It’s time to wrap up the Wichita Regional of the 2021 iteration of The Basketball Tournament!
Today’s winners will not face each other tomorrow, but instead will advance to the TBT quarterfinals on Saturday, July 31st to face each other. That game will take place in Dayton as the first of four quarterfinal games that day. But that’s down the road. Tonight is a doubleheader of hoops from Koch Arena in Wichita.... and I have to say that even though both games are getting a television broadcast, one of them is going to get much bette ratings than the other.
That’s no fault of anyone involved. It’s not TBT’s fault that the NBA elected to push their season to go about 6 weeks later than it should have gone. The NBA Finals should not be going on right now, but they are, and the second half of tonight’s TBT doubleheader will be starting at exactly the same time as Game 6.
It is what it is, I suppose. Maybe the Milwaukee Bucks will go up 30 in the first half and we can all switch channels.
Let’s see what we have today, shall we? All times Central, of course.
6pm Central: #1 Eberlein Drive vs #5 Florida TNT, ESPN2
Stillwater Stars had an amazing comeback to advance to the second round, but Eberlein Drive made sure that there was no chance of that happening again. The top seed in the Wichita Regional stomped the Oklahoma State alumni team 119-67 in the second round. It was 39-14 at the end of the first quarter, so we can’t even pretend that this thing was even close. Because that’s how these things have to go when you nealry score 120 points, six Eberlein Drive guys reached double figures in this game, including 23 points from Nick Mayo and 22 from Archie Goodwin. Devin Robinson had 17 points and 10 rebounds as well. One note of caution for the Drive, though: They’re not going to shoot 18-for-26 (69%) from three-point range again tonight.
Florida TNT is the only surprise entry to the final four in the Wichita Region after they knocked off the #4 seeded LA Cheaters, 92-85, to get here. It’s not a surprise that they won given that they looked great in their first round game and the Cheaters struggled to barely win theirs. The TNT guys turned the game in their favor in the third quarter, flipping a 50-46 halftime deficit to a 75-64 lead in the intervening 10 minutes. It was 82-70 when the Elam Ending was activated, but eight straight points from the Cheaters made this game suddenly much more dramatic than it was looking to be. An and-1 from Derrick Williams pulled LA within two, but Florida scored the next six to bring them to within a point of the Target Score. It took a little bit, but finally Kenny Boynton rained in a three to push them well past the mark of 90 points. Boynton’s Elam Ender gave him 21 points to match Chris Warren for the team high and they got 20 points from Dominique Jones, too. Keith Clanton had 12 points and 11 rebounds to do a little bit all over the court to help his squad get to the third round.
8pm Central: #2 AfterShocks vs #3 Challenge ALS, ESPN
Let’s just be honest about it: AfterShocks shouldn’t be here. They got pushed to the edge by the #15 seed Ex-Pats in the first round, and then they trailed 73-69 in the Elam Ending against Omaha Blue Crew in the second round with the Target Score sitting at 75 points. All the Creighton alumni team had to do was score two points. One basket. Instead: A layup from Conner Frankamp. A shot clock violation. A freebie from Frankamp. Two free throws from Markis McDuffie. Oh, look. 74-73, AfterShocks lead.... but they’re still short of the Target. After the two sides traded turnovers, all Omaha had to do was make a side inbounds in their backcourt, advance up the floor, and make any shot at all.
Instead, this happened.
The Wichita State alumni squad was led by 24 points from Frankamp, who got his final two of the game on that Elam Ender. He was a stout 10-for-15 from the field in the game, including 3-for-6 from long range, and he added five assists to the proceedings. Rashard Kelly added 13 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists to help propel the AfterShocks to the win, even if it didn’t look like they were actually going to win until the very last second.
Challenge ALS had a challenge of their own in the second round, as they escaped past Team Arkansas, 69-63. The Arkansas alumni team was up 60-53 with 5:31 to play after Dustin Thomas finished off an and-1 to wrap up an 8-0 run on their part. But basketball is a game of runs, or so I’ve heard. It was 61-60 favoring Challenge ALS when they elected to activate the Elam Ending with a timeout, as Marvelle Harris kicked off an 8-0 run of their own with back-to-back three-pointers. That was only the start of the Challenge run, as they kept it going to 14 straight to take a 67-60 lead and put them just two points away from the Target Score. Arkansas finally broke the run, but the Razorbacks kept fouling, and that means one shot and the ball in the Elam Ending. It was Marvelle Harris that got the last freebie to wrap things up here, and he wrapped up with a game high 25 points as a result on 9-for-15 shooting and 5-for-9 from long range. Deshawn Stephens added 11 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, while Nik Caner-Medley had 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting.