In what is believed to be the first victory by a Buffalo News team in the Gus Macker, The News did what newspapers have done throughout history: we showed a TV station how it's done.
Hey, after a big Macker win we're entitled to a little smack, right? :-)
The News team came from behind to edge WKBW Ch. 7 in an 8-6 victory on one of the top men's courts in front of the New Era Headquarters on Delaware Ave. Friday evening.
The biggest basketball weekend of the summer is in action today and Sunday, but the Corporate Challenge tips things off on Friday evening. The Corporate Challenge is a fun three-on-three event in which businesses which sponsor the Gus Macker are invited to enter a squad.
The News went 0-2 last year and 0-2 the year before. Previous years' records are unavailable (which is probably a good thing).
The team consisted of myself, fellow high school reporter Mary Jo Monnin (every team must have a female), News online guru Geoff Nason and aptly-named news reporters Jay Tokasz and Jay Rey (two Jays with J's).
Like I said, the Corporate Challenge is a fun event. But it is still the Macker, where sharp elbows and shoving are almost part of the deal. I was reminded of that when I got poked in the eye by Ch. 7's female player after a rebound. I was reminded a second time when I was poked in the eye a second time.
But our squad hung in there, staying within range despite an early deficit with a pretty two-man Jay-to-Jay basket off some nice ball movement, a putback by Nason and an up-and-under stepthrough move on the block by me -- which stunned baseline official Mike Lonski (one of the best in WNY).
I believe the only on-air personality on the Ch. 7 team was weather guy Aaron Mentkowski, who was a good sport when a fan playfully heckled him after the game ("Where's the weather guy!? Man, you always messin up my weekend!!). Mentkowski had some pretty good game -- however, if you are playing him and you are going up for a rebound, I'll forecast about an 80 percent chance of him going over your back.
We trailed, 6-5, as the game tick-tocked under two minutes (our games were 15-minute affairs with a running clock).
The Ch. 7 team must have seen me play in my weekly pickup games because they left me wide open for a two-pointer at the top of the key (all baskets are one-pointers with "threes" counting for two). In what Tokasz accurately described as an "Artest," I put up the three, gave a body-language lean to the left and watched the ball just graze the inside of the left side of the rim as it nestled in the hoop. After the game, Monnin -- who definitely has seen me play in pickup games -- admitted to saying the classic "no-no-no ... YES!" from the bench.
Nason added a basket off a nice assist by Tokasz for a two-point advantage, and we were able to dribble out the clock for the historic victory.
Ch. 7 did a nice job not only doing a report on the game beforehand (Mentkowski was doing a standup -- TV term -- right before stepping on the court) and getting video of the event on the 11 p.m. newscast. As Keith Radford reported a "good fight" put up in the loss to the News, the "highlights" rolled. This tells you something about how the game went: the clips were two missed shots (both rebounded by yours truly. I'm glad they didn't air the one where I slipped and fell to the court -- thanks guys).
As one of four teams winning an opening round game, we learned our next opponent was AdPro.
As we sized them up from afar, I said something which means bad news for our 30-something-going-on-40-something squad: "Uh-oh -- I think I covered that kid."
Indeed, I had covered Sweet Home grad Eric Schnirel during his days with the Panthers. Those days were pretty good -- Schnirel was part of one of the best games and biggest upsets of the last decade when Sweet Home knocked off a Niagara Falls team which included then-senior and now-NBA-er Jonny Flynn in the Section VI championship at Buffalo State.
Also on the AdPro squad were Jared and Jacob Reisdorf, who I remember writing up from their days at Holland. Both are grads of Medaille, where Schnirel will be a senior on the soccer team this fall.
We had many more years on our squad (not to mention many more pounds), and the youthful, quick AdPro took advantage of some blown layups and rebounds by our side (as well as a missed call by one of WNY's best officials -- who will remain nameless -- I mean, I still have slap marks all over my typing hands :-) ) to get an early lead it wouldn't surrender.
Like hundreds of teams that will play this weekend, the fun part was getting out there and playing -- and talking it over afterwards after some beverages and burgers (we headed to a busy Pearl Street Grill & Brewery on the walk back to One News Plaza).
And it sure is a lot more fun when you win (even just once).
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If I wrote that much about two games, I'm sure there are more stories to tell out there. Feel free to share your thoughts about your contests or the Macker in general below.