The Guerrillas triumph over the Rebels to go back-to-back in Bloomington South
I was able to travel to Bloomington South last night to witness the Guerrillas-Rebels rivalry in person, as they were playing against each other for a championship for the sixth time. The Guerrillas came in with a 3-2 record in those games, winning two championships in the combined rec playoffs back in 2014 and 2015 and winning a third last season in Bloomington South.
The Guerrillas improved to 4-2 in championship matchups against the Rebels, as they defeated their arch rivals 89-80 last night to go back-to-back in Bloomington South.
Championship games between these teams are always close, as the widest margin of victory was the Guerrillas last season when they won by 15. The nine-point margin of victory fits the bill, but what was different about this matchup was the amount of points scored, as the 169 total points scored is by far the most in a title game between theses two, shattering the previous high of 147 (which was the total in the past two title games).
This game was truly a tale of two halves. The Rebels came out and controlled the game from the get-go, starting the game on a 12-2 run in the opening five minutes. The Guerrillas stayed the course in the first half and got the score to 43-38 with 33.7 left in the half.
The Rebels wanted to hold for the last shot, but Allen Edwards-Madding stole the ball away from Ryan Jansen to seal the half off with a bucket for the Guerrillas and cut the deficit to one possession…at least, that’s what looked like was going to happen. Edwards-Madding started the break after the steal, with Jansen tracking with him the whole way. Edwards-Madding dropped the ball off to Bryant Marmol, but Jansen was able to get set and contest the layup attempt by Marmol, forcing a miss. He kicked it quickly up the floor to Cody Heinz, who got by Izzy Elkaffas and hit a runner at the buzzer: 45-38 in favor of the Rebels at halftime.
After a quick change of momentum like that, it seemed like this was the Rebels’ night. But the Guerrillas were able to make halftime adjustments and outscore the Rebels 51-38 in the second half.
It was a total team effort for the Guerrillas, but the second half was highlighted by the shooting of Elkaffas, who made five of his six 3s in the second half. All five of them came at a significant part of the game, helping build momentum for the Guerrillas to take control of the game.
First 3: Cut a 51-42 Rebels’ lead to 51-45, and was in the middle of a 7-0 run for the Guerrillas that forced the Rebels to use their first timeout.
Second 3: The Rebels scored immediately after the timeout, but Elkaffas responded with a 3 to get the game back to a four-point deficit, 54-50, Rebels.
Third 3: Marmol executes a perfect dribble-handoff with Elkaffas, who gets off a quick release and cuts the score to 64-63, in favor of the Rebels.
Fourth 3: Paul Ferber responded with a bucket to give the Rebels a three-point lead, but Elkaffas buried another triple, this one being his biggest heat check of the game. Marmol brought the ball up the floor quickly, and Elkaffas was trailing the entire way. Marmol swung it to him, and Elkaffas fired from 26 feet and buried it to tie the game at 66-66.
Fifth 3: Caleb Carlson got an and-one to give the Guerrillas their first lead of the game, and then Elkaffas drained another 3 on the next possession to make it 74-68 in favor of the Guerrillas with 6:20 left.
That final 3 felt like a dagger, as the Rebels went ice cold during this period. Jansen hit a midrange jumper to make it 68-66, Rebels, with 9:25 left in the game. They wouldn’t score again until Heinz made two free throws with 3:30 left, cutting the score to 78-70, Guerrillas. Once the Guerrillas got the lead, they never looked back, and they held on to win their sixth rec championship in franchise history, putting them one behind the Rebels’ seven.
Getting to experience a game like this is a reminder of how amazing Ultimate Hoops can be, and how much history there is in Minnesota. You have the two most-accomplished franchises in Minnesota Rec history facing off for the 39th time, the 11th time in the playoffs and the sixth time for a championship. If you combine the 11 players that played in this game, there was a combined 3,995 career games of experience and 76 championships won.
There were two first-ballot Hall of Famers, Jansen and Elkaffas, who both played like it. Jansen had 25 points (a career-high in a championship game against the Guerrillas) on 10-15 shooting, adding seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block. Elkaffas, who ironically got into the Hall of Fame more for his contributions than his playing, scored 22 points (a career-high in a championship game against the Rebels) on 7-11 shooting, adding two rebounds and an assist.
“Feels good to take down my fellow Hall of Fame rival,” Elkaffas said after the victory.
This will not be considered one of the all-time moments in this rivalry (especially considering there was no tripping and barely any elbowing), but it was still a great game between two elite teams. I consider myself lucky to be apart of it, and I look forward to dozens of more matchups in the future.