City league b-ball a test of speed, skill but mostly showing up

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2004

In city league basketball, talent often takes a back seat to just showing up.

Take the "Firefighters," a team consisting of local police officers, paramedics and firefighters. Although their roster this season consisted of a healthy number of players, the red-clad Firefighters often were hampered by the fact that there's often more important things going on in town other than basketball like saving lives.

"Working shifts didn't help," said Kenai Police Officer Casey Hershberger, following a loss late in the season that saw just six players show up for the game. Most teams have between seven and 12 players. "That's been the story all season."

The Firefighters' dilemma is typical of many of the teams that played in Kenai's two city basketball leagues this season. Although the annual winter basketball leagues are popular, they're not always players' most important priority.


Suzanne Crowder talks to her son Austin as Casino Bar teammate Megan Smith tapes her ankle before the women's community basketball championship at the Kenai Rec Center earlier this month.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The Casino Bar, which fielded teams in both the Kenai City League, which played its games at Kenai Central High School, and the Kenai Peninsula Recreation Association, which played at the Kenai Recreation Center, saw its hopes for a double championship go down in the semifinals after only five players showed up for the game.

"I don't know what happened," said the Casino's Lonnie Stan-ford, shaking his head.


Geneva Marinkovski cheers her daughter, Suzie, during the women's championship game.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Stanford said he thought more players would make the game but conceded that you never know what will happen when you get to the gym.

"Oh well," he said.

Despite the loss, Stanford said the Casino, with perhaps the youngest, deepest and most talented team in either league, would eventually prevail when it played in the rec center tournament.

"We'll win one of them," he said.

Stanford's words proved to be prophetic, as the Casino did go on to take the crown in the rec center league March 19.

As for the Kenai City League at the high school, that championship was again won by PSI Environmental, a team that's been together for more years than many players can remember.


Players for C & M Muffler return to the championship game after calling a timeout.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Known around town simply as "Spuds" a throwback to earlier years with a different sponsor the PSI team advanced to the championship in the Kenai City League after downing longtime rival Arby's in an overtime classic March 18.

That game, a 106-98 affair, was emblematic of the style of play most often employed in the Kenai city leagues: fast and furious.


Cedric Scott and Bria Shane take photos of the Casino Bar team after they won the women's community basketball championship earlier this month.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

With Arby's leading by as many as 10 points late in the game, PSI began using a press, disrupting the Arby's team's attack and turning things into a chaotic affair.

PSI guard Jeremy Ness, who played high school ball for Nikiski, was crucial to his team's success down the stretch, knocking down a number of long three-point shots that cut into Arby's lead.

"I wish I would have played here in high school," Ness remarked following his shooting display. "I like these hoops."

After Arby's missed a couple of crucial free throws and turned the ball over several times suddenly PSI was back in the game.


Photo by M. Scott Moon

Karen Calderwood gets consolation from Kelly Reilly during a timeout in the championship game.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The fact that PSI was even in the game was rather unexpected, especially considering that Arby's was able to take a big lead following two ill-advised PSI technical fouls late in the first half.

Tempers can run high in city league. For many players, the leagues are a crucial source of winter entertainment, and winning or losing the games is a big source of bragging rights.

Still, once the game's over, players rarely harbor hard feelings. In fact, many a game this season ended with players from opposing teams getting together at a local watering hole to rehash the evening's hoops.

When the Arby's-PSI game ended up going to overtime, one player on the Arby's team indicated that the extra playing time might be cutting into something more important.

"Let's get this over with," the player said. "It's cutting into my beer time."

The teams did get it over with, as PSI took control down the stretch, earning bragging rights for another year and sending Arby's out of the tournament. PSI went on March 19 to win the tournament, giving them the ability to say they're the tops in town for another year.

As for next year, it's likely PSI and Arby's, along with teams like the Casino and Firefighters will hope to challenge for citywide titles. Each team has a chance, on any given night, for its players to say they're the best depending on who shows up.

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