Jesse Krasna’s mom unwittingly gave Winberie’s a big assist in its win over King’s Pizzarama last Monday in the opener of the best-of-three championship series in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.
Upon arriving at the Community Park courts, Winberie’s point guard Krasna realized that he had forgotten his sneakers and he reached out to his mom.
“I came right from work and I thought I had packed my show the night before but I got here and opened up the trunk and they weren’t there,” said Krasna.
“I still live at home, about a half hour away in the Bucks County area. My mom is a doll, she met me halfway with the shoes. I have got to go home and give her a big hug and a kiss. I would have felt really bad if I wasn’t here and we weren’t able to pull this one out.”
Upon getting into the fray with 14:25 left in the second half, Krasna played a key role in helping top-seeded Winberie’s pull out a 60-57 win, scoring 5 points and getting a big steal in the waning seconds to hold off a furious rally by second-seeded King’s.
“I shot around a little bit and got loose,” said Krasna. “I was able to come in and I had my legs right away.”
After Krasna made a three-point play to give Winberie’s a 53-44 lead, King’s came on strong, going on a 13-3 run to forge ahead 57-56 with 30 seconds left in regulation.
“I think King’s Pizzarama just played really hard and scrappy,” said Krasna. “They made a lot of plays. To their credit, they took us out of our rhythm. They are a young team that really wants it.”
After Winberie’s regained the lead at 58-57 on two free throws by Chris Hatchell, Krasna made a steal with five seconds left to take the wind out of King’s sails.
“That was a big steal, the ball came right to me,” said a smiling Krasna. “I really didn’t do much, it was a lucky bounce. That was big because it was a one-point game. Paul [Johnson] got to the foul line and knocked down some big free throws for us.”
Hatchell led Winberie’s with 17 points with Cliff Pollard and Paul Johnson chipping in 10 points apiece. Matt Johnson tallied 14 points for King’s with Princeton University football players Anthony Gaffney and Jakobi Johnson contributing 12 and 10 points, respectively. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for July 30 at the Community Park courts with Game 3, if necessary, slated for August 1.
In Krasna’s view, the fact that veteran Winberie’s is battle-tested in summer league playoff battles, having won the crown in 2012, gave it an edge down the stretch.
“We know where to go; we have the experience,” said the 6’0, 164-pound Krasna, who recently wrapped up an outstanding career for Ursinus College men’s hoops program, scoring more than 1,000 points and earning second-team All-Centennial Conference honors this winter in his senior campaign.
“Chris Hatchell is a great leader for us. I think everybody on our team really trusts him so when things start to go haywire, he is there to calm us down and get us a good shot and get us a stop.”
Having previously played for the now-defunct PA Blue Devils in the summer league, Krasna is relishing the experience of getting to play for Winberie’s as he joined the squad this summer.
“Kurt Simmons of Winberie’s e-mailed me right away and told me he would love to have me,” said Krasna.
“We never could get by Winberie’s so when I saw that it I was excited; if you can’t beat them, join them.”
For Krasna, getting into the flow with Winberie’s has come easily. “I love playing with these guys, everyone is so unselfish,” asserted Krasna.
“They play really hard and they took me and the Sibols [former Blue Devils John and Zach Sibol] in right from the start. Those guys are easy to get along with and play because they all share the ball and look for each other. I knew what to expect coming it. I think our biggest problem with the Blue Devils is that we didn’t have more size so whenever we ran into these guys, it was tough. So I am finally on a team with a bunch of big guys. I am one of the steadying guards so it has been a pleasure playing with them; I hope we can make it work for years down the road.”
After the close call on Monday, Winberie’s will need to work out some kinks in order to overcome King’s and earn the title.
“I think we need to take care of the ball under pressure,” said Krasna. “If we can break their pressure and get easy shots, they won’t be able to press us as much and that won’t affect us. I think we got away from the pounding the ball inside. Playing outside, with the wind like this, it is important that we stay disciplined and stay with that game plan.”