With five weeks of pool play completed in Omaha’s Metro Summer Basketball League, Thursday night marks the start of the league’s tournament. With a championship on the line, fans can expect participants to play a little tougher defense and turn up the intensity inside the Omaha Sports Academy.
The tournament setting will give fans a great opportunity to check out many of the players who may have been overlooked during this summer season — a group of Nebraska-Omaha players, who expressed via Twitter that they need some recognition; and even Bellevue University’s Jelani Johnson, who a poster on White & Blue Review this week expressed was the quickest guard and best perimeter defender in the league.
They likely have good reason to complain. A UNO Alumni team finished 5-0 while Bellevue has gone 4-1, suffering its only loss against John Higgins Weatherguard (4-1), the second best team in the league. None of those teams feature any current Bluejays; in fact, the teams with the majority of the current top Creighton players went a combined 5-15.
But records mean little except for seeding purposes. The Metro Summer Basketball League tournament starts Thursday with the First Round and Quarterfinal games. First round games take place at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., followed by quarterfinal games at 8 p.m. (6 p.m. winners) and 9 p.m. (7 p.m. winners). Semifinal games and the championship contest take place next week, July 28.
Get your brackets and grab a seat out of the heat for an evening of basketball. You should also see on the court Anthony Tolliver of the Minnesota Timberwolves as well. Which team will he play for? We will have to wait and see. Here’s a preview of the first round and the potential Quarterfinal games.
6:00 p.m. (Court 1) #1 UNO Alumni vs. #16 Shanks Law
The UNO Alumni team has been sharp all summer and getting better each week. Their games have been pretty close, but they have found ways to close things out. Andrew Bridger, Grant Nieland, and Mike Jenkins have led the way for the former Mavericks.
On the other side is a Shanks Law team that couldn’t put things together well enough to garner a win, though it was fun to watch incoming Bluejays Nevin Johnson and Geoffrey Groselle play some games. Ethan Wragge played last week for the first time, but without Groselle and Johnson. As we have mentioned before, the makeup of this team is young and they may not have enough to upset the #1 seed.
6:00 p.m. (Court 2) #8 Barley’s vs. #9 Thompson Basketball Camp
These two teams got together in week two as Thompson had a lead at halftime behind Livan Pyfrom and Nick Bahe, but Rodney Buford led Barley’s to a hard fought 81-78 victory.
Each week, it has been a question of who will literally show up to play for Barley’s. Last week it pieced a team together while some of the players arrived that helped Paragas Law get out to an early lead. Thompsons have had their own set of rotating players resulting in games where they scored in the hundreds one game but then not even get to 70 in another. This one is really a toss-up.
I see the UNO Alumni advancing in their game to face the Thompson Basketball Camp at 8:00 p.m. Either way, I see the UNO Alumni team advancing to next week’s semifinals.
6:00 p.m. (Court 3) #4 Zurlo’s Pizza vs. #13 Chris Carder Agency
Hidden amongst the successful teams this summer is Zurlo’s Pizza. They quietly went 4-1 behind Benny Valentine, Bruce Chubick, and Steven Ferarrini. A couple of close scares after big leads have been the one weakness of this team. For example, last week, after having an over 20-point lead with 6 minutes to go in the first half, they allowed the team of Walentine O’Toole McQuillan & Gordon to go on a 51-22 run and taking an 8-point lead before Zurlo’s came back to win it.
This plays right into the hands of the Chris Carder Agency. Struggling all summer to finally get their first win, Cody Levinson, Wes Wilkinson, Ben Holling, and crew will not be an easy out in this tournament. Those guys along with a few others went through the tournament last summer to win it all and they could likely make another run. I am betting you will see the first upset of the tournament in this one.
6:00 p.m. (Court 4) #5 Paragas Law vs. #12 Omaha Mavs
The Paragas Law team has been dubbed the Creighton Alumni Team all summer with Justin Carter, Darryl Ashford, and Wayne Runnels out at the OSA each week playing some ball together and sometimes putting on a show for those in attendance. Runnels and Ashford created some excitement in week four as they came back from 6 down in the final 20 seconds to score 8 unanswered and walk away with a win.
The Omaha Mavs, on the other hand, have had their ups and downs all summer as the team of current and former UNO players started 0-2 but then finished up to win two out of three including a 95-80 win last week over the EQ School of Hair. Tyler Bullock has stuck out as a fun player to watch for them. It should be a good game, but I think Paragas Law will advance in this one.
I’m betting on experience here, saying the experienced Chris Carder Agency and Paragas Law teams will advance to the 8 p.m. quarterfinal. It will be rematch from week one, when Paragas walked away with an 85-74 victory. That one will be a battle.
7:00 p.m. (Court 2) #7 EQ School of Hair vs. #10 Bellevue Alumni
EQ School of Hair started out of the gates early with a 3-0 start, but lost their last two games to the UNO Alumni and the Omaha Mavs. Creighton fans have had a chance to watch Grant Gibbs all summer and theorize what role he will play this season while also getting a chance to see newcomer Avery Dingman in action. In the games he has been there, Deverell Biggs has been fun to watch as well.
The Bellevue Alumni have just come up short a couple of times losing two of their three games by a total of five points. I haven’t watched them too much this summer, but the Bruin alumni teams are always tough. However, I see EQ School of Hair advancing in this one.
7:00 p.m. (Court 3) #2 John Higgins Weatherguard vs. #15 Judd Knispel Agency
John Higgins Weatherguard suffered their first loss last week against the rising Chris Carder Agency. However, John Turek, Mitch Albers and John Karhoff have been carrying this team, however, a couple of weeks, they got some nice contribution from Creighton’s Will Artino as well. A tournament might be what they need.
As for the Judd Knispel Agency, they have been overmatched all summer, basically due to slow starts, which have taken them out of games early. Antoine Young and Donald Jones have had some exciting guard play. But the lack of inside play, which they could have used from someone like Doug McDermott and slated to play for this team this summer, has hurt them. John Higgins Weatherguard has too much height and play down low that will knock off the Knispel Agency.
This 9 p.m. game could likely be a matchup between EQ School of Hair and John Higgins Weatherguard. The veterans on the Higgins team will likely step up in this one to advance to the semifinals.
7:00 p.m. (Court 1) #6 Walentine O’Toole McQuillan & Gordon vs. #11 Narmi Group @ Smith Barney
The Walentine O’Toole McQuillan & Gordon team, otherwise referred to as WOMG, started off slow, but have since gone on a scoring explosion almost averaging 100 points a game since week one. They came up just short against Zurlo’s Pizza last week. Derek Paben and Andrew Drevo have led the team this summer.
The Narmi Group has had some ups and downs coming from behind for a victory in week one, all the way to a drubbing from Bellevue University last week, only scoring 45 points. Josh Jones, Sean McGary and KC Rodenburg have been the consistent players for them. Turnovers have been a problem for this team. If they have a lot against WOMG, they will probably pay for it. If the Narmi Group has their full roster, they may be able to knock them off, but as of right now, I see WOMG advancing.
7:00 p.m. (Court 4) #3 Bellevue University vs. #14 Leach Camper Sales
The Bruins have had the luxury this summer of playing with their full roster that they will take into the season this winter. What a way to bond with your teammates and welcome the new guys to the team. Jelani Johnson, James Parrott, and the rest of Bellevue University have looked sharp for the most part this summer. Any errors that had caught up to them in week four against John Higgins Weatherguard where they had a chance to go up in the final seconds on free throws, but missed them and Higgins was able to hit a three pointer at the buzzer. Bellevue took out the frustrations of that loss on the Narmi Group last week.
Bellevue faces Leach Camper Sales that they destroyed in week 2, 69-48. Their only victory was against the Omaha Mavs team in week 4, 94-83. However hidden in there were two lost opportunities. In week one, they came back from being down 20 at halftime to Zurlo’s and ended up losing by one. In week 3, it came down to a three point try at the end that fell short to try and send the game to overtime. UNK’s Mike Dentlinger has had a solid summer for Leach.
Bellevue University will likely advance based to the 9 p.m. quarterfinal game, based on their summer play, but their opponent could be a toss-up. If the Narmi Group advances, they may want to try and get revenge against Bellevue from the beating of last week. It would also be fun again to see the potential matchups of Johnson and Jones. However, WOMG has a lot of experience that will likely advance them to this game against Bellevue.
- UNO Alumni
- Paragas Law
- John Higgins Weatherguard
- Bellevue University