Maplewood Gets Cold With Weather?

Last year, my 6th grade basketball team had a rough regular season, yet we finished 10-4. We didn’t win our division, because we lost to North Caldwell twice. Luckily, we claimed the 4-seed in the playoffs. In the first round, we played on the road against the undefeated Verona, who had beat us earlier in the year.

We played great defense and were able to produce points on the fast break and against their two-three defense. We also had a great game on the boards, despite their unmatchable size down low. So, we advanced, 53-50. Then, in the championship game, in West Orange, which is the same court Kyrie Irving won three middle school championships, we aimed to avenge our previous loss to West Orange.

We mixed up our defenses, utilizing our 1-3-1, full court press, and half court press. Our team caused turnover after turnover, yet we were slowed down offensively. However, with a second left, our center, Stephon, tied the game up with a short bucket. In overtime, I hit a three, and our other guard, Doo-Doo hit a three with four seconds left, and we won the championship 45-44.

And yes, we call him Doo-Doo. I’ll explain. There are two Rakims on our team. One is called Ra-Ra, one is called Doo-Doo. When I met them in 6th grade, I didn’t even ask. I don’t understand the connection between Doo-Doo and Rakim, but, oh well. Anyway, we had a very successful year last year.

This year is quite an adventure. We started the season 4-0, blowing past teams with ease. Then, unfortunately, we lost a tough game at home to West Orange. We really just didn’t come to play. So, then came the game on the road against Verona. However, their biggest man from last year (who was easily over six feet tall) wasn’t playing!

After the game, we figured out that he was in 8th grade, and was prohibited to join the 7th grade team. Anyway, they led the whole game, yet we kept plugging away. Finally, midway through the 4th quarter, we captured the lead, and never let go. We won 55-50!

Then came the huge game against South Orange, at home. Last year, we beat them by 50 twice! However, they got two brothers, Breizh and Brandon, who are very skilled. Every time I went to South Orange to hang out with my friends there, their whole team would talk trash. I just said confidently, “We’ll see.”

Then came game time. I was so nervous, knowing a loss would be much worse than just a big “L” on the schedule. The arena was packed. And I mean PACKED. Kids from South Orange and Maplewood filed into the stands continuously. Teachers, other coaches, students, parents. The gym was full, and many people had to stand.

My friends Sam, Jack, Avery, and Joe led the cheering for our team, and it was loud the whole game. When they were shooting free throws, everyone was screaming and yelling, “OOHHH!” It felt like the entire gym was shaking. It was ridiculously loud, and our crowd tried to taunt Breizh and Brandon.

j playing basketball

Breizh talked trash the whole game; cursing, yelling, pushing, talking smack, talking to the crowd, too! After the 1st quarter, we were winning big, 15-3. However, in the 2nd quarter we couldn’t produce against their 2-3 defense. We scored 1 point in the 2nd quarter, but we remained winning at halftime, 16-15.

Oh, and did I mention, Briezh is five foot seven, and Brandon is five foot eleven (I’m 4’11″)! They both can shoot the three, penetrate, dribble, and shoot short buckets. Literally, they were South Orange’s WHOLE team. No one else scored. Brandon had 28 points, and Breizh had 14 points!

The second half was back and forth, with controversial calls by the ref, and physical plays on both sides of the floor. We tried to run several defenses, including 1-3-1, and half court press. I thought we should’ve full-court pressed, to put pressure on them. We also ran a diamond-and-1 (like a box-and-1) on Breizh, yet that was when Brandon killed us most.

We held them to 42 points, yet we couldn’t produce points against their tight 2-3 when we needed to, and they pulled off the upset, 42-37. It wasn’t that bad, because I got hugs from Maplewood girls, and South Orange girls, and actually had pizza with two of their guards, Ben and David (both my friends) after the game.

However, after the game, our talented 6-foot center, Stephon, quit. It was right after our coach’s speech when he got into a small argument with our coach. Our coach threatened to take his jersey, but Stephon didn’t want deal with any of it, so he threw his jersey down and left.

Our next game, against a bad Cedar Grove team, we lost by one point. I wasn’t there, because I was sick, but the next day at school was rough. I was determined to have a good next game, and try to get our mojo back, as a team and as individuals. Yesterday, in Millburn, we started slow, and were down 27-25 at halftime. However, we turned it up in the 3rd quarter!

We started to play our full-court game, and run the break. I had a no-look scoop pass to my friend Will underneath, and the crowd went nuts. We got fired up, our coach got fired up, and we started playing tough defense, and got steal after steal. And, in Maplewood, when you get a steal, its two points, too. I contributed with 6 points and 10 assists, as we finished the game on a 31-9 run.

So, now we stand with a record of 8-3. Not bad, yet it should be better. We have three games left, and we play Roseland, who we beat by 52, West Caldwell, who we beat by 44, and Millburn, who we just beat by 20. If we win out, we will probably still beat Verona for the 3-seed, and play South Orange in the first round of the playoffs. Now, how crazy would that be? And, hopefully, we can persuade Stephon to return to the team!

Crunch Time for Super Bowl

Well, unfortunately, my New York Giants weren’t able to get a playoff berth, ensuing an ugly season. I thought Eli Manning was terrible for most of the year, and the defense was shaky. The Giants always lose games that they are definitely capable of winning, year after year, and it’s quite frustrating, if you ask me.

In my opinion, the Giants SHOULD have a top-ranked offense, given their talent receiving, passing, and rushing. The Giants should also have a top-ranked defense, especially with their ridiculous talent on the defensive line, including Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. It’s actually cool though because Jason Pierre-Paul’s cousin, Nika, is in my grade, and in my gym class. That’s pretty awesome!

Anyway, last week, the Broncos, Texans, Seahawks, and Packers were eliminated from the playoffs. Honestly, I really wanted to see the Seattle Seahawks go all the way. They had a heart-breaking loss to the Falcons in the final seconds, and controversial play-calling was a key factor. Peyton Manning had a phenomenal first year back from neck surgery with the Broncos, yet just fell short to a talented Ravens team.

The two conference championships consist of the Pats vs. Ravens, and 49ers vs. Falcons. Personally, I think the main reason the Patriots are so good is because Tom Brady attended the University of Michigan. But, you know, that’s just me. No matter how biased I am, the Patriots’ offense is unstoppable, even without star tight-end Rob Gronkowski.

The Ravens, on the other hand, are quite different. Ray Lewis, star linebacker, is retiring after this season, and he is convinced his Ravens and he can capture a Super Bowl victory before his retirement. I doubt it, but we’ll see.With good talent on offense, including Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, and Joe Flacco, the Ravens have a chance at keeping up with Brady. That is, if their defense gets a few key stops.

NFC-Championship-300x167 AFC-Championship-Game-300x171

In the NFC, the 49ers are playing very well on both sides of the football. Their defense is physical, talented, and very difficult to beat. And, due to a recent quarterback change, Colin Kaepernick has stepped up, and given this offense a new, explosive element. I first watched him start against the Bears’ tenacious D, while I was in California for Thanksgiving. He was fantastic, leading the niners to a big win.

On the other side of the football you have the Atlanta Falcons, who have had recent trouble in the playoffs. The talent on offense is amazing, including Julio Jones, Roddy White, Michael Turner, and Matt Ryan. Their defense, in my opinion isn’t so good, yet they force turnovers, which could be a key factor in the conference championship game.

Now, Patriots vs. Ravens: who wins? Pats, no doubt. Their defense has gotten better, forcing many turnovers, and the offense is too much. Averaging over 34 points per game, the Pats rushing game is very good with Stevan Ridley, to go along with Brady’s passing scheme on offense. Pats roll, 38-20.

And, the NFC championship: Niners vs. Falcons, in Atlanta: who wins? Niners, all the way. Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore are unstoppable right now. Last week, the Niners recorded over 300 rush yards, and over 250 pass yards. Atlanta doesn’t have the defense to slow down Kaepernick and Gore, and the 49ers’ defense is a force to be reckoned with, despite Atlanta’s talented offense. Niners advance, 34-24.

Then, in the Super Bowl… Hmm… That’s tough. A great game for sure, but I think the Pats redeem themselves after losing to my New York Giants last year, and they win 27-24. Tell me your thoughts and predictions in the “comments”!

Fresh-Men And Young Wolverines Undefeated

Well, thanks to a little help from North Carolina State yesterday, Michigan’s basketball team is #1 in the country. That is, if they can beat arch rival, Ohio State today. Honestly, I don’t like being the #1 team in the country, because there is a lot of pressure, no matter who you play.

I was just fine sitting at #2, with less pressure. However, since Duke lost, Michigan’s young team has to step up. ESPN analysts believe Michigan is the best team in the country, and coach John Beilein doesn’t have one senior in his rotation.

Michigan is led by point guard Trey Burke, who, in my opinion, is the best player in college basketball. He is quick, agile, strong, physical, and can break down a defense in a heartbeat using his lethal dribbling skills. Whether its shooting, attacking the basket, or dishing, Trey Burke is almost unstoppable.

Trey is accompanied by a fantastic freshman class, including Glenn Robinson the 3rd, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, who has the best shooting percentage in the country, and sharpshooter Caris LeVert.

Additionally, junior Timmy Hardaway Jr, who is averaging over 16 points per game, is the leader of the team, being the oldest. He is also a play maker with his shot, and driving skills.

This Michigan team has amazing, young talent, and they play as a team. I have been watching some of these games man, wow. The unselfishness is so effective, and they play a great man-to-man defense as a team.

This team is consistent, talented, and they play hard for each other, and that is a championship team. If Michigan wins it all, I will be so happy, especially after that horrible football loss in the Outback bowl.

Michigan hoops

All I can say is, I am really enjoying watching such a great Michigan basketball team. When March comes around, everyone better watch out for the maize and blue. Each individual is great to watch, and all of them are quite exciting.

I went to Michigan vs. West Virgina at the Barclays Center in December, and it was awesome. Trey Burke went off, and we won big. Glenn Robinson stole a pass and ran all the way up the floor, jumped at the foul line and slammed it down with one hand.

I was standing and cheering along with the rest of the Michigan fans as the arena erupted. It was ridiculous! Imagine next year, when everyone is experienced! And today, I want this game badly.

Michigan needs to prove something against Ohio State today, and I think they’ll do it. If they win, they’re officially #1 in the country, and have the edge over that school in Columbus.

Even more, my good friend Joe is a huge Ohio State fan. So, a win today could open up quite a few doors, too. When OSU beat us last year, he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut, and I just said, “Wait ’till next year, man.”

So, can you do me a favor Trey? Can you get me a BIG “w” today in Columbus? Let’s hope so. Anyway, today, I think Michigan rolls 87-69 in Columbus. Now, my early season prediction for the Elite Eight- Michigan, Syracuse, VCU, Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Kansas, and Minnesota.

GO BLUE!!!

College Bowl Mania

College football bowl season comes with pride and tradition from universities around the country. Especially from the Rose Bowl, my favorite game that’s always played on January 1st, where the PAC-12 winner and the BIG-10 winner play head-to-head in Pasadena.

The turf is a gorgeous green color, and the field includes a rose in the center, with the Rose Bowl logo. It’s one of the most beautiful football stadiums in my opinion, behind the Big House in Ann Arbor, of course.

Michigan was unable to win the BIG-10, unfortunately, but I was happy that Wisconsin played in Pasadena, because my uncle went there (but he pays no attention to any athletics at Wisconsin!), and because one of my dad’s good friends went there, and he actually follows Wisconsin’s football and basketball teams (shout out to you Davy A!)

And guess what Wisconsin? If you would’ve scored one more touchdown, I’d be winning my bowl game challenge! That’s some serious bragging rights down the drain!

In Bowl season, there are many games that consist of two teams that are relatively at the same level of play. There are five BCS bowls, where 10 of the best teams in the country play each other. Last year, I was grateful that Michigan won the Sugar Bowl, (one of the BCS bowls).

However, the NCAA has just implemented a new four-team playoff plan for college football. So, the top four teams in the country will have a single-elimination tournament to decide the champion.

Rose bowl

First of all, I don’t like this because I run the “Bowl Game Challenge”, in which me and seven of my friends each predict the winner in each bowl, and whoever picks the most correct wins.

Now, how am I supposed to do that if there’s a playoff, huh? I mean, I guess it’s like March Madness for college hoops, but c’mon, why make it so hard on me?

Additionally, it washes away the tradition of the Rose Bowl, and all the other BCS bowl games. The BIG-10 teams and fans wont be able to look forward to the next stage, or the “promised land” after winning the BIG-10!

I have always wanted to see Michigan play in a Rose Bowl, and that may never happen, due to this new playoff system. And despite Michigan’s heartbreaking loss in the Outback Bowl this year, I still think we are Rose Bowl-caliber!

Anyway, the real question is: Will the playoff system work and be good in college football? My instincts say NO, just in case anyone from the NCAA is reading! Tell me your thoughts about it in the “comments”.

P.S. Tomorrow is the last bowl game, featuring the second and third best teams in the country, Notre Dame and Alabama, both behind Michigan, obviously. Anyway, I really don’t like Notre Dame, or Ohio State for that matter, so I’ll be rooting for Alabama, who are the favorites.

And, tomorrow night in the National Championship, I am going with Alabama over Notre Dame, 27-13. Roll tide, baby!