With its core of veterans utilizing their playoff savvy, Winberie’s pulled out a 60-57 nailbiter over King’s Pizzarama in the opener of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League best-of-three championship series.
But in the early stages of the second game on Wednesday evening at the Community Park courts, top-seeded Winberie’s showed its age as second-seeded King’s raced out to a 22-10 lead.
Sensing that the game could be getting out of hand, Winberie’s guard Terrence Bailey implored his teammates to hang in there.
“I talked to them and said we have to pull it together and play our game and not play theirs,” said Bailey.
Displaying his multi-faceted game, Bailey’s dazzling drives to the hoop combined with some deadeye outside shooting sparked a 23-6 run that gave Winberie’s a 33-28 lead at halftime.
“In the beginning I knew,” said former Lawrence High standout Bailey reflecting on his first half heroics which saw him pour in 16 points. “When I hit the three 3s, I am ready to ball. It was game time for me.”
While the game turned dicey as King’s made some big runs, Winberie’s hung on to prevail 61-60 and win its second summer league title in the last three years.
Led by a pair of Princeton University football players, Jakobi Johnson (19 points) and Anthony Gaffney (11 points), along with Lou Conde (15 points), King’s narrowed the gap to 39-37 early in the second half and then made the last minute harrowing for Winberie’s, whittling a 61-56 deficit to a one-point margin before succumbing.
“We let up on pressure and the intensity dropped a little bit,” said Bailey, who ended up with a game-high 20 points. “We had to pull back together and play our game and we brought it back.”
Noting that he may be playing for another team next summer, Bailey was proud to come through in his Winberie’s finale.
“It was great to go out like this to get a title and bring it home for them,” said Bailey of Winberie’s which went 11-1 this summer with the one defeat coming on a forfeit when it didn’t have enough players on hand for a game against Princeton Youth Sports. “This is a great group of guys and I am happy that we accomplished it.”
Winberie’s player-coach Kurt Simmons noted that the title was the product of a group effort as Cliff Pollard scored 14 points in the clincher while Jesse Krasna added 10 and playoff MVP Chris Hatchell contributed 9.
“We have got a lot of veteran guys here,” asserted Simmons, who scored 8 points in the finale and was a force in the paint.
“You look at everybody on the team. Jess [Krasna] was a great pickup. Chris Hatchell speaks for himself the way he plays. A lot of credit needs to go to Cliff Pollard and TB (Bailey), those are two athletic and great guys. The one guy who doesn’t get as much credit as he should is Lou Kirkley. He is a guy that comes into the game, he doesn’t play that much but he does his job and he is a great asset to have on the team.”
Bailey, for his part, cited the team’s togetherness as its greatest asset.
“Chemistry is the best thing you need to have for a team,” said Bailey.
“If you don’t have chemistry then you aren’t a team, you just have individual players that come out and want play the game. When everybody has the mindset of they all want to win and play as a team and play together like a family, then you can do anything. We won every game we played, definitely chemistry is No. 1.”