The Ladybird Engraving squad was awarded the Men’s Spring League trophy as 2019 Champions! From Left to Right: Jacob Put; Martin Adair; Corey Williams; Ted Haggard; Kevin Titian Jr; Kevin Titian Sr; Mike Lange. Missing: Gus Brooks. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Ladybird ends undefeated season with Spring League championship

Port Alberni spring basketball league ended after three weeks of playoffs

CRAIG BROOKS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Five teams battled through the five-week regular season and three weeks of playoffs to arrive at Championship Week to crown our 2019 Spring League Champion. The evening’s action featured #2 seeded Alberni Co-op vs #5 Seed LB Woodchoppers. The loser of this game settled for a third place finish, and awaiting the winner is the championship game against a Ladybird Engraving squad who were looking to cap off a perfect (undefeated) season. Both games featured end to end action as competitors left everything they had on the court.

Semi-final: Alberni Co-op (67) vs. LB Woodchoppers (57)

This game opened with some lovely ball movement and drive and dish penetration for both sides. The Choppers looked to dictate the pace of the game with a half court set, driving to the hoop, kicking it out and teammates always seemingly making that extra unselfish pass for the open look. As the Choppers worked to get guys open inside and out, Co-op would counter strike quickly by releasing players deep on every Woodchopper shot and connecting with the long pass. The Woodchoppers were effective in their offense, but the continuous quick scoring counterstrike of Co-op gave the game a feel like the Axemen were always playing from behind, which was not the case. If the Woodchoppers patiently worked the clock to get their look, Co-op returned serve with a score in under five seconds.

As the first half wore on, it was the Woodchoppers who blinked first, abandoning their game and trying to run with Co-op, rather than trying to force the slower pace. In most cases for Co-op, Jayden Moss was the release man as he piled up the points throughout the first half. He accounted for 30 of Co-op’s 38 first half points as the Chopper scoring ran cold. Halftime 38-24.

In the second half, the Choppers returned to their original strategy of ball control and solid defense and found themselves opening the half on a 7-0 run. Co-op continued to leak players out, but could not connect on some early passes as Co-op found Moss well covered. When Eddie Fred hit a couple of big shots for Co-op, the Choppers had to relent on the double of Moss. Both teams ran end to end, exchanging three-point attempts, but Co-op began to dominate the offensive boards, creating close range second attempt points while LB Woodchoppers was largely left with a one-done possession. Ultimately this was the difference. Co-op surged back to a double-digit lead with five minutes to go and never looked back. Final score 67-57.

Jayden Moss finished with an outstanding 42-point playoff effort and Eddie Fred had 11 for the victorious Co-op squad. The Woodchoppers had four players hit double digits: Isaac Jack (15), Dave Eamer (13), Brayden Kirschner and Trey Bell 10 apiece as the LB Woodchopper’s season ended with a third place finish.

Championship: Ladybird Engraving (68) vs. Alberni Co-op (59)

It was only fitting that these two squads should meet in the finals. The only blemishes to the Co-op squad’s record came at the hands of Ladybird, and some of the most hotly contested battles for Ladybird were against this Co-op team. Each squad can run. Each squad can shoot. Each squad can dominate the boards seemingly at will when motivated.

Both teams pushed the pace and had open looks and both teams missed often. Perhaps because Co-op was a little more warmed up from playing earlier in the evening, they began to find their range a little more quickly as five different players got into the scoring action regularly and were largely successful in keeping Mike Lange of the scorer’s sheet throughout the first half. No sooner had Co-op pushed out to a 15-7 lead when the Birds’ Lange, Williams and Put were able to hit key shots from downtown on near consecutive possessions. Just in the blink of an eye, it’s a game.

As the game tightened to a five-point margin, tensions rose, and the game became a bit chippy. As teams contested every drive, shot and rebound, players looked to gain a physical advantage. In the span of the final four minutes of the half, refs interjected themselves into the game and were forced to call a total of 10 fouls to close out the half. Ladybird made the most of their trips to the line (6 for 7) while Co-op was a bit more pedestrian (3 for 6.) Closing out the half with a technical foul against Jayden Moss, Ladybird Engraving was able to capture a one-point halftime lead from the resultant free-throw, 31-30.

Ladybird’s halftime adjustment seemed evident after the break—go back to what works, with Kevin Titian Jr and Mike Lange driving the ball or pulling up from long range. As Lange and Titian Jr began to reassert themselves into this game, Jayden Moss looked to single-handedly lift Co-op back into it. The teams traded buckets and fouls early and often in the second half, with neither team able to generate anything more than a two-possession lead. As the half rolled along, however, Ladybird began a regular rotation of subs, keeping fresh legs on the court. The result was a defense style of play that was more cohesive and limited much of the Co-op scoring to mid-range shots or beyond. On the offensive side for the Birds, as Co-op tried to return to their ways of leaking players out for fast break opportunities, Ladybird’s play was more energetic and they were able to get third and even fourth attempts out of a single possession. On the occasions that Co-op could move the ball in transition, Moss was there to force the issue, lighting up the scoreboard.

With two minutes and no timeouts left in a 63-59 game, Co-op was forced to control the clock with the foul after every score or failed steal attempt. Unfortunately for the Co-op squad, Ladybird shooters remained hot from the charity stripe, making every attempt given.

The clock eventually bled down to the final seconds and a 68-59 final score. Jayden Moss contributed 26 pts and Chris Gow and Eddie Fred had 11 pts for the second place Co-op finish. Mike Lange’s 18 pts, Kevin Titian Jr’s 14 pts and Martin Adair’s 11 pts helped Ladybird Engraving hoist the Men’s Spring League trophy as the 2019 Champions.

Men’s Spring League All-Star Squad: Kevin Titian Jr (Ladybird Engraving); Jayden Moss (Alberni Co-op); Trey Bell (LB Woodchoppers); Ian Samuel (Dave Ralla); Coby Felsman Jr (Italian Stallions).

We would like to thank all our participants for making this such an entertaining and competitive league this season. Thanks to all the volunteers for acting as minor officials. Special thanks to the Alberni Valley Basketball Officials Association and president, Andy Pavan, for officiating our games. Thank-you to Keyiana Patterson-Sterling for providing photography services for every game. Most importantly, we would like to thank each of our sponsors, Dave Ralla Re/Max Agent; Ladybird Engraving and Web Designs; Alberni District Co-op; LB Woodchoppers; and Italian Stallions (Private Sponsor) because without their generous sponsorships our league would not operate. We encourage everyone to consider giving your patronage to these local businesses and support them, as they continue to support local events. Finally, for all basketball updates in the Valley (PAMBA, 3v3, Referee Clinic etc.) please follow www.albernibasketball.ca with a reminder that the Alberni Valley Basketball Association needs referees to keep this sport alive and vibrant in the valley. If you want to make some extra cash and be a part of this great sport check for updates about an upcoming September Ref Clinic.

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