Written by Alex Semerjian and Sydney Imus
We’re here with all the action you might have missed at the debut weekend of VBL’s 2023 season.
Woodies vs. BBall Junkies
The weekend tipped off with a matchup between Team Woodies x Hoopbus and Team BBall Junkies, ending in a 68-65 win for BBall Junkies. 2022 VBL MVP Zach Hinton started off the new campaign strong, receiving player of the game honors (11 pts, 10 reb, 4 ast). Hinton was assisted by Vic Costa’s (11 pts) clutch shotmaking and Isaiah ‘Zay (16 pts) who put Woodies away with a clutch 3 in a close battle. Hoopbus, led by Izeah aka Mocha Chocolate’s 25 points, were unable to capitalize on a potential game-tying iso call, dropping the first game of the season in a nail-biting finish. Additional standout performers included Jamaican J (11 pts, 8 reb) and Mint Chocolate (13 pts), who both scored in double digits for Team Hoopbus.
Fabletics vs. Surf Club x Fentwood Hoops
The second game of the weekend featured league newcomer Team Fabletics and Team Surf Club by Fentwood Hoops, ending in a blowout 70-53 win for Fentwood. Fentwood Hoops used their size, versatility, and team chemistry to smother Fabletics on the defensive end, converting missed shots and turnovers into easy fastbreak dunks. Fentwood’s balanced scoring attack was led by Tone (22 pts, 8 reb, 6 ast), who cruised to a Week 1 player of the game and for whom the game looked all too easy for. Additionally, Jordan ‘J Dubie’ (9 pts, 9 reb, 6 ast), Daniel Pugh (16 pts, 7 reb), and CJ (10 pts) were standout performers for Fentwood Hoops. Team Fabletics was led by Frazier (16 pts, 4 ast, 3 3’s), who will hope for more contributions and effort from his talented roster in the future.
In the Lab vs. The Mecca
Saturday’s last game was between defending champs In the Lab and league newcomers The Mecca. Though they are the reigning champs, head coach Devin Williams brought an entirely new roster out to their first game, testing the theory that he can win with a whole new group. In the Lab held a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter. A furious run from The Mecca resulted in a 70-68 comeback win, keyed by their on-ball pressure. The Mecca’s Jalen (16 points) received player of the game, while Jamal (13 pts), Kevin (13 pts), and draftee Aries Frederick (11 pts) pitched in with double figure scoring outputs. Team In the Lab was led by a standout performance from Dwight, though his 22 points were not enough to secure a Week 1 win for his squad.
Hamilton x Wilson vs. DOMPEN Greenlights
Sunday tipped off with a star-studded matchup between Team Hamilton x Wilson and Team DOMPEN, ending in a 81-62 win for the Greenlights. ’22 Finals MVP Hezigod arrived late but still dropped an effortless and highlight-filled double-double (18 pts, 10 ast), coming up to the scorer’s table to let their statkeepers know his was stacking up on assists, which he did in route to a player of the game honor. Brandon “BodyBag” Moss (24 pts), Marcus Bell (14 pts, 6 ast), and Dezzy (20 pts) were part of an unstoppable 4-headed attack for the Greenlights, who look to be early favorites for the 2023 VBL title. Team Hamilton x Wilson were led by their namesake Anthony Hamilton (18 pts) and Deshaun Highler (14 pts, 3 3’s), who were unable to keep up with the juggernaut DOMPEN after a strong first-half.
New Jersey Sets vs. Urban Necessities
The game of the weekend was between two newcomers to the VBL, New Jersey Sets and Urban Necessities, which ended in a 79-72 overtime win for New Jersey Sets. Team New Jersey Sets was led by player of the game Kendall (19 pts). After #1 draft pick Omari Ferguson (28 points, 4 reb, 5 ast) crossed through two defenders, and rose above Kendall for a show-stopping, play-of-the-week, poster dunk. Kendall’s two minutes in the penalty box were spent plotting revenge, and he came out determined to make an impact, becoming the key to New Jersey Sets late 4th quarter push to send the game into overtime, scoring 8 straight in the final minute. Urban Necessities received a double-double from Gyles (23 pts, 10 reb), whose last minute and-1 sent the game to overtime, and 14 points from Ant Henderson, though the pair was not enough to overcome the depth of Team New Jersey Sets who had 11 players on the scoresheet. AG (15 pts) and Jeff ‘Montenegro’ (13 pts, 5 ast) were standout players for New Jersey Sets, in what was a great opening win for their squad.
Crenshaw Coffee Co vs. Timeless
The penultimate game of the weekend featured Team Timeless and new boys Team Crenshaw Coffee Co. Timeless took a 80-73 dub in the matchup, led by player of the game Elvin ‘E5’ Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who was the 2022 VBL Rookie of the Year, had a great all around game providing 22 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast, and 3 3’s, and aims to build on what was a memorable rookie campaign. Dame ‘God’s Prodigy’ (20 pts) had a strong scoring effort for Team Timeless, and Buddha Boyd (10 pts) contributed with a double digit scoring output. Crenshaw Coffee had 5 players with at least 7 points, but will need a standout effort to put them over the top in their next matchup. KP and Last Chance each scored 12 points in Crenshaw Coffee’s debut appearance in the VBL.
Actively Black vs. Prototype 81 x Sunblock
The last game of the weekend was between long-time VBL veterans Prototype 81 x Sunblock and newbies Team Actively Black. Juice (26 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast, 5 3s) got going early for Sunblock, but Actively Black ultimately would take a 73-68 victory led by player of the game Steve Wooten Jr (20 pts, 6 3s). Steve and Juice treated the game like an all-star three-point contest, knocking down 6 and 5 from behind the arc respectively. Ultimately, legendary dunker Chris Staples (18 pts) and Rome Flynn’s (10 pts) efforts were enough to support Steve and give Actively Black their first VBL win in an upset. Prototype 81 x Sunblock will hope for more from their supporting cast, while Brandon (10 pts), Gio (10 pts 9 reb) and draftee Whole Lotta’ Hair (11 pts) led in the loss.