Defense wins championships, and nothing was more evident in Team Gerke’s 30-22 victory over Team D-League on Wednesday night in the finals of the 10th-12th grade division in the Grant Street Basketball League.
Team Gerke, which is comprised of Uniontown’s varsity players, won its second straight league title.
“It was a defensive battle,” Team Gerke coach Ray Robinson Sr. said. “They came out and played us hard, and these kinds of game show character. If we have to grind it out, we have to grind it out. We are glad to get a second title in a row. We knew we had to come back and defend the title.”
“Billy DeShields is a great player, and it is very hard to stop him,” D-League coach Jujuan Davis said. “My team played very hard, but sometimes talent can take over, and that’s what he did.”
Team Gerke trailed 6-4 before DeShields put in three straight field goals for a 10-6 lead. Team D-League cut the deficit to 10-8 at halftime.
“I will take only being down 10-8 at halftime any day of the week, but give credit to the Red Raiders,” Davis said. “I got out coached today. They have a great team and had a couple of other players step up.”
DeShields scored eight in the second half for a game-high 14. He had six field goals and was 2 for 4 at the foul line.
“It was definitely a physical, defensive minded type of game, but we did what we had to get the job done,” DeShields said. “I knew I had to do something to help my team pull it out. This is very nice and a little boost of confidence, but just another step in us hopefully reaching our ultimate goal. I can’t wait till basketball starts in November.”
Teammate Ray Robinson Jr. added six points on two field goals, and was 2 for 2 at the line.
Team Gerke’s Bryant Grady only scored two points, but pulled down countless offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive and was also a force on the defensive end, which earned praise from both coaches.
“I told him (Grady) before the game, ‘You should control the paint,’” Robinson said. “That is something he usually does. The second-chance opportunities were key, and that’s what Grady does. It wasn’t falling like it usually does, but we took advantage of the second chances.”
“That’s Dennis Rodman,” said Davis referring to Grady’s rebounding abilities. “They have a great team and we took one of the toughest teams down to the wire in the final.”
Team Gerke extended its advantage to 15-8 coming out of the halftime break, as Isaiah Melvin made a 3-pointer and DeShields put in a jumper, but Team D-League had a 5-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to 15-13.
“We kept battling the whole game,” Davis said.
Team Gerke used a 6-2 run for a 21-15 lead with 9:13 remaining after DeShields put in a layup. Team Gerke held its largest advantage at 27-18 after DeShields made two free throws.
Josh Curry led Team D-League in scoring with eight points on three field goals, including one 3-pointer, and was 1 for 4 at the foul line.
Robinson Sr. is happy with the back-to-back titles, but is looking for more when the high school season begins in November.
“We hope we can carry this over into the high school season,” Robinson Sr. said. “We want to win a championship then, too. If we don’t have goals to win championships, then we shouldn’t be here.”
Team Gerke advanced to the finals with a 62-44 victory over Team Supreme.
DeShields had a game-high 25 points on 11 field goals, including three 3-pointers. Teammate Jahmere Richardson had 13 points on five field goals, including three from behind-the-arc.
Enzo Fetsko led Team Supreme in scoring with 22 points on nine field goals, including four 3-pointers. Teammate Ahmad Hooper had nine points on four goals and one free throw.
Team Supreme defeated Uniontown’s JV squad, 58-38, to advance to the game against Team Gerke. Ryan Anderson led Team Supreme in scoring with 14 points.
Team ESF won the championship in the 7th-9th grade division.
The Grant Street Basketball League hosted an All-Star Game against the Grebb League last Saturday, and earned a 92-91 victory in overtime.
Representing the Grant Street Basketball League were Robinson, DeShields, Richardson, Melvin, Hooper, Malik Ramsey, Tavon Lewis, Keandre Cook, Rodney Gallagher, Andrew Howard, Keonte McCargo and Juel Williams. The coaches were Warare Gladman, Robinson Sr. and Damita Jones, who is also the Grant Street League Park Director.
The Grebb League All-Stars were Chris Peccon, Thomas Hepple, Demetrius Butler, DeWayne Howell, Noah Pierce, Legend Davis, Joey Caruso, Jacob Bobbs and Cochise Ryan. The team was coached by TJ Kurutz and Naz Victoria.
The players and coaches will be presented with their championship awards on Aug. 16 at Grant Street Playground.