This past Sunday at Amador High School marked the grand finales for the Amador Adult Basketball League’s 2019 spring season and if these past few months showed us anything, it was clear that a vibrant adult basketball community spanning individuals of all ages and skill levels exists here in Amador County.
Anyone who watched a game this season would have noticed the intensity that was brought to the court week in and week out. There were some very contentious games to be sure, and the referees took some heat at times, but for the most part, mutual respect and good sportsmanship were most definitely on display during this season. After nine weeks of competition, the two best teams in both leagues rose to the top and faced off for championships.
Finals day kicked off with an incredible B League matchup between the Mother Lode Miners and AC Warriors. Both teams beat all comers this year with the exception of the head-to-head matchup between the two in which the Miners edged the AC Warriors in a close game. Could we have another great game like that in the finals? The short answer is: yes.
Both teams played excellent defense and both struggled to score with action that was consistently physical and at times chippy. The larger and stronger AC Warriors predictably controlled the boards, while the fleet-footed Miners applied immense defensive pressure, leading to many turnovers and fast break points.
The lead changed several times and with only minutes left, the AC Warriors held a slim 2-point advantage. Rebounding juggernaut Jan Dee Cranford grabbed yet another offensive rebound and put it back to extend the Warriors lead to four points.
But the resilient Miners, displaying a poise that belied their age, would not go quietly, scoring on the next possession and then scoring again on another steal by Aris O’Neal, tying the game 46-46. The Warriors held for the last shot, hoping for the win or worst case, overtime. With 8 seconds left, Ashton O’Boyle was fouled driving to the hoop, putting him on the line for two shots. He missed the first, but made the second to give the Warriors the lead.
The Miners quickly pushed the ball up the court and into the hands of O’Neal coming off a screen at the 3-point line. O’Neal’s shot went up as the buzzer sounded.
Warriors manager Tommy Webb recounts the final shot: “I switched off my man when I saw the pick coming (and) tried to contest the shot the best I could. But as hot as (O’Neal) had been all game, I couldn’t bear to look back to see if it went in … I just looked at our bench for their reaction.”
That reaction was one of exaltation as O’Neal’s shot bounced off the side of the rim, giving the AC Warriors the championship.
“It feels great to finally win an AABL championship,” Webb said, “but even better to do it with this particular group of men. Many of us have grown up together and all of us work together at Mule Creek State Prison. It’s great to play ball with my brothers outside of work, not only to relieve stress, but also to build camaraderie and morale off the court as well.”
For the Warriors, Brandon Hernandez led the way with 17 points, while Cranford and O’Boyle added 12 and 10 points, respectively. For the Miners, O’Neal had 15 points and Calvin Trotter had 12. Both teams had great years and this exciting final game was a great way to wrap up the season.
Immediately following this barn-burner was the A League finals matchup between the two-time defending champion County Boys and the Botto Inn. The third consecutive finals meeting between these two teams would prove to be yet another great matchup.
The County Boys jumped out to an early lead on hot shooting from Tyler Heidrich and Josiah Lozano, and solid post play by Danny Smalley. The Botto Inn struggled to find a rhythm in the first half and was down by nine points at the break.
But in the second half, Botto Inn forward Austin Johnson put his team on his back, attacking the basket for layups, getting to the free throw line and draining 3-pointers. Behind Johnson and strong defensive performances by Spencer finch and Emilio Pineda, Botto Inn pulled even with the County Boys and it appeared that we would have another game decided by the final possessions.
But the County Boys pressure defense forced some late turnovers and missed shots by Botto Inn, giving The County Boys a 54-49 win and third straight AABL title.
“It was a disappointing end to the season, but we will bounce back,” Botto Inn manager Shane Crowe said. “We have some good players and with a couple of moves here and there we shall return!”
It was another great season and once again we’d like thank our sponsors who make this league possible: Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, Barron’s Furniture, Matich/Vukovich Insurance, and Baskin Robbins, and new sponsors Michael Hines Painting, Affordable Insurance, KDR Enterprises, Trassare Jewelers and New York Fitness. See you in the fall!