Irwin games to feature old rivalries
On Sunday night, fans of the Irwin Men's Summer Basketball League will be watching a number of match ups they never thought they'd see.
The 9 p.m. game between 2-2 Doc's Rolling Rock and 2-1 Colorwheel Carpet Cleaning will feature nine players that at one time or another played for last year's Rolling Rock squad that went undefeated in the regular season before losing to Hi-Way Tux in the league finals. The intriguing part about that is, five of those players play for Colorwheel, including Rolling Rock mainstay Rak Heatherington, who had been with the team for more than a decade. He and the Rock's other remaining one-team veteran Phil Sherbondy, the team's leading scorer last season, will be on opposite sides of the ball for the first time in the history of the league.
Another clash between former teammates will pit former league MVP Roy Bumoskey and Rock defensive standout against former Duncan Insurance teammates Paul Crawford and Jason Trout. When they were together on Duncan, they won three straight league titles. Crawford left the team in 1999, but Trout and Bumoskey still managed to guide the dynasty to another title that summer. Last year when the team broke up completely, Trout suited up for Rolling Rock, but Bumoskey recruited Crawford to play for his own squad that would later gain a sponsorship from Hi-Way Tux. After a rocky regular season in which the team had problems gelling, it all fell together in the postseason and Bumoskey had his fifth championship in six years. This year, after his attempts at recruiting a team of his own again failed, Bumoskey is running with Rolling Rock, which considering his role in the many great battles the Rock and Duncan had over the years is like Magic Johnson suiting up for the Celtics.
Trout will also be going against Rock defensive standout and former teammate Gene Taylor on Sunday night. Taylor was the x-factor for the last Duncan Insurance championship squad, providing the team with solid defense, rebounding, ball-handling and outside shooting after they had lost Crawford, point guard Tony Lesense and forward Alvin Maloy. He and Trout went to Rolling Rock after Duncan disintegrated, but Trout was lured to Colorwheel over the off season. This will be their first tussle at Irwin Playground.
Much like the old days of the Doc's/Rolling Rock vs. Duncan Insurance battles, there will be no shortage of talent or athleticism on the court on Sunday night. Both teams feature players who are starting to show their years, but all of them can still run the floor with the league's best. With Bumoskey, Sherbondy, Dana Vaughn, Taylor, big men Eric Butler and Bobby Powell and newly acquired sharpshooter Paul Shannon, the Rock has as many or more scoring options than any team in the league. With Crawford and Heatherington, Colorwheel has two savvy veterans who turn things up when the game is on the line and have the will to refuse to let their team be defeated. In Trout, they may have the league's premier center. It wouldn't surprise many if this were a preview for the league semi-finals or finals should all of each team's players continue to show.
In the 8 p.m. game, D&D Office Plus, the league's only unbeaten team, tips off their game against 3-1 Copper Mountain Fitness in what also promises to be a tough matchup. Copper Mountain, whose only loss came at the hands of Colorwheel in the second of back-to-back games, has opened a lot of eyes with the inside presence of former St. Vincent stars Rob Stauffer and Mike Gerdich and Point Park's Khalid Loda. Those three down low might be able to neutralize D&D All-League big man Don Boylestein, and newly acquired Arnelle Johnson, formerly of Fresno State. D&D, coming off a 66-64 comeback victory over Rolling Rock, may have the best outside shooting in the league. Kiski Area alum Matt Molinaro may be the best pure shooter in the league and Boylestein and Ryan Litterini are both serious outside threats. Copper Mountain does have something to counter with however. Team captain Tony Morocco is coming off a game in which he hit eight 3's, and former Pitt fullback Chris Schneider is also dangerous outside the arc.
At 7 p.m., Four Seasons Travel will attempt to force their grind-it-out, slow-moving, low-scoring brand of basketball on 84 Lumber. It has worked so far for the team formerly known as LSU, now 2-1. Despite an average age of 38 in a league that includes teams entirely comprised of college players, they have once again kept teams from running on them, and have yet to allow a team to score more than 41 points in a game, despite playing mostly without center Mike Kemp, who is suffering from severe back pain. 84 Lumber scored more points than that in the first half of their last game but still couldn't finish off Colorwheel. The now 2-1 Lumber Co. hopes to have their inside-outside combination of California University of Pennsylvania graduates Chris Deberardinis and Eric Watson present for the first time since their season opener. Deberardinis hit six threes in the first half of the Colorwheel game, finishing with 31 points.
Youth will be featured in Sunday's 6 p.m. game. The Gym Rats, led by 1999 Greensburg Salem graduate Nolan Larry and recent Hempfield grad Greg Randolph, will face off against Bisignani & Goldstrem, led by recent Plum grads Carlo Dorazio and Matt Magnusen, and former Greensburg Central Catholic sharpshooter Andy Colosimo. The schedule has not been kind for Bisignani, which has been forced to play veteran squads Weldon Acres Trophy, D&D Office Plus, and Rolling Rock in their first three games in the league.
The 1-2 Gym Rats haven't had as tough a schedule, but also haven't had much success. They have relied almost too much on the scoring of Larry and Randolph, which may hurt them badly against the much more balanced Bisignani squad.
In the opener at 5 p.m., WB22 will face Choice One Realty. The 1-3 Choice One squad will have to play their best game to hang with 3-1 WB. WB22 has a lot of scoring options with swingman Brandon George hitting from the outside and darting through the lane for points, Maurice Demery knocking down threes outside the arc, Floyd 'Squirt' Means doing anything he can for points, and Derrick Scott dominating inside should he show up. Choice One will rely on newly acquired big man Jason Mumpower, who scored 19.3 points per game last season for Mr. Mike's, swingman Josh Geletko, and point guard Chris Jardenhazy.
MONDAY MATCH UPS
At 7 p.m. on Monday, Jay's Sports Bar will play the Black Top Heroes in a battle of mostly 2001 graduates. Steve Scorpion, Franklin Regional's second all-time leading scorer, has been the most solid player for Jay's, and Jason Pacacha has been Black Top's leading scorer.
In the 8 p.m. game, the 2-3 Tomato Patch squad looks to even up their record against Choice One Realty. Patch point guard John Jenkins is coming off a 21- point performance against Weldon Acres.
To close out Monday night's action, Rolling Rock will take the floor against the Gym Rats. As the Gym Rats only two real scoring options, Nolan Larry and Greg Randolph will need superhuman scoring performances to hang with a team that has seven players capable of putting double digits on the board, and a few who are capable of putting up 40.