Upsets Abound in VBL Playoff Quarterfinals

 The Venice Basketball League (“VBL”) playoffs kicked off this week with a full slate of games in the Hooper’s Paradise. The Kid’s Venice Basketball League hosted their weekly #ChurchOfHoops clinic, this week featuring NBA trainer Adam Quinter. After the clinic, it was time for vintage VBL playoff action… let’s get into it! 

Los Fearless Wins Double to Make the Semifinals

The hooping began early with a pair of lightning round play-in games – 20 minutes each instead of the full 40 – to make the final bracket of eight teams. First up, Los Fearless took on Hall of Fame, an athletic match-up stacked with some serious ballers. I expected the higher seed, Hall of Fame, to earn the W in this game given their veteran leadership from VBL day-ones Crushow and AJ “The Chosen One” Harris.

Both squads came with the urgency you’d expect in the playoffs, but HOF might have been just a little too juiced. Team captain The Chosen One gave Los Fearless a Christmas-in-July gift by getting ejected off two technicals – impressive given the game was only 20 minutes long, running clock. The loss was palpable, helping Los Fearless skim a 20-19 victory.

Getting the win put Los Fearless, led by all-star guards “Poster Boy” and “Grimes”, in the big boy bracket, matched up with the upstart 2-seed, Project Backboard. It promised to be a hard-fought contest, with both teams fielding skilled, energetic guard play and bruises on the inside.

Project Backboard jumped to an 8-0 lead, but suffered an important early loss to injury. Their massive center Marcus “The Devourer” – perhaps the largest man in the league 6’10 330lbs – checked out midway through the first after tweaking his knee. He told me he was unable to put any pressure on it, prematurely ending his playoff run.

His presence was clearly missed as Los Fearless’s big men, TJ “Steroid Ambassador” Mann and “Hugo Boss”, cleaned up the offensive boards throughout the game and gave Los Fearless a wealth of second chances to score. Project Backboard relied on buckets from their lanky star guards, The Mercenary and Mosley, as well as silky shooting from their reserve guard #42, and the game was tight into the fourth.

Down a point with just a minute on the clock, Project Backboard stiffened up on D and forced two straight shot clock violations from Los Fearless. But Los Fearless tightened up too, setting up a last-second chance for Project Backboard to take the game. With three seconds on the clock, Project Backboard’s trained assassin The Mercenary caught the inbounds at the top of the key, took two dribbles to the left elbow to create just enough space for a fade away. And… it came short as the horn sounded. #Yikes

It was a scrappy upset for Los Fearless, who contrary to most of the regular season came with their full team, and a tough defeat for Project Backboard, who dropped just a single regular season contest. In next week’s semifinals, Los Fearless will meet Pro Shot West, who rediscovered their groove this week and knocked off 5th-seeded Most Hated Players to advance to the semifinals.

Sunblock Unscrews Hub Select, Setting Up Semifinal Clash with the Novastars

The 4/5 seed battle saw Hub Select take on the Sunblock squad. After a close first quarter, the screws came off for a Hub Select team that was a missed three pointer away from forcing overtime against the VBL behemoth Novastars in the final week of the regular season. Hub Select repeatedly failed to get back on defense and gave up numerous second chance opportunities to a bigger and more active Sunblock squad. Led by the always energetic Kake Show, who fed off his loyal fanbase in the stands, the league’s most sun-safe squad took the lead early in the second and didn’t look back, going on to post a 21-point victory.

Sunblock’s scoring was led by 9-year VBL veteran and multiple-time champion Brandon “The Mute” Fields, who effortlessly made six threes, including 4 in the first half, on his way to 28 points in the effort.

“I’m a shooter so you give me enough room, I’m going to shoot,” he said of his performance. But he was more impressed by his squad’s relentless energy. “I like that every player showed up today. We’re a scrappy team, that’s what we need to do every week.”

They’ll need to be at their scrappiest if they want a chance to play in the VBL finals. Sunblock’s path fittingly runs through the undisputed league ringer, the Novastars, who continued their undefeated streak by blowing out The Venetians this week. That game started as a defensive struggle – at halftime the score stood at 23-20 in favor of the Novastars. But the league’s only undefeated team took control in the third and went on to capture a 26-point win.

“We expect every team to give us their best shot,” said Novastars captain Tristan “King Hustle” Wilson. “It’s all about weathering their storm.”

Will a layer of Sunblock hold back the ‘Stars in next week’s match up? Can Los Fearless continue their courageous playoff run versus Pro Shot West? Find out next week as the Venice Basketball League playoffs continue Sunday, July 30th at 2 PM. The pair of semi-final games will be followed by a very special VBL All-Star game – because, at VBL, the game never stops!

  • Warren “Wojissimo” Szewczyk