Final Four set in Bookstore Basketball after Elite Eight contests
No. 1 Practice Squad def. No. 9 Run Table to Natty
By Evan DaCosta
The No. 1-seed Practice Squad took on the No. 9-seed Run Table to Natty in the quarterfinal of the Bookstore Basketball Tournament on Thursday.
Practice Squad took an early lead, although Run Table to Natty was quick to respond. Effective defense from the Practice Squad led to several scoring opportunities, which Practice Squad was able to capitalize on. Run Table to Natty, despite its lower rank, was able to keep up effective offensive pressure and keep the contest close.
Two back-to-back baskets from the Practice Squad gave it some breathing room, although Run Table to Natty was eager to respond. A defensive foul by the Practice Squad gave Run Table to Natty a second chance at an offensive drive, which it capitalized on to shrink the Practice Squad’s lead to three points.
Run Table to Natty struggled to contain the Practice Squad’s stellar ball movement, which it maintained throughout the game. However, the Practice Squad couldn’t keep up the communication, which led to a turnover.
A 2-pointer from Run Table to Natty brought it back into the game, although Practice Squad was able to close out the half with a score of 11-7.
Run Table to Natty started the second half with the ball but was unable to capitalize. Practice Squad promptly responded with a basket. Another hard drive from Practice Squad resulted in an easy layup, extending its lead to six points.
Run Table to Natty was able to put up a layup to stay in the game. The team kept up pressure on offense and rebounded several times to keep the ball in play. However, several missed shots led to a turnover and eventual basket from Practice Squad. A back-court violation from Practice Squad gave Run Table to Natty another opportunity, which it failed to take advantage of after a missed ambitious 2-point shot.
Repeated defensive fouls by Practice Squad gave Run Table to Natty plenty of chances, although it wasn’t able to capitalize on most. An alley-oop attempt from the Practice Squad drew cheers from the crowd, but the squad was unable to finish. Another field goal from Practice Squad extended their lead to seven points, bringing the score to 18-11. However, Run Table to Natty was quick to respond with a layup.
Practice Squad was able to put away a layup on a fast drive, with a final score of 21-12.
After the game, senior captain of the Practice Squad Reed Hunnicutt laid out a few things the team needs to get better at for next game.
“I think we’re getting really good at playing against a zone, we’re crashing the boards really hard and Will is making a lot of outside shots so that’s helping us but I think we gotta do a better job of rebounding defensively, and not giving up so many easy shots, I think we fouled way too much today,” Hunnicutt said. “So hopefully we can clean that up for the next game.”
No. 7 Vytautas def. No. 2 Below the Rim
By Kara Miecznikowski
Seventh-seeded Vytautas topped No. 2 Below the Rim 21-19 in the final game of the Elite Eight on Thursday night.
The game began with slow scoring on both sides, as aggressive defense from both teams rendered offensive scoring attempts unsuccessful for several minutes.
Below the Rim scored first with a layup and quickly followed up with a long shot outside the paint.
Vytautas scored soon afterward, but it trailed Below the Rim for the next several minutes as Below the Rim pulled ahead 6-4.
Effective communication between players and energetic drives to the hoop were characteristic of both teams throughout the game.
Vytautas pulled ahead 8-7 shortly before halftime and maintained a close lead going into the second half.
As the game progressed, players became increasingly physical, with both teams racking up a hefty number of fouls.
Vytautas continued to lead in scoring, with Below the Rim trailing a couple points behind for the rest of the second half, eventually taking a 17-13 lead.
The score was locked at 19-17 for several minutes near the end of the game as both teams struggled to overcome the other’s persistent defense.
With the score at 20-18, Vytautas missed a possible game-winning free-throw shot, and Below the Rim fought to cut the lead to one, making the score 20-19.
Vytautas earned another free throw on a foul and scored, finishing the game 21-19 and upsetting the No. 2 seed.
Vytautas graduate student team captain Dan Bensen said he knew the game would be a close one.
“It was a battle out there, and every game from this point on will be,” Bensen said. “Every team is good. We’re just happy the ball rolled our way a couple of times today.”
No. 3 St. Andrew’s Products def. No. 6 Menards
By Alex Daugherty
The No. 3-ranked St. Andrew’s Products went home with the win against Menards in Thursday’s bookstore game, earning a berth in the Final Four. Senior John Cunningham, captain of the St. Andrew’s Products, confirmed the team’s excitement.
“The past two years we made it to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, so it’s really fun to get to the Final Four,” Cunningham said. “We’re also going to play teams where we know the guys on the team so it’s going to be fun and really competitive. We’re looking forward to it.”
St. Andrew’s Products had the first basket of the game after a quick dish down to the post. Menards retaliated three possessions later with a quick fake and jumper from the baseline. The competitive spirit of the game quickly became evident, as the contest saw physical play and exchanges between the players, followed by referee and crowd involvement.
Menards started the game with man to man defense, but after St. Andrew’s’ height advantage became an issue in the key, it switched to a zone. This defense was quite effective at first, halting St. Andrew’s scoring and keeping the teams within a point or two of each other. However, St. Andrew’s infiltrated the zone when it began hitting jumpers again.
St. Andrew’s pulled ahead 11-4 at halftime and continued its dominance into the second half. Menards’ effort and skill was clearly there; its fast breaks, smart passes and impressive team communication was a tribute to its positive team morale. Ultimately, St. Andrew’s Products’ motion plays and cross-court movement helped it seal the deal at a final 21-14 win.
No. 4 ClosetClicks def. No. 5 On Fire
By Mia Berry
No. 4 ClosetClicks defeated No. 5 On Fire in Thursday’s Elite Eight matchup, with a late rally to seal a 27-25 victory.
The senior-led ClosetClicks struggled early on against an older On Fire squad that stayed disciplined with a 2-3 zone. Strong shooting combined with a strong zone presence helped On Fire maintain a two-point lead throughout the first half, including an 11-9 halftime lead. Trailing at halftime was a familiar position for senior captain Conor Triplett and ClosetClicks.
“We’ve been down at halftime each of the last three games, so I think we’re pretty comfortable playing from behind,” Triplett said.
ClosetClicks continued to play from behind with On Fire continuing where it left off in the first half pushing the lead to as many as four. Unlike the first half, ClosetClicks relied on its defense to produce a string of forced turnovers to shrink the lead to one, making the score 13-12. Both teams would subsequently exchange baskets until On Fire managed to break away with a 20-18 lead. ClosetClicks was able to force two back to back turnovers that helped them tie the game at 20 apiece.
Another back-and-forth scoring battle ensued between the two teams with neither team taking a real advantage until On Fire, with a one-point lead, missed a late free throw that would’ve ended the game. Two strong defensive stands and two made baskets by ClosetClicks gave it the advantage. After another missed free throw, this time by ClosetClicks, a strong move to the basket and a foul gave ClosetClicks another chance to end the game and this time it didn’t miss.
Relieved that his team won, Triplett was happy with his team’s play down the stretch.
“We played really gritty. It wasn’t always pretty, it wasn’t always nice, but we played really hard,” Triplett said. “We played great defense in the second half.”
Despite a close game that could’ve gone either way, Triplett did give credit to the strong play of On Fire.
“They’re a tough team. Those law professors played hard with their good old man game, and anyone who plays pickup knows that’s tough to play against,” Triplett said.