By Jeff Praught | Dugout Chatter
San Diego has a really cool LGBT basketball league, named SD Hoops, and it has been around since 1999. Of course, I am biased because I recently spent four years as commissioner of said league. I am happy to report that the group is doing just fine without me since I retired from that leadership role in March of this year and handed the keys to the younger and talented Noah Ingram.
One of his first priorities was to explore other venues in which to play league games, and I made my way out to the newest SD Hoops venue on Wednesday, Aug. 26 for the SD Hoops Summer League championship game.
With the help of league member Brandon Horrocks, the SD Hoops board was able to secure gym space on Wednesdays at the Linda Vista Boys & Girls Club. Every gym has its pros and cons, and the Golden Hills Rec Center was good to our league for many years.
The new venue offers a lot more seating for fans (a pro), a full-size regulation court (a pro or con, depending on what kind of shape you are in), and much-improved upkeep of the surface of their floor (a big complaint recently at GHRC). On championship night, I could only detect two cons, which will be addressed later.
Because the summer league was abbreviated and only offered teams five games, SD Hoops scheduled a fifth-place game at 6:30 p.m., one which was won by Flicks in a 51-32 triumph over Doghouse. At the conclusion of that game, Baja Betty’s and Hillcrest Brewing Company battled in the third-place game. This was a tight game throughout, and Betty’s held a 64-61 lead with just a few seconds remaining. Betty’s inexplicably fouled Raudel Artega as he heaved a 3-pointer in an attempt to tie the game at the buzzer, but when the first of his three free throws bounced out, Betty’s had itself a close victory.
The main event featured top-seeded Pecs against No. 2 Urban MO’s, in a rematch from three weeks earlier when Pecs edged MO’s 50-49. On paper, Pecs boasted — by far — the most talent in the league, with three former league MVPs on its roster. But the games aren’t played on paper, and MO’s had an All-Star roster itself, highlighted by uber-athletic Joe Taormino, physical force Chris “Thor” Schoch, and a perennial All-Star sharpshooter in Ingram.
Title games have become part of Pecs’ coach John Crockett’s legacy, as he had won three of the league’s previous four titles despite being at the helm of different rosters; SD Hoops is a draft league, so players do not remain on the same team every season. The title game was played at the beginning of a heat wave, so the Boys & Girls Club gym was roasting.
The two teams spent the first four minutes feeling the pressure of the game, as many shots were fired but few fell in, with MO’s taking a 4-2 lead at the 14:22 mark of the first half. AC Carter (Pecs) hit an off-balance baseline jumper, which was quickly followed by an MVP-type play by Patrick Schoettler, who stole the inbounds pass and laid it back up and in to give Pecs a 6-4 lead.
Each team applied significant defensive pressure, with Schoettler, Ingram, Taormino, and Johnny Stultz (Pecs) trading steals. MO’s passing early on was a notch better than Pecs’, and after a great no-look pass from Taormino and another nice bounce pass from Ingram produced a couple of layups, MO’s jumped out to a 15-10 lead with 8:10 remaining.
Carter, as he is known to do, took note of the deficit and began to attack the basket himself. This is a good strategy when the shots are failing, because he can outscore anyone. But when they are not dropping — and they weren’t in the first half — his teammates are often left as frustrated observers. Carter did hit a couple of free throws late in the half, as he and his teammates rallied to take a 20-19 lead into halftime.
Max Winsauer hit the first big shot of the second half: a 3-pointer at the 17-minute mark that gave MO’s the lead back at 25-24. Pecs responded with consecutive baskets before Rob Harjani banked in an awkward 3 from the left side, making it 30-28 MO’s with just over 11 minutes remaining.
Then, one of the gym’s few flaws reared its ugly head: the scoreboard stopped working. It actually malfunctioned twice, but when players vying for a championship cannot see a running clock or the score of the game, it can throw off their mental game, regardless of how many times the scorers yelled out that information as they tracked it on their phones.
As play continued without the board, a significant absence was noticed. Schoch had not been in the game for quite some time, leaving the game with an apparent leg injury in what was a huge loss for MO’s. As talented as Pecs is, none of their players could match the physicality that Schoch (aka Thor) brings on the boards. When a big man attacks the MVP guards and forwards, it forces those players to exert energy playing defense. Without Thor, MO’s attack became limited.
James Vidovich converted a three-point play for Pecs, and Schoettler followed with a jumper to make it 39-32 Pecs with 5:06 remaining, at which point, the scoreboard was finally powered back up. Ingram nailed a 3-pointer to close within 39-35, but Pecs would go on to score the final eight points of the game, claiming a 47-35 victory and giving Crockett yet another trophy for his coaching mantle.
SD Hoops goes on a short break, with Open Gym sessions beginning Wednesday, Sept. 16. Players are asked to bring $5 to help offset the cost of the gym, and to have dark- and light-colored shirts to wear. Players of all skill level are welcome to participate.
Registration for the 2015-2016 Fall Season has been opened online at sdhoops.net. New players are required to attend one of the two coaches reviews (Oct. 14 and 21). The season will begin Oct. 28. Player fees are $95 per person if paid before Oct. 7.
—Jeff Praught is actively involved in the LGBT sports community, having participated in softball, basketball, football and pool as a player, and serving on several boards in recent years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.