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Tuesday, 24 December 2019 10:20 Written by Jian Lan
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Knights Run it Back to Back


2025-LON-CHAMPS
Val Crumley and the London Knights overcame all challengers en route to their 3rd OBWL championship in six years.

London entered the season as the favorite to represent the National Conference in the Finals. That prediction came true as the Knights won against a tough field and ultimately defeated top seeded Kansas City to claim their 3rd Heikkinen Cup in 6 seasons. The championship followed a surprising offseason that saw the team traded away superstar Colby Allan for Alain Lagon. The first quarter of the season was spent integrating Lagon into the roster as the team also juggled finding a big man to play alongside Jean Larry. It was decided that Lagon would take Allan's old role at point guard and Val Crumley will remain at shooting guard. Lagon flourished at the point, averaging 17 points on 55% shooting in 30 minutes. Though he wasn't voted an All Star, Crumley was his usual shelf, posting the best defensive rating of his career and posting 14 points and 7.4 assists in 29 minutes. Larry also did not get selected to the All Stars but managed to win another DMVP. Fredrick Gerard and Thomas Grundy rotated at small forward with Jose Owens, the Sixth Man of the Year, off the bench. The center position became a revolving door as London cycled through the likes of Tony Jimenez, Gerald Stubblefield, Erik Hall and Sebastian Calabro. The Knights finished 62-18, one game shy of last season's franchise record, and entered the playoffs having won 9 of the last 10 games.

NatCon Playoffs Round 1

In the first round of the playoffs, London faced the San Diego Storm. San Diego was making their first playoff appearance after a seven season draught and second in the Prince Amour Era. As anticipated the match-up was a track meet between two of the top three scoring teams in the conference. Game 1 saw the Knights running away with a 113-96 victory as Larry dropped a triple double (20 points, 14 rebounds and 12 blocks) to start the postseason campaign. In Game 2 it was a battle of the guards as Alain Lagon (28 points) out dueled James Nichol (21 points) and London prevailed 102-90 to take a 2-0 lead. It was once again the Lagon show as he poured in 30 points to lead the team in Game 3. Jose Owens chipped in 25 points for the 118-108 win. The Storm rallied back in Game 4 and jumped out to a first quarter lead that would never be relinquished. San Diego won 113-98. Despite the loss, the Knights traveled back home to London for Game 5 with a commanding 3-1 series lead. In Game 5, Lagon scored 40 points and had one of his best games of the season in helping the Knights advanced onto the Conference Semis.

"Coming into this series we knew we had to be able to score. San Diego is one of the best at putting points on the board and we had to match their output. We thought this was tailor made for Alain and we're thankful that we were right. Defensively we wanted to stop their bigs and make them more one dimensional. I think Larry did a fantastic job slowing down GW [Gary Williams]. You know...San Diego has taken a lot of criticism this offseason with some of their moves but they are a much improved team." said Coach Bennett

"I'm just happy to be able to help my team. We knew they like to play fast and get up and down the court. So it was something that fit my game. Just thrilled to get the W and move on." said Lagon

NatCon Semifinals

In the second round, London faced off against the young and talented Honolulu Inferno that boast rising stars Michael Weathersby, Udo Bach and Aaron Baum. Honolulu were tied with Minnesota for the best record in the West and lost the division crown on a tiebreaker. In Game 1, Lagon continued his stellar play from Round 1 as the Knights opened the series with a 28 points win, 105-77. Game 2 was a similar story as the much bigger Lagon (26 points) took advantage of his matchup against youngster Kelvin Corr and the home team jumped out to a big early lead and won 115-87. The teams traveled across the globe to Hawaii for the next two games. The Inferno took comfort in playing in friendlier confines and took it to London behind Bach's 27 points. But the Knights escaped 87-86 as Crumley scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Game 4 was another nail biter in front of a raucous crowd as Bach (29 points) once again powered the Inferno. This time it was Fredrick Gerard and his 25 points that guided London onto the Conference Finals.

"They remind me a lot of us when we were younger. The inexperience really showed in the first couple of games. But once we got to Hawaii, it was like we were playing a different team. I tell you what they're going to be really good if they keep that core together." said Crumley

NatCon Conference Finals

In the Conference Finals, London faced the division rival Boston Buzzards. Boston was back in the postseason after a 3 year hiatus and featured a loaded roster of Darin Deans, Frank Gifford, Sheldon Perkins and James Wall. Having knocked out 2nd seeded Minnesota and a tough Arizona squad, the Buzzards were not to be taken lightly. In Game 1, the Knights overcame Darin Deans' triple double and Frank Gifford's 20 point effort to win 95-86 behind Jose Owens' 27 points. Game 2 was a high scoring affair as Wall caught fire and torched the Knights for 31 points to go with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 steals and 2 blocks. The incredible game by the Boston guard was for naught as London won 116-111 behind Crumley (19 points, 15 assists and 7 rebounds) and Owens' (30 points) scoring prowess. The series moved to Boston for Games 3 and 4. Wall and his backcourt mate, Jesse Yoshida, were held in check but sixth man Sheldon Perkins provided the firepower off the bench with 25 points. Owens (28 points) and Lagon (22 points) countered as the Knights went up 3-0. Game 4 saw the Knights withstand a total team effort by the Buzzards. Deans had his second triple double (13 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocks) of the series and 6 Birds scored in double figures. It was not enough as Larry had his own triple double (22 points, 12 rebounds and 14 blocks) and powered London into the Championship Finals.

"Boston is a legit force in the league. I don't think you can classify them as up-and-coming. In just one season with Deans and Gifford they have established themselves as a top tier team and will only get better as the players get more familiar with each other. There's a lot of talent on the roster." said GM Lian.

OBWL Finals

In the Finals, the Knights met the regular season juggernauts that were the Kansas City Pioneers. The Pioneers had one of the best records in league history and were led by a feared perimeter attack featuring All Stars Mark Marble and Mack Lavoie with a brutal frontcourt lineup of Charles Cazares, Joe Turner, Mark Gee and Richard Hardee. To top it off, Kansas City also had home court advantage. In Game 1, London started its regular lineup with the exception of Erik Hall, who had been playing well, at center in hopes of keeping pace with the best offense in the league. The Knights kept it close but were outgunned 117 to 109 as Marble and Lavoie combined for 52 points. Having played well the first game the team decided to make only minor adjustments in hopes of a split. But instead the Knights were blasted 97 to 75 as Lavoie once again caught fire and torched his former team for 28 points.

It was a silent flight back to London as the realization of being down 0-2 dawned on the team. Something drastic needed to be done. Jose Owens and Fredrick Gerard were inserted into the starting lineup with Crumley and Lagon swapping positions. The shakeup worked as the Knights got their first win in Game 3, 101-83. With renewed energy London took Game 4 in a blowout, 114-81, to even the series. Owens had 32 points and Larry almost tripled doubled with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 12 blocks. The Finals would now be decided in a best of 3 series. With Game 5 still in England, the Knights hoped to go up 3-2 before returning to Kansas City. But it was not to be as the Pioneers rediscovered its offense and won 110-97 with surprising contributions from Blake Cobb (17 points) and Marshall Gaudett (12 points).

Traveling across the Pond, the Knights pondered how they were going to win both games in Kansas City. The staff settled on going big to counter the recent productions from 6'9" Cobb and 6'9" Gaudett. Sebastian Calabro (6'10") got the start at Small Forward in place of Gerard and held the duo to 5 points. Behind Owens' 34 points the Knights stun the home crowd with a 104-87 victory to once again even up the series.

It was now Game 7, winners take all. Not wanting to mess with a winning formula, the lineup remained the same with the exception of Gerald Stubblefield replacing Hall off the bench. Game 7 was everything a Game 7 should be. It was tight throughout and with timely scoring from Owens the Knights kept the game close until the end. Then this happened:

4th Quarter Time Remaining: 0:18 Pioneers 83, Knights 82

Knights ball
Defense: Man

Jose Owens passes the ball to Jean Larry (Left wing).
Jean Larry passes the ball to Alain Lagon (FT Line).
Alain Lagon passes the ball to Val Crumley (Right wing).
Val Crumley drives to the hoop.
Val Crumley goes for a layup.
The shot is blocked by Joe Turner.
The block goes out of bounds.

4th Quarter Time Remaining: 0:08 Pioneers 83, Knights 82

Knights ball
Defense: Man

Jose Owens inbounds the ball to Val Crumley
Val Crumley passes the ball to Jean Larry (Deep Right wing).
Jean Larry passes the ball to Jose Owens (Right wing).
Jose Owens passes the ball to Jean Larry (Left wing).
Jean Larry shoots from the left wing.
It's Good.

Final Score - Knights 84, Pioneers 83

A miracle shot by a legendary player. And just like that the Knights go down in history as just the third team to have ever repeated (behind Arizona and Seattle), and the first since the "hand check" era.

"I saw an open lane and went aggressive to the basket, hoping to score or get a foul but instead Joe (Turner) blocks it. Then the ball goes out of bounds and there was still time left on the clock. I got the ball back but couldn't get a look so passed it to Larry. I know we only had a few seconds but it felt like forever. I couldn't believe it. Just incredible, man. Incredible." said Crumley (14 points, 7 assists and 14 rebounds)

"Yo, when I got the pass from Larry I had guys all over me. There was nowhere for me to go. I saw he made a move to get open so just got the ball back to him." said Owens (34 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks)

"When Val passed me the ball I was too well guarded so I kicked it over to Jose and rolled to get some separation. I was able to catch and shoot in one motion. It couldn't have been more than a second or two but it was an eternity for me." said Larry (10 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks)

For the second year in row, Jean Larry was named Playoff MVP and the Knights were OBWL champions.

 

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Comments   

 
0 #1 Jay Amado 2019-12-27 00:38
Great article, Jian! Congrats again on an amazing season!
 

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