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.