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Ballin in the Park 2014

If there is one thing the TV show Dexter taught us, it’s that the people we encounter everyday have wonderful skills we will never be aware of. How does Ballin’ in the Park relate to this? Well, the strength of this event was that it gave the unappreciated basketball kings living amongst us (rather than the serial killers with a conscience) a chance to shine.

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A few hundred committed punters braved the heat to see both young and old sweat glistening Adonis’, in expensive gear, compete for the lucrative prizes up for grabs in the three-point shootout tournament, Social League and more serious Pro League 3ON3. With six games always running simultaneously, there was plenty to enjoy.

Teams had to nominate into the Social or Pro Leagues, and to encourage the better teams to join the Pro League (rather than opt for the easier Social League) the prize was significantly better. Despite this incentive, there were still teams in the Social League that definitely shouldn’t have been there.

Assumedly clean of goon and other performance enhancing drugs for at least 48 hours, the almost exclusively male players gamed almost non-stop for several hours, engaging in one 10-minute half court duel after the next.

Many fancied themselves Jordan reincarnated, and wanted to be a hero (often at the expense of the smarter play). Inevitably, the children of pride were exposed, and the guys actually with the goods brought the day to a close.

Court 3 offered the most shade and the best action (hosting both the Grand Finals [GF] and the three-point shootout tournament). At 2.30, Pfr.com.au and Blake-ing Bad met here in a Social League game. Each had good hustle and it was an entertaining game, but Pfr had a height advantage and took almost every rebound effortlessly. This unavoidable inequity plagued many of the day’s games, and talented sides were undone by a lack of talls to win rebounds.

Pfr.com.au then met The Amusement Park in an entertaining but heated Preliminary Final. The Amusement Park had a chance to win it in the dying seconds with a 3, but the shot bounced clear. This put Pfr in the path of The Avengers, who were rampaging. Last year’s Social League victors had defeated the Balloholics in over time, and cleaned up Pfr as well.

Progressing to the Social League Semi Finals, The Avengers faced and defeated Victorious Secret. This was an ugly game, and tempers flared. The Avengers consistently mouthed off at the referee and lost players for too many fouls. With the scores level and 30 seconds to play, a short fight broke out. Victorious Secret had the discipline, the height and the win, however a drama with recording the score meant they were stripped of their win, and the game went into overtime. The Avengers eventually won the game.

Meeting Toeknee in the low scoring GF, they were resoundingly defeated. Toeknee had one especially talented player (suspiciously so for the Social League) who dominated the court, and The Avengers broke apart on their defence, only managing to get on the board after ten minutes of play.

The shooting tournament interspersing games all day saw contestants given a minute to take five shots from five locations around the three-point arc. Showcasing a number of different shooting techniques (some more efficient than others), there were 25 shots to be had, and 30 points to be won (as the ‘Moneyball’ was worth two points). The best shooters only managed six or seven 3s, and while it added variety, this was not the most exciting aspect of the event.

The best contest of the day was a Group Stage game between the Lighterz and the Vikings in the Pro League. They were evenly matched as they battled in a physical but clean game. The Vikings triumphed 9-6, but both teams were comparatively exceptional and made the finals.

The Lighterz cleaned up the Redbacks in the Qualifying Final. They never looked like losing, and the Redbacks blazed away from the 3 more times than they passed.

The Blue Ballers nearly put an end to the Lighterz’s good form, drawing first blood in the Semi Final. Their quick passing exposed some inadequacies, and they had a better vision for where their players were positioned. I liked them for the win, but the Lighterz snagged the victory in the dying seconds when they drew a foul and nailed the free throw to win by one.

I had hoped the Pro League GF would see the Lighterz and the Vikings meet again, as their attacking style was exciting to watch. However, in the Semi Final I didn’t see, the Vikings lost to the Pork Hunts.

The Lighterz fought hard in the GF, making constant darting drives to the ring as they worked the key, but came undone. The Pork Hunts were skilled, and were composed of three talls (who were head and shoulders above the tallest player from the Lighterz), and one small who turned the defence inside out, and was arguably the quickest player of the event. It was a great game, but the crowd had dwindled so it didn’t get the acknowledgment it deserved.

Respect must be paid to the consistently calm and confident referees who made assured and fair calls that meant there was no time wasted as players tried to appeal decisions or pressure an unsure ref.

Bringing together fans of the game, this fun (and free!) family day had a great atmosphere. The event lacked polish, and needs significantly more facilities (especially more tents to provide shade and an onsite ATM), but these flaws can be tweaked for next year.

By Samuel Cox

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