This spring Pedro’s Posse debuted in the Rivera Sports League, a hidden treasure in the Orlando basketball scene. Since it’s inception, the league, run by Gio Rivera, has played on Sunday’s on outdoor courts. Games run all day long and the atmosphere is terrific. The teams are predominately Hispanic and wear Rivera Sports Uniforms that range from NBA favorites like the Cavs and Warriors to Space Jam and other original stylings. Most players have nicknames on the back, and you are in the minority if you are not wearing a shooting sleeve or full length slides.
This season the league moved indoors first at the TNT gym and later to an obscure elementary gym off Formosa just north of downtown. Just outside the gym, chicken, rice and fries were cooked, and inside wives, girlfriends, side pieces and young children filled the bleachers. There is a live DJ, and most players hang out in the gym for at least a game after playing talking trash, and catching up with friends on other teams.
One of my low key favorite parts of the league is the utter indifference directed at the teams warming up to play. Kids will hoard all the available basketballs casting long shots and stealing loose balls from any team trying to warm up. These kids act as though it is their birthright to shoot in pregame and look at you with total disdain if you put a hand out or ask for a ball to warm up.
The league is extremely competitive, and by far, the most passionate in town. Most adult league player’s fall into two categories. One, they are college or pro guys getting a workout with no interest in getting hurt, or two, they are guys who have to go to work on Monday, and for that reason, have no interest in getting hurt. All this to say that it’s extremely rare in an adult league for a guy to go to the ground for a loose ball. With this background, I was shocked to see two grown men in the category of “guy that has to go to work on Monday” full out dive for a loose ball at midcourt that neither guy had a realistic chance of saving. Nevermind that both guys were on the same team.
At least two games, including one of ours, were cut short due to fighting, and what’s more entertaining is the animated, combustible discussions among teammates that feature at every dead ball, time-out or half-time.
Pedro’s Posse was the class of the league for the entire regular season. We fielded a team of great size with Dave Butler and Adam Jones, and extraordinary shooting with Bryan Richardson, Zack Trapp, Nate Moran, Cliff Smith and Juan Bernal, our only authentically Hispanic player. Our efforts were supplemented by the spot on scouting reports of Luis Brito, who consulted with us every game despite being rostered on a different team, and the unorthodox, but surprisingly effective Pat Triolo. Our only blemish was the fight shortened game during the last week of the regular season that resulted in the suspension of Josh Castellanos who capped a tough shooting day, by putting a face claw on an opposing player who had the audacity to throw an elbow to the abdomen away from the play. Both players were restrained before further damage accrued.
The league featured an All-Star game. Pedro’s Posse was represented by Juan Bernal who managed to play the entire game without taking a shot. Our man Luis Brito hit 7 3’s and the game finished on an unnecessary halfcourt shot.
We rolled through the first round of the playoffs with a 28 point win, but adult league championships are won with personnel, and we had issues this past weekend. In the semi-final we had a seven man roster sans point guard. We built a 24 point lead, but struggled against pressure late and escaped by 5.
In the Final, Nate Moran etched his name in Pedro’s Posse history alongside Jason Williams and Rocky Trice in the litany of difference making players that failed to show for a final. Our roster was down to 6, and I was the sixth man. The game started well as we scored inside and out jumping to a 15-9 lead. We had some defensive issues, however, and lost the lead midway through the first half. We trailed by 5 at the break and had our first bit of foul trouble as Pat Triolo picked up his third in the final minute on a dispute blocking call in front of our bench.
Dave Butler picked up two quick fouls in the second to give him four. Butler was our only big and was having a strong game on both ends of the floor. Despite the four fouls, he played inspired basketball defending the rim with eight blocks. Down two with three minutes to play, the big man picked up his fifth and was finished. I entered the game and the team lost 15″ in height, and most of our hope.
I didn’t hurt the team, but I really gave no meaningful contribution. Zack Trapp bravely drew fouls and made free throws to keep us in contention and Juan Bernal hit a three with 15 seconds left to make it a one point game, but we would fall by three.
The Cavs celebrated like they won another NBA title…jumping up and down, screaming with joy. We ambled back to the bench knowing that we were a player short.