Written by Alex Semerjian and Sydney Imus
Woodies vs. Prototype 81
The VBL slate kicked off with a matchup between winless Woodies and veteran led Prototype 81 x Sunblock ending in an 80-66 victory for Prototype 81. From the tip, the game had an open run feel with both teams scoring quick, easy buckets and defense being hard to come by. Prototype 81 got off to an early lead and never looked back, capitalizing on turnovers to score easy baskets. The Big 3 of Davie “Pop Champagne” Champagnie, Brandon “The Mute” (16 pts, 3 3s, 6 reb, 8 ast), and Julius “Juice” Billbrew was effective and dominant, and will be relied upon once the playoffs start. Juice’s (28 pts, 3 3s, 3 ast, 3 stl) sit-down on Quan (7 pts) was a great way to start the weekend, getting the mid-day crowd hyped and craving more high level plays. Along with his dunks, Juice ran away with the 3-point crown of the VBL, leading the league by 6 three-pointers. Pop Champagne (25 pts, 12 reb, 4 ast) would earn player of the game, imposing his force around the basket to force points. For Woodies, Juice the Athlete (18 pts, 3 3s, 5 reb, 3 stl) continues to shoot the ball well, with deep three pointers and silky moves expected from him on a regular basis. In his season debut, A.D. had 17 points, proving to be a worthwhile pickup, and veteran Jamaican J had 12 points and 6 rebounds. Woodies will need to pick up some players to improve their standing and chances of winning in the playoffs in the coming weeks.
Hamilton x Wilson vs. Fentwood Hoops x Surf Club
Saturday’s game of the day was between Fentwood Hoops x Surf Club and Hamilton x Wilson. Coming into the game, the two teams were having very different seasons as Fentwood was undefeated at 4-0, while Hamilton x Wilson was 1-3. Without Tone Jennings and Jordan “J-Dubie”, Fentwood Hoops did not appear to be the same team from prior weeks, struggling through three quarters. Compared to other weeks, Hamilton seemed to have improved their chemistry and fit as a team with a more balanced roster. Hamilton held a 14 point lead in the 4th quarter, but there was a feeling amongst spectators that the game was far from over. This would prove true, with Maurice “MoThePro” Jones scoring in bunches through a variety of different avenues for Fentwood, drawing the game close. Mo would give Fentwood the lead through an iso bucket and an iso stop and Fentwood had the game in their hands up 5 with 30 seconds left. A crazy sequence of events saw Hood Jesus (7 pts) hit a three and Damani (16 pts, 4 ast, 3 3’s) steal an inbounds pass and hit a three, giving Hamilton 6 points in 3 seconds. After baskets were traded including a clutch iso for Young Mouthpiece, Hamilton would lead by two. Mark Chin (7 pts) would drive for Fentwood elevating and dropping off a contested pass into Daniel Pugh (22 pts, 5 reb) who would make a layup to send the game into overtime. Overtime was the Mo show, as he would take over the game and lead Fentwood to a 79-78 win. He would earn VBL Week 5 player of the week, as his 38 point, 3 3’s made, and 4 steal performance is one of the best of the season so far. Although Hamilton lost, hanging with the league’s best will be a momentum builder for coming weeks, and Grizz (14 pts), Dre “Mt. of a Man” (15 pts, 8 reb), and Young Mouthpiece (12 pts) will hope to keep up their high level performances.
Fabletics vs. Urban Necessities
Saturday finished with a matchup of two 1-3 squads, Fabletics and Urban Necessities. Both teams fought hard for their second win, going neck and neck throughout and trading blows. Omari “The Poster Child” Ferguson’s game-winning shot missed at the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime and giving the spectators some more free basketball. Ultimately, Fabletics would get the 63-58 victory, moving to 2-3 this season and giving themselves a little win streak. As per usual, Allex Austin led Fabletics with 15 points and 15 rebounds, topping the total and per game rebound lists. Allex’s pursuit of the ball is unmatched in the VBL, with Team Fabletics always having a built-in edge on the boards with his presence. Mel (17 pts, 5 ast) earned player of the game for Fabletics, as his clutch shooting in the second half kept Fabletics in the game and with an opportunity to close it out. Nez poured in 18 points for Fabletics, establishing himself as a key part of the squad and an eclectic player in the VBL. Sam Taub’s nutmeg and assist to a high-flying Nez was the play of the game. Urban Necessities was led by rookie of the year frontrunner and #1 draft pick Omari Ferguson (20 pts, 5 stl), who ranks first in steals, second in points, second in assists, and third in 3’s made in the VBL. Chima “The Mongoose” had 12 points, and VBL assist leader Angel “Bubbz” had 9 assists, with both not being enough for an Urban Necessities victory. With players on the leaderboards, Urban Necessities has the firepower to improve upon its record, but needs a secondary scorer to step up to have a chance at success in the VBL playoffs.
Bball Junkies vs. In the Lab
Sunday’s game of the day in the VBL and the third overtime game of the weekend took place between B-Ball Junkies and In the Lab, who were both 2-2 coming into the game. In the Lab held a small lead throughout the game, but B-Ball Junkies remained within striking distance. The teams would trade buckets late in the 4th, with Coach Rob for B-Ball Junkies’s infectious energy getting the crowd hyped and on their feet. Overtime saw a crazy sequence by Darae “The Executioner” for In the Lab, as he had back-to-back putback poster dunks, leading to two sit-downs and a victory. Darae (20 pts, 15 reb) received player of the game for his impressive showing and has established himself as one of the most effective and entertaining young players in the VBL. Along with Darae, In the Lab relies heavily on the play of D.J. Everage (14 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast), who would have another solid game and has formed quite the dynamic duo with Darae. For B-Ball Junkies, Zach Hinton showed why he is the reigning MVP, delivering bucket after bucket to keep the game close en route to a 26 point and 17 rebound stat-sheet stuffing double-double. Zach “The Artillery” was assisted by Vic Costa’s 13 points and 6 rebounds, but Zay’s absence was felt through the lack of other scoring outlets for B-Ball Junkies. With the season closing in on playoffs, both teams will like their chances of getting a win or two, and potentially surprising with a deep run.
Crenshaw Coffee vs. New Jersey Sets
The next matchup was between two middle of the pack teams in New Jersey Sets and Crenshaw Coffee Company, ending in a 69-61 win for New Jersey Sets. The game was close throughout, with New Jersey Sets pulling away in the final minutes. The missing presence of Sheldon Bailey was felt for Crenshaw Coffee, as New Jersey Sets outrebounded and outhustled them. This effort for New Jersey Sets was led by Estes (17 pts, 10 reb), who’s vertical leap for blocks and rebounds continues to amaze the Venice Beach crowd. Jeff “Montenegro” controlled the offense for New Jersey Sets, scoring 22 pts with 4 3s and earning himself player of the game. The highlight of the game was Robin “Sikwitit” Kennedy’s minutes for New Jersey Sets, as the fan favorite had everyone rooting for him in hopes of a vintage highlight play. Sikwitit would deliver, making a 3 pointer and dropping a silky dime off to Estes for a powerful finish. Crenshaw Coffee was led once again by AJ “Chosen One” who had 13 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast, and his usual lockdown perimeter defense. Chance the Hooper (15 pts) and Wes “The Real Sidney D” (13 pts, 4 ast) provided additional guard-play for Crenshaw Coffee, but the frontcourt was lacking in scoring. For New Jersey Sets, AG would arrive late but still scored 14 pts, proving he is one of the top scorers in the VBL. Going into the backend of the season, Crenshaw Coffee will hope to improve on its 1-4 record, while New Jersey Sets is a dark horse to contend with its best 5 players being among the top in the league.
The Mecca vs. Timeless
The penultimate matchup of the weekend was between undefeated The Mecca and one-loss Timeless, ending in a 85-72 win for Team Timeless. The game was defined by The Mecca’s turnovers, which Timeless turned into easy dunks. Buddha Boyd, Dame “God’s Prodigy”, and Elvin “E5” Rodriguez, all had more than 6 steals for Timeless, highlighting their game plan to pressure The Mecca. In the first half alone, Elvin had 6 dunks and Dame had 23 points, giving Timeless a sizable lead. Late in the 3rd quarter and early in the 4th, The Mecca began to capitalize on Timeless’s tired legs and short bench to mount a run. They would get within one point after Malik “Slim”’s (21 pts) and-one poster dunk on Dame. In the middle of the 4th, Timeless began forcing more turnovers, going on a run that would secure a double-digit win and have them leapfrog The Mecca in the standings. For Team Timeless, Dame would receive player of the game with a crazy stat line of 31 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, while Buddha (12 pts, 8 reb, 4 blk, 3 stl), Elvin (23 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 7 stl), and Marquis (12 pts) all had good games as well. In addition to Slim’s 21 points, Spencer Charles (15 pts, 11 reb, 4 stl) and Josh “Buffet” (12 pts, 8 reb, 4 blk, 3 stl) had good games for The Mecca, who have an exceptional frontcourt but need more backcourt production going into the playoffs.
Actively Black vs. dompen
VBL Week 5 ended with a matchup between 3-1 Actively Black and 3-1 dompen, ending in a 60-54 win for dompen. As per usual, Ryan “Hezigod” Carter had a great game, scoring 34 points for dompen on efficient isolation attacks and dropping 5 dimes to his teammates once double-teamed. Hezigod leads the league in total points and points per game, winning every game he has participated in. A walking highlight reel, Hezi dropped his defender and hit a step back three, getting the crowd off their feet and onto the court. It is hard to argue against Hezi for league MVP at the moment, with a pack of players fighting to catch him in the race. Actively Black fought back and made the game competitive after trailing by 20 early, led by the shooting of Caleb “Robin Thicker” (19 pts, 3 3’s), who had 9 straight points in the 4th quarter. In addition to Caleb’s 19 points, Actively Black got contributions from Rome Flynn (11 pts) and John Coffey (6 pts, 7 reb, 4 blk), whose defense was pivotal in making the game close. Jamaal “Too Tall” (10 pts, 12 reb) continues to hold down the paint for dompen, while CJ (10 pts, 7 reb) had a solid game in all facets. As the regular season winds down, both teams will like their chances of going deep in the VBL playoffs and getting to the Ron Beals championship game.