Similar to the NCAA’s play-in game, the mens bracket of the 2017 P.I.T.S League Playoffs started last night with a matchup between Team Don’t Matter and Young Kings. Just like the womens first round matchup prior, this one went down to the wire. Don’t Matter would pull out 63-62 win, to advance to the next round where they’ll face the top seeded Team Hylin.
Free Throws. No matter the type of tournament or post season, they play a vital role. There was definitely a discrepancy in how frequent both teams went to the line in this one, whether it was due to style of play or not, Young Kings had opportunities at the line. Credit Don’t Matter for fighting though the lack of calls at times and even each other in several heated exchanges in a game with everything on the line.
The first half set the table for this fantastic finish.
It was clear that neither team could really pull away from eachother from the opening tip. There were several big individual performances in that half. Nnandi had 17 points to keep Young Kings in it as Don’t Matter tried to create some separation. It was a well balanced attack from Don’t Matter as they led at the break, Tariq had 8 points to lead their team.
The third quarter is where the game started to change a bit, Don’t Matter picked up where it left off at the end of the first half. Their defense was forcing turnovers and creating easy buckets in transition. It didn’t help Young Kings that Manny started to get going, him and Domo had a brief stretch in the quarter when they took turns scoring. While they may not of had the free flowing offense that Young Kings had, they were more surgical in that they realized who may have had a mismatch, gave that player the ball and got out of the way. This is where the charity stripe came into play, Young Kings got to the line several times, well close to 10 by my count in this period and missed nearly all of them.
After having just five points in the first half, K.J. really found his touch from outside. He scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half, helping his team erase that 10 point deficit. Nnandi (5 second half points) drew a foul while shooting a three pointer, not once, but twice in the quarter. He would miss all six shots from the foul line. The second of those calls came with four minutes left in the game and his team down by just six.
Don’t Matter plays with a ton of emotion and over the years, in past seasons, that emotion sometimes gets out of line. Tariq would get issued a technical over a missed foul call, one that seemed justifiable at the time. This time, Young Kings would take advantage of the opportunity at the line and knock both shots down. K.J. would hit another long ball on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to just one.
This is where it got interesting, Alex of Don’t Matter was called for setting an illegal screen, costing them a possession. Down one with 1:44 left in the game, Young Kings had an opportunity.
Chris Howard drew a foul while attacking the basket, he’d go to the line and split the pair to tie the game at 60 a piece. Manny would get a decent look on the other end, but it didn’t fall. K.J. again answered the bell for Young Kings, this time by way of a floater, putting his team up by two. Domo got the ball on the following possession and attacked the basket, he was fouled attempting a runner. He would go one-of-two at the line, cutting that two point deficit to just one with 42 seconds left in the game. Outstanding defense from Tariq garnered another possession for Don’t Matter and Domo wasted no time getting downhill and attacking the rim, he was fouled and headed to the stripe with the game on the line. Down one, he would drain both free throws to give his team a one point lead with 23 seconds left in the game.
Young Kings had one of their worst possessions of the game and didn’t even get a chance to put a shot up, Domo got the ball and avoided several foul attempts to run out the clock.
Don’t Matter came together when it mattered most, several different players made an impact on both ends in the fourth quarter. Young Kings missed roughly 15 free throws, that’s something that can’t happen in the playoffs. Survive and advance, Don’t Matter did just that last night.