Rome Gladiators add Summer League Title
Familiar Place: Gladiators take the SEBL Summer Pro Am Metro A-League Championship 98-80...
The Rome Gladiators suffered through finishing in last place in the WBA in 2004, but the difficult experience left a lasting affect, as well as a pending mission, on the organization as a whole. In the 2004 SEBL Summer League, the mission began, as the Gladiators finished with a 9-1 record, losing only to Baseline in the semi-finals after seeing much of its roster to players have to report to opportunities overseas. The new WBA season, saw Rome build a high-calibur team, as they worked their way to winning the Championship Game in early July. With the mission of creating a dynasty still in place, the Gladiators found themselves in a familiar spot on Sunday evening at the end of the SEBL Summer Pro Am Finals... accepting the Championship Trophy. The Gladiators bumped traditional summer league powerhouses, Baseline and ServPro out of the way, and found a vunerable #6 seeded Lawrenceville Jazz team waiting for them in the Final.
The Jazz advanced to the Title game through a series of gifts. The Jazz played brilliantly in defeating the #3 seed WBA Stars in the first round . Then, their first gift came when OC Alum, the #7 seed, somehow upset the #2 BC Lakers squad in the first round, setting up a meeting with a team that had only won one game this summer. The Jazz promptly discarded OC Alum, advancing them to the South Title game, or SEBL Semis against Gainesville. Gainesville, despite beating the Jazz, had to defer the game, due to using ineligible players. Thus, the Jazz advanced to the Championship Game.
The Gladiators, sought to bury the Jazz early, as they jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the opening minutes. But, Lawrenceville began to settle-down and hit some perimeter shots, which got them back in the game. On a Jason Stewart (196-G/F-77) 3-pointer at the top of key, the Jazz took its first lead at 26-25 with 5:40 to play in the first half. Rome promptly reeled off six straight, as Joe Hamilton (198-F, college: Virginia Tech) and Lamar Karim each sank short jumpers in the mini-run, to give the Glads a 31-26 lead. Another Jazz score by Toby Smith trimmed it back to three, but Rome then went on a 13-3 run to close out the half. Rome had a comfortable 44-31 lead at the break.
In the second, Lawrenceville fought valiantly to get back in the game. After trading baskets for the first 4:30 of the second half, DeCourney McGowan hit a short turn around jumper to bring Lawrenceville within nine, at 52-43. Rome then went on a 15-6 streak, behind two treys by Hamilton and a jumper by Darnel Cox, to build a 67-49 spread. Rome seemed to be pulling away, when Stewart stepped up to score seven consecutive points for the Jazz, to clip the Gladiator lead back to 67-56 with 9:50 remaining. Karim silenced the Jazz run and broke a 3-minute scoring drought for Rome when he drilled consecutive 3-pointers to push the Glad lead back to 73-58. After a Marvin Harrison layin, Latece Williams connected on a put-back, followed by a freethrow by Karim to make it 76-60, Rome. Then, after a McGowan tri-fecta to cut it to 76-63, Rome reeled off seven straight, including a steal and layin by Karim and two monster slams by Benton and Williams. With 5:32 left on the clock, Rome enjoyed its biggest lead of the game, 83-63. The Jazz, had different ideas and reeled off 10 straight points. Toby Smith sank two freethrows, followed by a put-back on an offensive foul. After a steal, McGowan drew the foul and sank two freethrows, then after a Williams offensive foul, McGowan sank a runner in the lane. Stewart, with 3:27 left, then ripped Demetrius Fugate, drove the length of the floor and slammed to bring the Jazz to with in 83-73.
Rome Head Coach Harold Ellis , called a timeout and re-inserted Benton and Karim. After the inbounds, Karim promptly lost his defender, drove to the free throw line and pulled up to bury the 15-foot jumper. After a Harrison miss on the other end, Benton banked a 12-foot shot off the glass and ran back to block a Jazz shot attempt. Back on the offensive side, Benton then took a feed inside from Hamilton, pump faked and jammed it home, to give Rome the 89-73 spread, effectively ending the Jazz comeback hopes. McGowan and Stewart scored buckets in the final minute for Lawrenceville, but Rome answered with a put back and slam from Williams. Karim, dribbling out the clock was fouled and sank an insurance freethrow, before a miss by Lawrenceville gave the 5'9" point guard an opportunity for a two-handed exclamation slam to end the game -- giving the Gladiators an impressive win and the 2005 SEBL Pro Am Title.
The Jazz, who finished the season at 6-6 overall, turned a 1-4 start around to take the runner-up spot for the summer. For a team that was much better than their record indicated, Stewart finished the game with 25 points, while Toby Smith downed 21 and DeCourey McGowan hit 20. Harrison collected 8, as RJ Haymus and Ryan Hubbard each chipped in with 3. The Jazz, coached by former ABA star Dennis Stewart , were force to play with out the high scoring Rodney Kirtz said, "I was please with how we were able to gel as a team as the summer went along. We will be ready for next summer."
Karim, who was named the '05 SEBL Summer Pro Am Metro A-League Tournament MVP, exploded for 30 points in the Final, while Williams pounded in 21, Hamilton 19 and Benton 13. Jonathan Small (186-G, college: Holmes CC) also accounted for 5 points, as Demetrius Fugate and Darnel Cox each netted 4. Chas Criss rounded out the scoring for the Glads with two. The Gladiators, completed the summer season with a 10-1 overall record. They were led principally by Coach Lionel Garrett in the regular season and first round of the playoffs, before Gladiator GM Harold Ellis and Jackie Copeland filled in for the Final Four, while Garrett attended his induction to the Ohio High School Hall of Fame. Garrett, a Harlem Globetrotter, who has served as a Coach with the Rome Gladiators WBA entry, was named the 2005 SEBL Summer Pro Am Metro A-League Coach of the Year. Garrett, from Ohio stated, "it was a good summer, we were able to look at some players that we will want to keep in the Gladiator family." Ellis, former NBA player and Atlanta Hawks Scout, said, "we really enjoyed the summer league, and it allowed us the chance continue to develop players, as well as, keep our product brand in the market place. It was a complete success for us, and we look forward to future involvement."
Other awards presented following the Finals, ServPro-1's Mike Dean was named the SEBL Summer Pro Am Metro A-League League Overall MVP for 2005, as he averaged 30 points per game. Summer League organizers made the mandate to start a Summer League Hall of Fame, and the first three persons to be inducted were long-time referee Orlando Price, Jamarl Bryant and Wesley Adams. Price, an affectionate fixture at the summer league while working for over a decade, passed away in 2002. Bryant and Adams, who were both players for ServPro-2, passed away in tragic auto accidents. Both spear-headed the ServPro-2 team to 5 consecutive appearances in the City Conference Finals, including 4 Championships. Bryant, also, had connections to the Baseline and Rome Gladiator organizations, as he played for the BaselineUSA college exhibition team, as well as, for the 2004 WBA Rome Gladiators professional team. Subsequently, the Orlando Price Award that was created in 2002, was awarded to ABOG referee association administrator Shirley Blake, for her professionalism and dedication in her field. The newly created Jamarl Bryant Award was given to Cartersville-resident Lamar Hudson for his service and dedication to young people in the community as a youth basketball coach and mentor for many years. Bryant, a Rome-native, built an AAU/youth organization in Rome and had dedicated his life to helping youth and young adults in the Rome and surrounding areas.
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World Basketball Association Stories from August 16, 2005
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