Abbot Outlasts STAFF To Claim Cluster Crown

Fans of poor quality basketball were treated to Grade-A crap this week on the Cluster BBall scene as we witnessed dramatic upsets, shaky free throw shooting, and of course the unnecessarily physical play that leads to debilitating injuries only a cluster sport could provide. It was a memorable regular season for all involved, as teams’ records ranged from undefeated (WQN) to winless (AAA), but on Tuesday night, it was a spunky Abbot team that stood tall as the 2004 Cluster Champion of the hardwood. All season long, Abbot played a unique brand of basketball, as they were the lone team to feature a 3-2 zone defense. On offense, they relied heavily on long jumpers and rarely tried to drive the lane on teams. Abbot beat Flag in five overtimes in the semi-finals Monday. Taking on the third-seeded Abbot team was fourth-seeded Staff, one of Flagstaff’s two entries in this year’s Cluster circuit. Led by lanky shooter Adam Draper ’04 and acrobatic point guard Tom McDonell ’04, Staff exhibited a balanced offensive attack and aggressive man-to-man defense. Staff defeated WQN in the semis on Monday. Throughout the first half Nate Scott ’05 managed to combine the point guard and shooting guard positions into one, taking the ball up court and then misfiring on long-distance three-pointers that not even Antoine Walker would dream of taking. Staff experienced shooting woes of their own and was unable to take advantage of Abbot’s poor play. Through the first seven minutes of the game only five points had been scored. Scott capped off the ignominiously boring first half with an NBA-distance three-pointer, giving Abbot a 15-11 lead. Abbot led 23-13 early in the second half after a few more Scott threes, but Staff soon awoke and began charging back. Draper found his shooting form and scored eight straight points, shrinking the Abbot lead to two. Neither team could take control of the game as each squad matched the other shot-for-shot down the stretch. With the score tied at 30, Scott drilled a long three-pointer with 1:25 remaining. Staff responded immediately as McDonell, who finished with 11 points, got his lay-up to fall, cutting Abbot’s lead to 33-32 with under a minute to play. After a couple possession changes, McDonell rebounded an errant Abbot shot and wisely called timeout with 17 seconds remaining. Upon receiving the inbounds pass, Draper drew a foul and went to the charity stripe for a chance to take the lead with just ten seconds left. Despite his impressive second half play, Draper faltered in an area of the game that separates even the greatest Cluster player from anyone on Varsity: free throws. Draper missed both of his foul shots and Abbot ran out the remaining ten seconds to win the Cluster Basketball Championship by a score of 33-32. “Going into the postseason as the number three seed and coming out with the Title is awesome,” said Abbot guard Alex Thorn ’04. “And the fact is our team is not filled with superstars: despite his skinny arms, Nate can put up a long ball like no one I know, Greg Rees ’05 is a monster under the boards, Joshua Barclay ’05 [8 points] is a machine with those blocks, and, of course, Elliot Feng ’05 has become the most consistent player on our team. Wait, now that I think about it, our team is made up of superstars.” Scott scored 18 points to Draper’s 17 and was named the game’s MVP by the media in attendance. “I had a pretty awful first half,” said Scott, “but it’s really an honor. I was out on the court with some great players. Draper and McDonell both had amazing games, and it means a lot to be recognized among them.” “Nate Scott has been one of go-to men on the Abbot team this entire winter,” said model Cluster athlete Will Scharf ’04. “He runs the point like none other, and has a shot that’s as sweet as gold.” Was Scharf nervous with Draper at the line for two shots with just ten seconds left? He said, “Draper is one of the best shooters in the league, you’re right I was worried. I was fairly sure that we would be able to make a shot in the last ten seconds if it came down to that, but it was certainly a hair-shedding experience.” One of the unsung heroes for Abbot was big man Greg Rees ’05. Rees scored 5 points but stood out as a monster under the boards, collecting countless rebounds and blocking numerous Staff shots throughout the game. “Greg Rees is possibly one of the most dominant forces down low in the entire league, both offensively and defensively,” said Scharf. “His boards and steals figured largely in our defensive plans, and he certainly came through for us.” Scott agreed. “Rees was the final piece to the puzzle for our Abbot team. We were blessed to have a true center on our team, and he had his best defensive game of the year [Tuesday night].”