2019 FBA Season/19.01.30/BAL@PLY/Capsule
The halfway point of the season. By now, most teams have a pretty good grasp on where they sit in the league. The Baltimore Spirits come into this game at 20-19, four games back of the Plymouth Taproots, who sit at 24-15. The fifth and fourth seeds in the Eastern Conference, respectively. Seeing as the two teams stand staring squarely at each other in the first round of the playoff bracket, it seems fitting that this game will serve as a barometer for them going forward. Can Plymouth keep themselves on pace with the conference's top three and separate itself from the middle of the pack a little more? Can the Spirits begin a run toward the top four and steal a round's worth of home-court advantage from the Taproots?
Early on, it's all Plymouth. Jake Turner (Red Fox, C/F) is imposing himself on the defensive front, even picking up a steal in the first quarter while well on pace for another big game. However, in a tight game near the end of the second quarter, Jake gets tangled up with Quintessa Hartnett (Leopard, C) while going for a rebound, resulting in an injury to his right ankle. Though the fox protested initially and attempted to walk it off, the pain proved too much and ended up resulting in him having to leave the game. Team officials stated that the fox is day-to-day, and likely to miss at least one or two games as a precaution.
Smart move, in my opinion. If there's one player Plymouth can't afford to lose for an extended time, it's Jake. Better to let him rest a game than risk losing him for the year. Natalie Bellemare (Atlantic Puffin, C/F) and Samatha Canuteson (Orca, C/F) are plenty capable of holding down the fort briefly, but Plymouth's chances of victory live and die with the performance of Foxzilla.
The third and fourth quarter both play very evenly. Trevor Cruz (Painted Bat, G/F) and Tahiry Andriamatsinoro (Ring-Tailed Lemur, F) struggled with turnovers, and Michael River (Water Deer, F) couldn't seem to make a shot. Bellemare pulled a groin muscle coming down from a rebound attempt late in the third, forcing her out for the remainder of the game. Midway through the fourth quarter, River fouled out, leaving the Taproots without their starting center, PF, and a backup center. Still, they held a slim lead through most of the quarter, until Baltimore tied it up in the final thirty seconds on a three from Morrison. Plymouth responded quickly, with Kinny DeMarcus (Hairy Bush Viper, G) finding Tahiry for a layup with thirteen seconds remaining.
But it's the play that followed that's going to have the FBA talking for quite a while, and dominate water cooler conversations at workplaces across the continent. It's already gone viral on EweTube, and it may just be the sort of spark that the Taproots (and their fanbase) need going forward. Here's the transcript from Kendall Fletcher's (Snowy Owl, reporter) play-by-play of the final seconds of the game.
"Thirteen seconds left on the clock, Taproots by two, 108-106, after a quick layup by Andriamatsinoro. Morrison brings the ball across the halfcourt line. DeMarcus with tight defense, not giving her any breathing room to try and sneak around him. The collie passes to her left, to Plushpaw - look out! The pine marten bobbles it and Trevor Cruz is right there to poke it free! The bat plucks it out of the air and storms right past both Plushpaw and Morrison! He takes a step inside the three-point line, then crouches briefly with an inward turn. He leaps, turning to his left... one full rotation, and two! And he SMASHES the ball through the hoop with a furious one-handed windmill as he completes the 720 turn, coming back to earth with a crouch as he lands, then springing back to his feet and flapping his wing-arms as he races back toward the defensive side of the court!
Oh, look at that crowd! There's not a Taproots fan still in their seat after that display! You can't even hear yourself think right now! Coach Pender of the Spirits frantically calls timeout, with the clock displaying two-point-six seconds! That might have just been the final nail in the coffin on this one, folks!
And for all his own struggles with ball security today, Trevor Cruz has just acquitted himself and then some, with a dunk that you're going to see plenty more of in the coming days! What a way to finish his night, with the likely final points for Plymouth! He's over at the bench getting high fives from pretty much everyone on the Taproots side, except for a certain Michael River. Looks like he's saying something to Cruz, but we can't make it out from here. Still, as unenthused as the water deer looks, everyone else in Roots Garden is jumping and screaming their lungs out at that display!
Final play coming, Morrison inbounds, Umaechi with a quick three-point attempt... but the ball rattles in and out of the cylinder, and Bellemare outmuscles Toivonen for the rebound just as the final horn sounds! That'll do it from here in Roots Garden, but you get the feeling that it'll stay loud and jumping in here for quite a while longer. The Plymouth Taproots appear to suffer a big blow, losing Jake Turner early, but manage to take this one, 110-106, here at home, over the Baltimore Spirits."
When asked about the 720 dunk, Trevor Cruz said the following:
"It was sort of an impulse move. I knew I wanted to do a dunk to sort of put the game away, with that clear of a path to the basket. Then I just sort of, you know, went into the air with that much spinning speed, and I figured a 720 spin was going to happen. So I wanted to end it emphatically, with a one-handed windmill. I was just glad I made it and didn't hit it off the rim or something."
And when asked what Michael River told him?
"He basically said, 'Next time just make the points instead of showing off.' Along with a few words I can't repeat on television. I mean, as much as he does have a point, there's always a place for style in the game. The Taproots fans loved it. It was an awesome feeling. I've gotta get myself more chances to dunk in games."
And there you have it, folks. Plymouth takes the narrow victory over Baltimore, a thunderous amount of momentum for the second half of the season, and potentially the highlight of the season thus far. We'll have to see how they fare without Jake Turner for this brief period of time, though.
- Arun Jamison (Hyena-taur), SnowhootFBA.com