Led by Findlay's Appetite for Inside Play, George's Roasters Cooks The Cafe for Title
By Bill Alden
The heat was on George's Roasters and Ribs, literally and figuratively, last Friday evening at the Community Park courts.
With the temperature hovering in the 80s and the air thick with humidity, George's found itself down 9-0 to two-time defending champion The Café/Change Clothes in the third and final game of the championship series of the Recreation Department summer men's basketball league.
George's star forward, Scott Findlay, though, wasn't about to lose his cool even as the overflow crowd ringing the court buzzed in appreciation of The Cafe's early run.
"We started out a little shaky," said Findlay, reflecting on the team's early deficit. "We were thinking that they weren't going to hold us scoreless. They came out hot and tried to put us away but we were resilient just like we've been the whole season."
George's gave a stirring display of its resilience in the second half as it gained control of the heated contest, building a 53-42 win and then holding on for a 59-55 victory and the title.
In Findlay's view, it was defense that made the difference as second-seeded George's prevented fifth-seeded Café from accomplishing the three-peat it so badly wanted.
"At half, we came out and said 20 minutes until next summer," said the 6'7, 240-pound Findlay, a star forward at The College of New Jersey who is entering his final college campaign. "It started with our defense. We played good ŒD'. I can't say enough about all the effort that was given tonight."
The inside-outside combination of Findlay and current Princeton University star Noah Savage played a major role in the win as Findlay scored 17 points while Savage added a team-high 19. Savage, a former Hun School standout, was named the playoff MVP as George's finished with a final mark of 11-3.
The Café, which ended up with an overall record of 8-6, was paced by Chris Hatchell, who scored 20 points, with Asmar Fortney adding 16.
For George's, its two-man offensive show has been a tried-and-true formula this summer. "All season long we have focused on getting me started inside," said Findlay, who was named the league's regular season MVP after leading all scorers with a regular season average of 20.8 points a game. "That opens up Noah on the outside and all sorts of other stuff."
For Findlay and George's, the win was particularly sweet as it was the first championship appearance for the team in its four years in the summer league.
The team's core of TCNJ players has helped hold the team together as it overcame the frustration of past playoff setbacks. In addition to Findlay, the other TCNJ players on George's include former Princeton High standout Bobby Davison, Drew Rosenfeld, Bobby Henning, and Mark Aziz.
"We just had a solid group," said Findlay, who noted that the Princeton duo of Savage and Kevin Steurer has fit right in with the TCNJ crew.
"We play well together as a team. Bobby Davison started the team. We lost some seniors from last year. But from playing together in college, we know who's hot, who has matchups, and where to go. It's good."
George's needed that togetherness in order to overcome The Café, which outscored George's 13-6 over the last two minutes of the contest as they desperately tried to regain their crown.
"You can't take anything away from them," said Findlay, with sweat rolling down his face. "They didn't make it easy. They played great and gave us a great series. This is our year."
Findlay is hoping that the experience of winning this summer will carry over into his final year at TCNJ.
"I can't wait, it's going to be a good year," asserted Findlay, who averaged 15.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last year to help lead the Lions to a final record of 17-9. "We played well this summer; hopefully we can keep it up into the fall and have a big year."
Based on the inside firepower Findlay displayed this summer for George's, it could be a very good year for TCNJ.