NOTE: AUTHOR ZACH WELLS
(Another year of intramural basketball went into the record books, but not without the humorous recap of the championship night from the keyboard of Zach Wells. His first/third person recollection of the night gives insight into the emotions, competition and highlights that dotted this year’s 2011 intramural basketball season at Mercer.)
It has been a busy spring at Mercer’s University Center. The A-Sun basketball championships were hosted by Mercer March 2-5, but most people in the Macon community had their sights set on a date twelve days later. March 17 would be the day of reckoning for all intramural basketball competitors. For days leading up to the event, there was a nearly audible buzz around campus (which I missed because I was at Panama City Beach for Spring Break). Who would take home the coveted intramural championship T-shirt for the 2011 spring season? Would Primetime continue to use their superior athletic ability and gargantuan front line to take the men’s league? Could there possibly be an upset by the Bear Outlaws and their wily veteran with bionic knees, Zach Wells? On the women’s side, could star guard Amy Jones continue her amazing run and lead the We STILL Got It team to glory?
These questions and others swirled around the Mercer campus right up until the night of the event. It truly was an event, as Todd Thomas estimated that at the end of the night there must have been upwards of 200 fans at the games (he may have been counting those on treadmills and lifting weights upstairs). When I walked into the gym I allowed the electricity in the air to wash over my entire body. “This is it,” I thought. “If you can’t get up for this, you must not like basketball.”
The women’s match-up was an interesting one. The We STILL Got It team, made up of more mature ladies who work within the athletic department, was matched up against the A-Sun Champs, who consisted of highly energized and scrappy women’s soccer players. As the game got underway, however, it became apparent that the We STILL Got Its had too much experience for the other youthful squad.
Amy Jones continued her magical season, controlling every part of the game. It didn’t take long for Jones to lead her team to an early double-digit lead, which proved to be insurmountable for the A-Sun Champs. As the clock wound down, the We STILL Got Its had a twenty point lead and the victors finally let some of their emotions show. Some thought that it was a bad show of sportsmanship when they dog-piled at mid-court with 15 seconds still left on the clock, but it was simply a release of all the hard work and emotion that had gone into the grueling intramural season. “I’m proud of my girls,” Jones said to me after she had regained control of her emotions. “You know, you set your sights on the championship every year, but there are just so many intangibles that go into a season like this. It’s unbelievable. I have a great story to tell my future children.”
After the T-shirt ceremony, the women left the floor and the men’s teams began to warm up. On one side there was PrimeTime, who had once again made mincemeat of the entire league this year. Led by two front-line players, Johnta Tigner and Josiah Ojo, and a diminutive point guard (I think his name is Nick), this team had been virtually unstoppable all spring. On the other end, the Bear Outlaws were getting their sweat on, all of them (except for their oversized, well-seasoned point guard, Zach Wells, who had had class until 9:30 and didn’t show up until right before tip-off).
Wells had been a slight point of contention in recent weeks, because he had chosen to stay in PCB for an extra couple of days and had missed the semi-final game, which the Bear Outlaws lost. “I was just letting it ride out there on the beach and lost track of the days,” Wells was quoted as saying.
Through a stroke of luck the Big Subpoenas, to whom the Bear Outlaws had lost in the semi’s, had been unable to make it to the championship game. This gave Wells and his Outlaws an opportunity to play for the title in spite of Wells’ seemingly selfish act. Because Wells was late, he did not start the game and entered about five minutes in. He was lavishly heckled as he stepped onto the court by his former best friend, EJ Kusnyer. Kusnyer told me later, “I just can’t respect a guy who’s not there when his team needs him. He left them out to dry. He thinks he is better than them.” I asked Wells for a response, but all he gave me was, “No comment. That’s just EJ being EJ.”
The game itself was a seesaw battle played at the highest level. Wells seemingly willed his team to a slight advantage at halftime. It was clear, however, that he had not been working on his game while he was at the beach for Spring Break, and that would play a major role in the second half. The Outlaws held onto a five-point lead with less than two minutes to go, but that’s when Nick the point guard put his team on his slight shoulders. He made three consecutive shots, Wells helping them with a costly turnover and missed free throws. “I just ran out of gas. I thought playing Beersby on the beach would keep me in shape, but I’ll have to rethink that theory.”
Primetime had gained a four-point advantage with forty seconds left. Wells brought the ball up the floor, crossed over twice and drained a three-pointer from near-NBA range. The crowd went wild, drowning out Kusnyer’s desperate screams of, “LEAGUE BOUND!!!!” Primetime inbounded the ball and made an ill-advised attempt to throw the ball the length of the floor. The pass was picked off by a leaping Reggie Perry. Wells quickly gained control of the ball and called time-out with 14 seconds left. After the time-out, the ball was inbounded to Wells at half court, he made several moves that would make every YMCA men’s-league baller proud, got into the lane and drew the defense to him. At the last second he saw his teammate, Wole Ogundele, cutting to the basket. Wells deftly dished the ball for a wide open layup. Ogundele, surprised that an infamously selfish player like Wells would actually pass him the ball, bobbled the catch. The Outlaws did not get a good shot attempt, and the game was over. At 46-45, Primtime was victorious.
It was a night to remember on the University Center intramural courts. It was a double victory for the Primetime players, as they had teamed up with the Chi O sorority to take the Co-Rec title earlier in the day. The fans had watched a woman’s team so dominant that there were whispers that a closed scrimmage with UCONN might be in the works. After the final game, players and fans alike were breathless. Everyone knew that they had witnessed one of the greatest events of their lives.
“I gave it all I had. Unfortunately we needed one more play,” an obviously disappointed Wells said after the game. “Maybe if I hadn’t played so much Beersby over Spring Break…who knows.”