The SBL Finals are almost here. The final game of the season is a rematch from week 8 of the regular season. The Lions won that game 78-64 behind 28-points from Gavin Sullivan. Some interesting storylines played out in the first meeting. There was the ruckus around the Hurricane bench between Dustin Warfield of the Lions and the Hurricane’s Joe Arnett and Alex Sollberger. There were Gavin Sullivan’s clutch 3 pointers that pulled the game out of reach. Also, the fact that the Lions bench that some around the SBL consider to be their weakness stepped up that game, led by Romon Hugan’s 9 points. Some other key points out of that first match-up involve who wasn’t there. The Lions were without six man Jermaine Bond (still with the Crusaders) and F Sean Grove was out with a knee injury. The Hurricane was without SF Jake Fiddes and F Alex Birge for the contest as well. All four of those players play key roles with their teams as the season winds down and are capable of impacting the game. The Lions, prided on their defense, were able to hold PF Jason Lanzotti, PG Cortney Atkins, and SG Julian Jones well below their season averages. Where as the Hurricane were able to negate the rebounding prowess of C Dustin Warfield and PF Nate Webster, holding them both to single digit total rebounds.
The 2012 SBL Finals figure to be a great game between two bitter rivals. There is still some bad blood between these two teams from meetings in years past and this season. The Lions are out to prove that they are the best team in the SBL. It has only happened once in league history that the team with the best regular season record has been the last team standing at the end of the season (2009’s Black Attack). The Hurricane is looking to ride out the recent string of good games by finishing off the Lions. Both teams are their conference champions and fought through a trying regular season to earn the top slots in their respective playoff brackets. The Lions went through a tough Red Devils team and then defeated a very talented Team Crusens in the Western Conference Finals. The Hurricane knocked off a feisty Ramrod squad and then went through the very skilled Crusaders to advance out of the Eastern Conference.
What to look for in the SBL Finals: Can the Hurricane keep everyone involved. Sometimes the Hurricane force too many bad shots. Better ball movement and willingness to make the extra pass will go a long way for them. They have a legitimate 5 scorers in their starting line-up. This makes them a very difficult match-up. Recently PF Jason Lanzotti has been the forgotten man on the offensive end. The Hurricane will need to involve him offensively as well as Jake Fiddes in order to win. SG Julian Jones faces a tough match-up again in SG Martell Webster. If Jones can take what is given to him and deliver on his opportunities in transition as well as be an offensive facilitator the Hurricane could be hoisting the title at the end of Sunday’s game. Also, PG Cortney Atkins must take some pride in his defense and really make life difficult on PG Gavin Sullivan. Team Crusens SG Jamie Fiddes did a remarkable job in making Sullivan work to get open, denying him the ball after he gave it up. If Atkins can make Sullivan work as hard as well as be physical with him that will also play to the Hurricane’s advantage. As for the Lions, they need to continue to play their style of basketball. They set a lot of high screens that get Sullivan and C Dustin Warfield open 3-point looks. With a slower C Justin Gardner for the Hurricane, the Lions should look to set a lot of high screens for Warfield and make Gardner defend him far away from the basket. The Lions will also be counting on a good effort on the offensive glass by PF Nate Webster. The Hurricane was able to limit his offensive rebounds last time out, but on the whole that has been a tall task for any team. The other key for the Lions will be Martell Webster on Julian Jones. The cousin-on-cousin match up should be a good one. Webster has some buzz surrounding him as a possible SBL Defensive Player of the Year so Jones, the Eastern Conference leading scorer will have his work cut out for him. Lastly, which bench will step up? The Hurricane are viewed as one of the deeper teams in the SBL with weapons such as SG Brad Ihnken, C Joe Arnett, PG Brian Redington, and PF Alex Sollberger coming off the bench. The Lions bench is not as decorated as the Hurricane but has been productive. SG Jermaine Bond since arriving from the Crusaders mid-season has provided instant offense. SF Marcellous Buntley and PF Romon Hugan have improved as the year has gone on. The x-factor could be will the Lions emotional leader SG Dominique Stenson be in attendance for the contest?
Position by Position
Point Guard: Cortney Atkins, Hurricane vs Gavin Sullivan, Lions
Shooting Guard: Julian Jones, Hurricane vs Martell Webster, Lions
Center: Justin Gardner, Hurricane vs Dustin Warfield, Lions
Power Forward: Jason Lanzotti, Hurricane vs Nate Webster, Lions
Small Forward: Jake Fiddes, Hurricane vs Sean Grove, Lions
Bench: Hurricane vs Lions
Finals MVP: Nate Webster, Lions