It’s hard to believe, but after six weekends by the beach at 1708 Ocean Front Walk, we have reached the playoffs! In the most ambitious season in VBL History, across over 20 event days in 12 weeks, fans, regulars and tourists alike have witnessed 16 unique squads battle in Veniceball’s annual summer tournament! The Venice Basketball League, a traveling circus of LA hoopers, creatives, MCs, and wild-personalities, has reached 6th gear as we race to the finish line of the ’22 season.
Representing the circuit-running regulars who feast annually on hardwood across Los Angeles’ storied pro-am circuit, to professional athletes, to basketball influencers, to members of the global hoop community, the regular season has seen a diverse community of basketball players compete and we’re just getting revved up! In round one, the VBL Play-In, we saw the eight lowest seeds of the regular season unite together with one goal: win or dip.
Play-In Livestream – Powered by The Sho
Fentwood Hoops v Hamilton x Wilson
Game 1 of the play-in games featured 10th seeded Fentwood Hoops (3-3) vs. 15th Hamilton X Wilson (1-5). Narrowly to the wrong side of the play-in cusp, Fentwood Hoops came out with a fire, torching Hamilton right out the gates and not relenting until the final whistle. Mo Jones, in his usual bag, led the team in scoring, serving up a combination of crafty left handed layups with a side of precision passing and fierce defense, scoring a game-high 28 pts with 5 rbs and 5 asts. A player of the game double-double contribution by, Jordan ‘J-Dub,‘ 24 pts and 10 asts, who outstanding play on both sides of the ball combined with Smoove’ Shad, 12 pts, to carry Fentwood to Sunday’s top 12 games and a matchup against #6 seeded Born x Raised.
For the Hamilton x Wilson All-Stars, their rookie season comes to an end. Finishing 1-5, the teams subpar record belays the fun this squad brought to the VBL in 2022. Led by Anthony Hamilton Jr, the squad competed with a team of balling entertainers and contributed moments including
“>the fan-favorite VBL debut of Tyreek Hill in week 6 to a 44 point 3 point battle between J Doota and Born x Raised. The squad fought hard, but ultimately finished short of the finish line.
BBall Junkies v Hooperverse
Game 2 of the play-ins saw the 11th seeded Bball Junkies (2-4) face off with Hooperverse (1-5), a rookie VBL team fresh off their first, and last win of the VBL season, in a thriller which finished 84-80 BBJ. MVP favorite, Zach Hinton, the league’s leading scorer and rebounder averaging 25 ppg, earned his third player of the game honors. In his 3’rd consecutive +30 scoring game, Zach dropped 36 and 12, answering the call each time BBJ needed a bucket deep into the clutch. Combined with court vision by long-time teammate AJ Basco, 6 assists, and iso-scoring from #2 option Zay, 22 pts, the team moved to 3-4, drawing a rematch against the opponent that knocked them into the play-ins in Week 6: Grizzly Moonz and the 8th seeded team Future Mood Studios.
Team Hooperverse, despite losing, played their best game of the season, though again perhaps would regret their lineup inconsistency and chemistry issues. Playing with two of the brightest HS talents in Pro-Am, newcomer and high school phenom Darius, ‘Baby Grinch’ dazzled with 44 points, while Compton Magic counterpart Solo Bailey, 22pt, 5 stls, and father Sheldon Bailey, 14 rebs, were standouts. Isiah ‘JellyFam’ Washington, 8 pts, showcased his well-earned nickname with high-flying lays.
Timeless v Leune
Coming into game 3 there was always potential for a blowout, the vastly underrated 9th seeded Timeless (3-3) vs last place Leune (1-5) finished just so, ending 67 – 50. Finishing just a mere single point differential from the 8th seed and a play-in bye, team Timeless, whose 3 game scorching start derailed in the multi-game absences of all-stars Dame ‘Gods Prodigy’ Young and Zach Andrews in a 3 game losing streak.
Finishing 67-50 Timeless rode substantial contributions from Netflix’s Elvin ‘Harlem World’ Rodriguez, game-high 23 pts, and player of the game Zach Andrews, who pulled down 14 rebs and scored 19. A 2nd quarter return to the VBL by Prodigy showcased, by his standards a quiet game, earning 11 pts, 3 stls, but more-so the return of the behemoth squad that dominated the first 3 weeks of the season.
Although Leune looked a bit akin to the Looney Tunes in Space Jam, but without Michael Jordan, they suffered from no lack of heart throughout the season. Ballers from Leune including Jahmel ‘JT’ Taylor,Coach Pat aka Cleveland Show, Marcus, and CJ dropped buckets week after week, always competing through the last game and displaying excellent sportsmanship throughout.
Top Dawg v Hard to Guard
The final game of the play-in was between 12th Top Dawg and 13th Hard to Guard and finished 80 – 54 HtG. The most lopsided game of the day saw a route, led by player of the game ‘JuiceThaAthlete,’ aka the other Juice, who ignited for 23 points on 5 long-balls. Easily playing their most dominant game of the season, Hard to Guard, is looking to keep momentum high after winning 2 of their last 3 games. Sustained strong performances by Dios Mac, 16 pts 6 asts, and Jeff Montenegro, 8 pts, 5 stl will be paramount in HtG winning their Top 12 matchup vs 6th seeded Sneakers’n’Stuff.