It seems like Crown League is just starting to get into the thick of things, as Ryerson’s Kerr Hall Gym has been buzzing every Friday night since July began. With the month out next week, Crown League will also wrap up it’s 2017 season this coming Friday with two matchups: the third place game between 1 Love T.O. & ACE, while 6 Man and M.A.D.E. will battle it out for the title.
How we got here
Both semi-finals were some of the best ball we’ve seen this season, as unofficial chief of Raptors twitter and Crown first timer William Lou was thoroughly impressed with both the talent level and competitiveness on the floor for the run technically being a summer pro-am.
The first game featured ACE matching up against M.A.D.E. With a bunch of ACE’s core missing due to various other conflicts, they loaded up, bringing in Pascal Siakam to team up with his brother James in the front court. Unfortunately for the reigning champs, Siakam had an up and down game, missing a bunch of free throws down the stretch in the 4th quarter, and leaving the door open for M.A.D.E. to get the game into OT on a last second tip at the buzzer:
Had the officials been privy to the use of instant replay (where’s Steve Javie when you need him?), perhaps the tip in would not of counted, and ACE would’ve seen themselves in the title game for the second year in a row. In OT they couldn’t keep up with the Eastern Commerce legend and old head Jermaine “The Rock” Anderson, who’s multiple and-one finishes pushed his M.A.D.E. to the finals in the extra period, where they will look to avenge last season’s runner up result.
1 Love T.O. faced 6 Man in the 2nd semi-final, which kept the heavy Raptors 905 influence rolling as 1 Love added Axel Toupane to the squad for the night to join sharp-shooting (and quite mouthy) Brady Heslip as they tried to overpower the 6 Man squad that has been rolling since their second week collapse.
6 Man had a team meeting AND a practice following that loss, and have yet to lose since. Christian Kabongo and Richard Amardi have led the way offensively while keeping the emotions in check, while their university-level counterparts Manny Diressa & JV Mukama have contributed at both ends in the starting lineup as they play peacemakers on the floor.
That full display showed itself over the course of the game, as they got down big in the first half, but totally flipped the script in the 2nd, as they cut off the drive and kick lanes to take 1 Love’s big guns out of their rhythm on the defensive end. Kabongo caught fire and was taking pleasure in letting the whole gym know about it, Amardi was having a party and dancing on the opponents, while the supporting cast of Morgan Lewis, Tyrone Mattison and Olu Famutimi outplayed the role players on 1 Love as 6 Man advanced to their first Crown League title game.
They made it in style, on this dagger from Kabongo with the shot clock winding down.
Who has the edge
The championship has all the makings to be the best game of the summer, as both teams love play at a high tempo, and have the depth and mix of athletes and shooters to put on a show.
Assuming each team has their full contingent on hand, let’s run through each position group and see who holds the advantage.
M.A.D.E. has arguably the best starting backcourt in the league, as Jermaine Anderson is the point man and team leader who can fill it up from distance and slashing to the cup, while Junior Cadougan can play both spots and uses his body at 6’1, 205 lbs to bowl into the lane and finish through contact. If blue chip prospect Andrew Nembhard is available off the bench, he can be a game changer with his length and floor vision backing up Anderson and Cadougan.
For 6 Man, Christian Kabongo and Manny Diressa both split point guard duties, even though you would classify both as score first type of players. They do possess a size advantage over the M.A.D.E. backcourt, and will surely look to be shooting over the top of the defence early and often. Tyrone Mattison is the steady handed third guard.
JV Mukama and Olu Famutimi start at the wing spots for 6 Man, and both bring length and activity defensively along with a reliable three point stroke. Morgan Lewis is a scorer off the bench, he can also shoot it from distance but does his best work operating in the post. Greg Morrow can also mix it up and be physical in spot minutes off the bench.
Mukama’s former Ryerson teammate Aaron Best will start opposite him on the wing for M.A.D.E. and brings a lot of value to his squad through slashing and offensive rebounding while Kyle Johnson can fill it up either in the lineup or in a 6th man role. The wild card will be whether Jevohn Sheppard suits up, as he played his first game last week and brought a lot of needed extra size and rim protection at the three on the defensive end, while also being a guy you can go to for a bucket on broken possessions.
Edge: M.A.D.E. (if Sheppard plays)
Big Mike Fraser is the front man for M.A.D.E. and can dominate the glass on any given night, but he has struggled throughout the month at the free throw line, so look for 6 Man to attack him and not give up any easy layups. Dyshawn Pierre plays the role of the prototypical stretch four, while also providing the ability to guard 2’s through 5’s.
6 Man has Renaldo Dixon and Joel Ndondo on the roster, but outside of their small minutes it comes down to how Richard Amardi will play, as he is the X-Factor for how the game will go.
Amardi is a live wire, but when he’s on there’s been no more dominant player at Crown this season. With his length it’s impossible to get a good contest on his shots from distance, he can handle the ball like a guard in the open floor, and can soar above defenders in the paint for dunks and finishes through fouls.
Edge: 6 Man
The matchup is about as evenly matched as you could of hoped, and the Toronto basketball community is in for a heck of a game on Friday night.