Baltimore Hawks advance to the next round in the ABA playoff after thrilling overtime win
In their inaugural season, The Baltimore Hawks have faced many challenges. They’ve lost players to off the court issues. Early and late regular season losses revealed inefficiencies that were believed to have been addressed. Games their hometown fans were expecting to attend were canceled due to weather concerns. They also had to learn to play as a team and overcome unfamiliarity issues. But none of these issues stopped the Hawks from getting their first playoff victory and providing Baltimore city with an entertaining playoff game.
The NC Coyotes came into Baltimore with one purpose, to advance to the next ABA playoff round. They’ve beaten each of the top seeded teams at least once during the regular season, and were confident in their ability to do it again. After defeating Richmond Elite, the Coyotes were set to play the Hawks in an elimination game, and ready to claim the Mid-Atlantic championship.
The first half of the game belonged to the Hawks, but not by much. Power forward Juwand Rheubottom provided most of the first half scoring for the Hawks, but their efforts were being matched by North Carolina’s Espinosa brothers, Robert and Eladio. Both teams could only manage to go on three or four point runs, which led to a 51-50 score at the half.
The second half was much of the same, and we could clearly see the advantages each team possessed. The Coyotes were consistently winning the battle for rebounds and second chance points, while the Hawks guards were outplaying their counterparts. Each team seemed to struggle to grab the lead, but neither could maintain it for more than a few possessions. Though such a tight game had both coaches worried, the fans loved it. This consistent back and forth scoring had the crowd on the edge of their seats throughout the second half. There wasn’t a dull moment, and at the end of four quarters the scoreboard read 99-99, which meant there was more basketball to be played.
Neither team was willing to fold in overtime. Both teams attacked the basket and stepped up their defense. If a player drove towards the basket, he would be challenged. Every rebound was challenged, but it was going to take more than great efforts to win this game. Everything came down to a few free throw shots. Early in the game, the Coyotes nearly doubled the Hawks in free throw attempts, but failed to consistently hit those shots. The Hawks would not make the same mistake in overtime. With a 109-108 lead and less than one minute left in the game, Hawks guard Dashawn Bradshaw had an opportunity to add three more points to the lead after being fouled on a three point shot. Bradshaw did what big-time shooters do when given the opportunity; he hit all three free throw shots and sealed the game for the Hawks. The scoreboard read 112 -110 at the end of the game, and the Hawks
earned the right to move on in the playoffs. This was their last home game for this season, and they truly treated their Baltimore fans to a great game and even better victory.
How much further will the Hawks go? We all will have to wait and see. But regardless of their future success, the Hawks have won the hearts of their Baltimore fans, and that victory can’t be measured by trophies.
ABA Mid-Atlantic Divisional Playoffs Preview
The games that Baltimore basketball fans have been waiting for are returning this weekend. Playoff basketball is back, and we can thank the American Basketball Association and the Baltimore Hawks for making it happen. This weekend, Baltimore will host the Mid-Atlantic Divisional playoffs, featuring Richmond Elite, NC Coyotes, Fayetteville Flight, and Baltimore’s own Hawks. If you haven’t been following ABA basketball, here’s a breakdown of each team:
The top seeded Baltimore Hawks are consistently ranked as one of the top five teams in the ABA. They finished the regular season with a 13-4 record, one of those loses coming from the NC Coyotes. This team features one of the best backcourts in the league. Their guards, Terry Hosley, Kiel McCoy, Dashawn Bradshaw, Alfonzo Hawkins, Jaquan Jones, Lionel Perkins, and Curtis Barber are all capable scorers and defenders, and each has provided a spark for the team at some point this season. The two that have consistently shinned this season are Terry Hosley and Dashawn Bradshaw. Bradshaw is the team’s best shooter, especially behind the three point line, and Hosley is the most consistent shooter/scorer. Any team playing the Hawks should always focus on limiting these two. The Hawks also have a good but small front court, led by Juwand Rheubottom and Richard Ford. While they are often smaller than their opponents, their hustle and fight allow them to frequently overcome all physical disadvantages. The Hawks are a team that truly represents their city – blue collar, hard working, and fighters until the end. They are the favorite to advance to the next round of playoff games, but they will have to fight through some tough teams, beginning with the Fayetteville Flight, to get there.
The seconded seeded, ABA 13th ranked, Richmond Elite are returning to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. Though they are not the top seed, this team is easily capable of leaving the divisional playoffs as its winner. They finished the regular season with an 11-4 record, and are a high octane offensively minded team. Shooting guards Anthony Ervin and Taneiko Robinson and forward Calvin Lee are the team’s top scorers, but the entire team is capable of putting up big points. The Elite have a history of recruiting great offensive players, and often lose some of their players to overseas teams, due to their excellent play. Early in the season, Richmond Elite suffered losses to the Baltimore Hawks and NC Coyotes, but they have since rebounded and come together as a team. They are heading into the playoffs on a three game winning streak, and look to keep their winning ways going against the NC Coyotes.
The third seeded, 18th ranked (8-4) NC Coyotes have beaten both the number one and two seeded teams during the regular season, and are looking to do so again. The Coyotes are led by former college players Robert Espinosa (small forward), Eladio Espinosa (forward), Anthony Branch (point guard), and Jamie Cheek (forward). Most of their victories can be attributed to a combination of high scoring and good offensive rebounding, which makes them dangerous against any team. They regularly finish games with more than 130 points, and are entering the playoff on a ten game winning streak. Many ABA fans and followers consider this team to be the hottest in the Mid-Atlantic division, and favor them to upset the top seeded Baltimore Hawks. To do so, the Coyotes must first defeat Richmond, in what should be an exciting matchup.
The Fayetteville Flight is the lowest seed in these divisional playoffs, but don’t count them out. Baltimore native and Perry Hall high school graduate, Jade Belt, isn’t planning on returning to his hometown to lose. He and his teammates are coming to win. This team is led by guard Vincent Parnell, who averaged 25.2 points per game and 6.3 assist per game during the regular season. Forward Billy McDade provides most of the rebounding and is also Fayetteville’s second leading scorer. When this team is hot, they are capable of beating anyone, but they have been inconsistent throughout the regular season. Fortunately, the regular season has little to do with the playoffs, and they are expected to bring their A game when they matchup against the Hawks.
The games begin this Saturday at Baltimore City Community College Liberty Campus at 5:00pm.
#2 Richmond Elite vs #3 NC Coyotes @ 5:00pm
#1 Baltimore Hawks vs #4 Fayetteville Flight @ 7:15pm