HYW takes the sweatshirt, PHoops postseason awards

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HYW wins the championship in a thrilling 38-35 win over Gashouse Gang

John Law and Ryan Hudson

By the afternoon of March 12th, nearly all current or future sporting events had been cancelled, except for one. There would have to be some sort of alien invasion for the Panther Hoops Final Four to be cancelled, but there wasn’t, so commissioner Jay True allowed play to continue.

After arguably the most competitive and successful season in the league’s history, it came down to one night. As expected the three teams who dominated all year long, HYW, Half Senders, and Gashouse Gang, were all still alive along with the extremely hopeful #1 seed out of the West region, Vibe Check.

To start off the night, HYW took on Vibe Check in a game that was practically just being played because it had to. Vibe Check’s usual hot hands went extremely cold, and as we saw all season, the Batman-Robin duo of Zach Stewart and Jack Gillard was able to lead HYW to an easy 75-60 win. Gillard dropped 28, making the first half of his case for the potential capture of Final Four MVP.

In the second game, we saw what can happen when Gashouse Gang gets hot and boy oh boy were they scorching hot. Mason David three, Sammy Kestranek three, David again, even Sean Azcui got hot from three as Gashouse shot out to a 15-9 lead, starting off 5-5 from beyond the arc. Half Senders was forced to play catch-up the entire game was never closer than three for most of the game due to Azcui hitting devastating threes every chance he got. 

At halftime, the score was 43-35 and Half Senders was lucky to be even that close. Gashouse continued to separate in the second half and stretched the lead to as many as 14 points before Ron Underwood went into complete takeover mode. With under a minute to go, GG was up 69-66 and Half Senders had the ball, but Underwood was unable to cash in the game-tying three and was forced to give his fifth foul. Gashouse Gang wins 70-69 in one of the games of the year and advances to the championship. 

Finally, the pinnacle of high school athletics was here as Gashouse would try to avenge their blowout loss to HYW earlier in the year. Both teams must’ve been exhausted from their other games, though, because the championship ended up being quite an ugly game. The score at the half was only 20-18 (GG) and HYW was extremely fortunate that GG wasn’t hitting their shots. 

The second half might’ve been even sloppier as Gashouse was only able to muster eight points in the first 13:30 of the second half and allowed HYW to jump out to a somewhat commanding 35-28 lead. Gashouse wasn’t going to go out without one final push, though, and brought it back to 38-35 with 48.5 seconds left and Reid Johnson headed to the line, exactly the person they could’ve hoped for. Johnson missed both free throws and GG had one final shot to send it to overtime, but a Sammy Kestranek heave at the buzzer had no chance. 

HYW 38, GG 35

 

Final Four MVP: Jack Gillard

Gillard was possibly the most consistent player in the league for the whole season, and the pressure of the Final Four made no difference in his stellar play. A 28 point performance in the semifinal game and another solid performance in which he led HYW to a championship victory assured him the prestigious award.

 

LEAGUE AWARDS

 

Most Valuable Player

Finalists: Zach Stewart (HYW), Ron Underwood (Half Senders), Tyler Jones (Swish 

Foundation), Max Graf (Gashouse Gang)

 

Winner: Ron Underwood (Half Senders)

The race for MVP, between Stewart and Underwood, was close all season long, but what Underwood was able to do with Half Senders after Diego Smith went down was nothing short of magnificent. There was no denying his drive to the basket, and his ability to maximize the potential out of the rest of his team was what really made it such a special season for him. 

Most Improved Player

Finalists: Ted Toohill (Vibe Check), Ron Underwood (Half Senders), Matt Moore (Fat Clips), Gary Blevins (Dream Team)

 

Winner: Ron Underwood (Half Senders)

It isn’t often that the league MVP is the Most Improved Player as well, but Underwood’s case was undeniable. After being nothing more than an irrelevant bench player for Ball Bros in 2019, he really took his game to a whole other level this year. There were rumors that he practically lived at the Y over the season and his performance this year proves what hard work can do for you.

Logan Hanchett Fattest Clip Award for best three-point shooter

Finalists: Mason David (Gashouse Gang), Sammy Kestranek (Gashouse Gang), Ethan Uhls (Dream Team), Tyler Jones (Swish Foundation)

 

Winner: Ethan Uhls (Dream Team)

There were a few options for the fattest clip award this year and I can guarantee that these four shooters can light it up from behind, but Ethan Uhls was seemingly ahead of the pack. There were a couple times this past season when he single handedly kept Dream Team in the game against a superior opponent including his jaw dropping performance against HYW in the tournament.

Defensive Player of the Year

Finalists: Aidan Lowinger (Half Senders), Max Graf (Gashouse Gang), Zach Stewart (HYW), Will Quigley (Dream Team)

 

Winner: Max Graf (Gashouse Gang)

The DPOY award was a really tight race this year and really came down to two people for us: Aidan Lowinger and Max Graf. Aidan was a dominant presence in the paint all year recording several blocks on the season, but Graf had a better season defensively on the perimeter. His suffocating defense didn’t lead to very many statistics for him this year but he was sure to limit the impact of the other team’s best player every night. This was on full display in the championship when he put the clamps on Zach Stewart holding the MVP candidate to one of his least productive games all year.

White Mamba Award for best in the paint

Finalists: Ron Underwood (Half Senders), Lane Tompkins (Gashouse Gang), Luke Smethurst (Fat Clips), Houston Burdeshaw (Gashouse Gang)

 

Winner: Luke Smethurst (Fat Clips)

It was known that Smethurst would be a fantastic addition to the league and he was able to prove just that, cashing in a successful season with Fat Clips. It cannot be understated how underused he was, but his ability to pull down offensive rebounds and get second-chance points was unmatched around the league. Smethurst was even able to step out and pop the trifecta every now and then, too. 

Newcomer of the Year

Finalists: Luke Smethurst (Fat Clips), Tyler Jones (Swish Foundation), Ethan Uhls (Dream Team), Sammy Kestranek (Gashouse Gang)

 

Winner: Tyler Jones (Swish Foundation)

The incoming class of Panther Hoops rookies was incredible this past season with many newcomers who captivated audiences throughout the season. The Optimist panel settled on the decision to crown Tyler Jones with this award because he had the ability to scorch the nets from the outside and play in the post on the inside. There were many times this year when he absolutely took over the game for Swish Foundation.

 

Coach of the Year

Finalists: James Bomba (Gashouse Gang), Colby Reed (HYW), Beth McCreary (Wet and Shloopy), Jack Lyles (Slim Clips)

 

Winner: Colby Reed (HYW)

The Harrodsburg hillbilly busted onto the scene this year and found immediate success, guiding HYW to a PHoops title. His signature foot stomps were always sure to get his team back in line and his assistant, Zach Bellini, (although we’re not exactly sure what he ever actually did for the team) was a worthy consultant. Reed finishes his coaching career undefeated as he methodically resigned just seconds before HYW’s lone defeat only to rehire himself shortly after.  

Sixth Man of the Year

Finalists: Tyler Gary (Gashouse Gang), Jack Boyle (Dream Team), Avery Brand (HYW), Fahad Aloufi (Slim Clips)

 

VOTE ON TWITTER @OPTIMISTSPORTS_

Game of the Year

Finalists: HYW beats GG (38-35), HS beats HYW (64-62), GG beats HS (58-53 OT), FC beats Dream Team (58-57)

 

VOTE ON TWITTER @OPTIMISTSPORTS_

All-PHoops 1st Team

Ron Underwood (Half Senders)

Zach Stewart (HYW)

Max Graf (Gashouse Gang)

Jack Gillard (HYW)

Tyler Jones (Swish Foundation)

All-PHoops 2nd Team

Ethan Uhls (Dream Team)

Sammy Kestranek (Gashouse Gang)

Matt Moore (Fat Clips)

Tommy Sutkowski (HYW)

Ted Toohill (Vibe Check)

All-PHoops 3rd Team

Luke Smethurst (Fat Clips)

Aditya Shah (Slim Clips)

Charlie Bless (Half Senders)

Nick Cannon (Fat Clips)

Avery Brand (HYW)