AbtNet’s inaugural year wrapped up in style on Friday with a memorable matchup of strength and will at Tobiasson Square Garden, which was filled to capacity for the first time this season. “It feels like the Superbowl,” noted one fan/commissioner on Friday morning, in a somewhat self-serving tweet to his follower. “What the hell are you talking about? You forgot to take out the garbage,” his wife texted back. Despite the turmoil on the homefront, the final preparations were made and the palpable excitement at Abt-Cambridge culminated with the league’s two best teams playing a game that lived up to the hype.
Flying Squirrels 5, Hearts & Unicorns 4
The championship game got off to a bit of a rough start with some technical difficulties with the lights and music, and the real battle started before the first whistle as Rajon Gan and Arthur Drexler fought for position under the hoop. Latecomers were still finding their seats in the bleachers as Hearts & Unicorns guard Randall “Butterfly” took the first possession and found Gan under the basket for the first score. Dono Chance and Arthur Drexler put their set plays in motion and used some nice high-low action to keep pace with Hearts & Unicorns in the early stages. The two teams traded baskets to a 3-3 tie, with H&U having the advantage of the first possession and the first chance to score 5 points if no team could come up with a defensive stop.
The analysts in the booth were pointing out, however, that the Squirrels were effectively countering the Unicorn strategy that so thoroughly baffled the Robots in the semifinals, namely Gan dominating under the hoop.
Gan was unable to set up shop consistently in the paint, but she found other ways to contribute, yanking one defender out of the way on a questionable play that eluded officiating, which freed up her teammate for a score. Randall “Butterfly” turned in his best offensive performance of the season for the Unicorns with some determined work around and behind the hoop. Outside shooting was abandoned during this championship game, with point after point coming from one hard fought dunk after another.
The turning point occurred with the score still knotted at 3-3. First Randall was tied up by Arthur and almost pulled backwards out of his chair. This was called a foul, but on the next possession, Gan got tied up for more than three seconds and the referee called a jumpball. The possession arrow pointed at the Squirrels, and now the team with the best regular season record had the Reyn Guyer trophy in their sights. On the next possession, the Unicorns had no chance of catching Dono Chance streaking down the left side for a layup, putting the squirrels up 4-3. Gan and Juras fought back with nice use of the area behind the hoop and tied the game at 4.
It was at this point that at least one member of the crowd fainted — the tension was just becoming too great, but when the Commissioner learned that the disturbance was not a visit from the fire marshall, he ordered the teams to play on.
The Squirrels went back to their bread and butter high-low game and Drexler found Dono behind the hoop with a precision pass. Dono finished the play wrapping around the pole for the winning bucket.
“I’d just like to thank the good Lord above,” said the noticeably emotional and teary-eyed Arthur Drexler. “Thanks to my parents for believing in me and letting me live with them. This one’s for you, Mommy!”
“And I’d like to thank the mother of God and the mother of baby Jesus, who may or may not be one in the same…,” gushed Dono Chance, putting his arm heavily around the shoulder of an openly weeping Arthur Drexler. “I can’t even think straight right now… but who cares? We’re kings of the world!!”
Later that evening, the Squirrels issued a public apology for their remarks which might have been construed as offensive to religious people. The issuance only fanned the flames of their latest controversy, however, when they misspelled “Gawd” six times in a row in the apology and ended it with, “We cool?”
Commissioner Friedman tried to introduce more pomp and less circumstance into the event with the presentation of the championship trophy to the Squirrels.
Then the League’s Most Valuable Player of the Year award was presented to Katie “Rajon” Gan for virtually willing her expansion team into the finals and turning what could have been a debilitating team name into a household expression.
Randall Butterfly was gracious in defeat after pretending to steal the trophy, saying, “The Squirrels are clearly much more dedicated to this ridiculous sport than the rest of us. They deserve this homemade trophy.” Rajon Gan was still recovering from the disappointing loss and left the court warning of a coming “horsie apocalypse” next season.
Thanks to all of the loyal fans who packed into Tobiasson for the finals, and stay tuned for announcements regarding AbtNet season 2, “This time it’s personal.” Aside from the tagline, the next season promises more innovation and controversy, including “Soup night,” 2-pointers, “points for trying” and points for getting the Commissioner an iced coffee.