Change in defense helps JCC win GPIBL championship
With concentrated ball movement and a midgame defensive realignment, the Jewish Community Center defeated Urban Pathways, 63-43, in the Greater Pittsburgh Independent Basketball League championship on Tuesday, March 1 at Pittsburgh Allderdice in Squirrel Hill.
For much of the game, the score seesawed. At the end of a slow first quarter — which at points featured more liveliness from fans than players — Urban Pathways led, 11-10. After trading baskets for eight minutes, the JCC nudged ahead, 25-24, going into halftime.
Though neither team was able to suppress the other, each employed a successful scoring strategy throughout the first half. The JCC dragged out possessions with sustained passing, and upon locating an open shooter effectively connected on three-pointers and baskets outside the paint. Alternatively, Urban Pathways dominated low-post play and scored regularly with lay-ups and inside shots.
Exiting halftime, both team’s coaches acknowledged the challenges presented by such styles of play.
“They’re setting screens. We got to get on top of the screens quicker,” said Jabu Moore, Urban Pathway’s head coach.
“We got to make it more difficult for them to catch the ball inside, make them take shots from the outside,” said Mark Pattis, the JCC’s head coach.
During the third quarter, the JCC forced Urban Pathways to broaden its shot selection. Nonetheless, Jordan Williams, who finished with 17 points for Urban Pathways, connected with as much ease away from the basket as he did when attacking.
Not until the JCC altered its defensive approach did the score separate. While relying upon its press and 2-3 zone, the JCC ended the third quarter up 42-37. What granted the JCC a five-point lead ensured victory, as moments later the game grew out of reach. The combination of stifling and scoring enabled the JCC to mount a 21-6 run.
“Our defense changed in the second half and helped our guys out,” said Pattis. “We went into a 2-3 zone to make it more difficult in the paint. We went back and forth from zone to press. We wanted to make it as least comfortable as possible for them.”
Throughout the fourth quarter, Urban Pathways struggled with its opponent’s defensive scheme.
Turnovers and missed shots facilitated easy fast-break points. Williams’ strong play and eight second-half points were not enough for Urban Pathways.
Andrew Shorr, of the JCC, led all scorers with 19 points.
“We were unable to control the post in the first half,” said Shorr. “We switched to 2-3 in the second half, pushed the ball on offense, took over the intensity and shots started falling.”
“Overall, it was a good game,” said Urban Pathways’ Williams, the game’s second-leading scorer. “The biggest thing was fouls. We got into foul trouble early in the second quarter; [that’s] too early to get into foul trouble.”
“I thought the guys played very hard,” said Pattis. “We continued to do what we’re successful doing, [which is to] try to spread teams out.”
While scattering their opponents, the JCC benefited from a diversified scoring attack. Eli Sacks had 14 points, and Yoni Eglash contributed 12.
With the victory, the JCC concluded its season at 21-2. Both losses came in non-section games against teams from the Catholic Youth Ministry, said Jeremy Kelley, the JCC’s director of sports and recreation.
“We play a lot of the local teams because a lot of the kids know each other, so it’s a nice little rivalry,” said Kelley.
Enthused by their success, members of the JCC team celebrated in song. Prior to gathering for a team photo with the GPIBL trophy, several players fittingly sang “Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov.”
“It’s about the kids,” said Brian Schreiber, the JCC’s president and CEO. “And they play their hearts out.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.