The Game head coach Clint Albert pretty much used their loss to the San Antonio Sixers last Aug. 29 as bulletin board material going into the championship of the NMI Rollers Basketball Association’s Inaugural NMI Rollers Men’s Basketball Tournament last Sunday at the Koblerville Gymnasium.
The Sixers bludgeoned Albert’s wards the first time they met, 90-79, and The Game players took note of that beating when they advanced to the championship game with long odds. As the top-notcher of the eliminations phase after going undefeated, the Sixers had a twice-to-beat advantage against The Game.
That handicap was quickly extinguished though as The Game held on to an 88-85 win in Game 1 last Sunday despite giving up a 21-point lead then rallied from 15 points down in Game 2 to shock the Sixers, 81-80, later that day.
“Not to say that the Sixers isn’t a good team because they are hell of a great team, but I knew that we lost the eliminations game against them because we were mentally defeated from the start of the game and we couldn’t recover from that until the final minutes which was just a little too late,” said Albert.
That loss was what Albert used to fire up his players and they worked extra hard to make it to the championship round so could they could face their tormentors again and avenge that Aug. 29 beating.
“I spoke to the team and gave them a mission that whatever happens we need to be able to play them again and prove that we can win it all. Even if they will be in position as the favorites with a twice-to-beat advantage. Our loss actually ignited a fire on our team and we had a common goal of making it to the finals to be able to play the Sixers again. We knew back then it was going to be hard because we still needed to win against either the mighty Ol’Aces or the veteran team of Blue Haus. Props to our team even coming in the finals with only half of the team we got the job done. We just played with what hand we were dealt with so to speak,” he said.
The Game played minus high-flying guard Mac Mintac and veteran slotman Dennis Mendiola.
“It was really tiring but it was worth it in the end. I give props to the other team. It was a really hard win. Props also to my team as they really did a good job,” added Albert.
The Game coach was also worried when his main big man, Joe, had to be subbed out with less than 10 seconds into the second game with an apparent leg injury.
“When we saw him coming down holding his knee I said ‘man, this might be over for us.’ Even today we only have half our team, we just gotta keep on playing and that’s how it is,” he said.
But Joe came back and played crucial minutes, finishing with a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds to back-stop Finals MVP Richard McWilliams, who had a monster 28-point and 7-rebound outing in Game 2. Jeff Sagum also starred in the win, as the athletic swingman followed up his game-high 25 points in the first game with a 20-point, 10-rebound performance in Game 2.