The Lair Fall 108-101 in PBC Pro - Am Championship

By Steve DiMiceli

The quiet, almost entirely sterile City Game might be getting a little hotter if the PBC Pro - Am Champioship is any indication. Chippy would be an understatement. Dirty and nasty are a bit more appropriate as the refs lost complete control of the game at one point.

The Lair fell 108-101 to PGT, but neither team led by more than 6 until the end. It was a much, much closer game than the score line indicates.  When I arrived several Duquesne fans told me that the Robert Morris players on PGT were being replaced by Jamel Artis and Mike Young of Pitt. Tra'vaugh White took the place of WVU's Eron Harris who has been M.I.A. for two weeks. With the additions, the City Game vibe got even more pronounced.

I could tell both teams wanted it badly, and the Duquesne fans present may have wanted the win even more than the players.  The jawing and nastiness began in the first 5-10 minutes with Pitt's James Robinson saying "kill him" about one of the Dukes after a hard foul was called. Jeremiah reciprocated the next time a Duke went to the line. Later in the half as Talib Zanna was working the offensive perimeter, Jeremiah shouted instructions to Ovie Soko telling him to force him to his right and that Zanna can't dribble. Tempers boiled over with 8:54 remaining in the second half and the score tied 82-82. Soko fouled Zanna flagrantly across his crown and Zanna attempted to head butt him. This nearly turned into a Pitt vs Duquesne brawl, but ultimately cooler heads prevailed. Both players were assessed a technicals but remained in the game. The Lair went on a nice run and led by as many as 6 with around 4 minutes to go. Some might argue that the refs cost the Lair the game from that point and they certainly didn't help. However, I would place blame on poor shot selection, late turnovers while trying to force a play and behaving like they won the game already when they had the lead. Ultimately, PGT blew past them and took control in the final minute and a half never to look back.

Jeremiah Jones led the way again with 28 points and another fine shooting night. He did have 5 turnovers but all around he was the best player for The Lair. Soko was had his hands full with Zanna and he was overmatched by the Nigerian center defensively and on the glass. While he didn't have free reign to do whatever he wanted offensively, Soko certainly wasn't shut down scoring 20 points on 50% from the floor. Gill was back to his normal self hitting 75% of his shots. He's been a lot more active inside and did well enough defending Jamel Artis. Desmond Ridenour had 8 first half points and none in the second. Tra'vaugh White added 13 but was largely not a factor as The Lair's coach elected to go with the players who got him there in the finals, a classy move in my opinion.

The Duquesne players on The Lair played with a chip on their shoulder the size of Rhode Island. When they were performing well and trying to extend their lead, the chip invaded their brain and started to make it think they were already championships. The brains told their mouths to start running harder which motivated Zanna and company. I wouldn't even mention this if it hadn't happened once already this summer as the Lair already blew a late lead against PGT.   One quick caveat though before I get to my main point, I'm not old school. I don't mind trash talk or dirty play. In fact, I kind of like both. That being said, the current group of players is still in no place to talk trash with anyone save for teams nicknamed the Mountaineers. Gloat when you win not when you're winning. Leading late in the second half doesn't get you anywhere but the loss column if you don't play smart the rest of the way. That's what happened in both games between The Lair and PGT. The Duquesne players started using their mouths to do the talking and not their game. The Dukes have come by that chip honestly. There is a lot more preconceived negativity about the state of the team and program than I've experienced in years. They have something prove, but for the Dukes to do their best this year, they will need to use that chip to motivate themselves not their opponents.

That said, I enjoyed their spirit and competitiveness. All and all, it was a fun and encouraging summer league.

Official All League Team:

MVP -- Talib Zanna
 All Pro Am Team
Lance Jeter
Chevy Troutman
Lucky Jones
Nolan Cressler
Derrick Colter
Ovie Soko
Top Freshman -- Josh Newkirk