Pedro’s Posse answered the bell in back to back games this week to stand atop the table at 11-1 in the Orlando Pro Am, but as with all things Pro Am it’s the story behind the numbers that matters. Our fearless leader, Juan Bernal, missed the opening game while working a Juco Camp in Las Vegas, but we had the good fortune of getting Chandler Parsons back from Las Vegas where he was playing in the USA Basketball Camp. Tough trade, but we’ll take it. Monday also saw the return of Austin Rivers, Kenny Kallina and Pallas, a young Nigerian women’s basketball player destined to play division 1 college basketball. Without Juan, I was acting head coach.
The return of Austin Rivers and arrival of Courtney Lee coincided with the start of the game, and forced me to field a starting line up featuring only two of my four available NBA players (Chandler Parsons and Nick Calathes). Austin and Courtney coming off the bench had nothing to do with discipline, just stretching. We started slowly against a team featuring UCF star Keith Clanton. Clanton pounded us in the post, but that didn’t come close to the abuse we received from a dreadful officiating crew determined to figure prominently in the outcome of the game. Both teams shot a truck load of free throws in a disrupted first half.
We trailed by 2 at the break, and I offered the motivational plea…..”You guys are in the NBA and they aren’t. Let’s go win.”
We did by eight, but not before getting two technical and losing Nick Calathes to fouls in the second minute of the fourth quarter. It was an ugly game, but a testament to great players stepping on the gas when they needed to and Kyle Methany hitting all four of his three point attempts. The game was covered by the Orlando Sentinel’s Shannon Owens, who was extremely pregnant, and a thoughtful camera guy who asked my name and wrote it down during play in the second quarter. By game’s end there was a buzz in the gym with several kids, and adults approaching our bench for photos with our Pro’s.
Juan returned for tonight’s game, and faced a fabricated coaching controversy before the game when his leadership was questioned as the team was 2-0 under my steady hand. Austin and Nick were unavailable, but Adam Allen was called to active duty for a big game against TeamRich in a battle of 10-1 teams. We enjoyed a dream start shredding TeamRich with ball and man movement par excellence. We were active defensively and led 60-38 at the half prompting Kenny Kallina to call for a throat slitting gesture and formal declaration the game was over. This, however, is Pro Am basketball.
Despite our encouraging pleas to maintain a high defensive work rate and keep the ball moving on offense, we sucked. TeamRich scored on 18 of 20 possessions at one point as we failed to stop the ball or close out to shooters. On the other end, we lapsed into ball-stopping isolations and miserable midrange shots off the bounce. With three minutes left in the game we were down 7 and close to death.
Chandler hit a three to cut it to four. We got a stop and cut it to two. We got up one, then down one when Brock Blanchard, Pedro’s Posse’s all-time leader in games played, drew a dubious over the back call. Brock, who had shot well all night, calmly sank both free throws for a one point lead with 13.7 seconds left.
We considered fouling so we would have the ball last, but decided to defend. We got a trap, a deflection and a steal. Chandler hit both free throws to put us up 3 with 2.1 seconds left. We contemplated fouling, but decided to defend again surrounding the three point line on the top side to force TeamRich to throw it inside where only two points could be scored. We failed to react to one of their players moving above the three point line where he caught the ball and shot from forty feet, right on line…..but short off the front iron. WE WIN!
Post-game we were reminded of the arcane two assistant coach rule as our staff had swelled to seven with Kallina, Bondo and Matt Hixenbaugh. Local news camera’s rolled and a line of kids and women flooded our bench to take pics and shake hands with Chandler and Courtney.
Just another late July nigh with Pedro’s Posse.