaty. “Everyone was playing great, everyone was knocking down shots, it was awesome.”
“That was obviously awesome, I mean it sucks to lose but it was really cool,” said Toledo head coach Eddie Townsend. “I’m glad it wasn’t a state playoff game.”
Last season Toledo and Newport were the county’s top basketball teams. Both won league titles, both advanced into the state tournament — Newport finished third while Toledo was bullied around in its short stay in Pendleton.
They’re both teams with plenty to prove this upcoming winter; Toledo, that they can become a physical enough to team to succeed in the playoffs. And Newport, that last season’s third-place finish at state and a conference title wasn’t a flash in the pan and it can continue to win despite losing three starters, mainly Kye Blaser.
It may have been a summer league game, but it sure didn’t feel that way.
From the jump, Toledo came out like a pack of pit bulls defensively, begging the refs to draw the whistle. It’s the Boomers’ new gameplan.
It took all of about 30 seconds of sloppy play from the Cubs before Sain called a timeout. It was the same tactic he used in the third-place game of the state tournament when Newport came out sluggish.
When the Boomers’ physical defensive pressure became too physical in the eyes of Sain and his players weren’t getting the foul call, he called timeout and went to the middle of the court to tell the officials that they weren’t going to play if that type of defense was allowed. Had that happened in a regular season game, Sain is tossed.
That led to the trash talking between the two coaches. Townsend was wondering if Newport players were still hitting the weights, Sain offered to come and teach Toledo players how to move their feet on defense. All great stuff.
“Eddie is such a competitor,” Sain said. “When you are competing against him you want to throttle him and he brings that out of you, but then you love him.”
“Doug wants to get out on the court and tell the refs what to do,” Townsend said. “I’m going to come back at him a little bit.”
While the coaches provided the comic relief, the players balled out in what was the final game of three games that evening. It was a wire-to-wire game where neither team was able to pull away, and the lead never reached double digits.
Newport Fredy Hidalgo, Kona Baldwin
But the matchup to watch was Plechaty versus Toledo’s Conner Marchant, the two who had the ball in their hands in the game’s closing seconds.
“Playing against a good player like Conner, he’s really good and it’s fun to go against players that are good,” Plechaty said. “I was happy to get play against him.”
Thirty-two minutes of play wasn’t enough to settle the score, the tie wasn’t broken until Marchant muscled his way for the go-ahead bucket with five seconds left in overtime. Then Plechaty gathered the inbound pass, raced up the court, looked like he may have taken one too many dribbles before hoisting a shot from half court just as the final horn sounds.
Nothing but net. Game.
“I knew it was going in,” Plechaty said. “I mean it was kinda lucky, but I couldn’t let Toledo win.”
Everyone shared the “did this just happen?” face. After the game, Larell Covington, who drew four offensive fouls in the game, came up to Plechaty and told him wasn’t even disappointed in the game’s outcome, and the shot was awesome.
In the end, that’s really what made this such a memorable game. Sure, the coaching antics were funny and totally completely met all the expectations that I had hoped for in a game between these two schools and these two coaches. But it was a well-fought battle on the basketball court. It was two team competing like crazy with absolutely nothing on the line. That’s a trait that bodes well once the actual season begins.
There are talks of future a regular season matchup, one that counts and everything, between the two teams. And I think they should, because if this one unimportant summer league is a sample of what a Toledo/Newport game would look like, then sign me up for home-and-home series.
“We should play these guys,” Sain said. “They are well coached, they play hard, a great group of guys.”
“If we do get to play them in the regular season I think it’s going to be a great game,” Townsend said. “It’s going to be super competitive, it’ll be fun.”