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OGs triumph in March Madness

By Robin Tovey '97 on March 29, 2012 11:36 AM

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The NCAA has nothing on Reed's March Madness, which showcased fierce players, close games, and an overtime nail-biter that ultimately yielded victory last week for the Older Griffs (OGs), the elder half of the Fighting Griffins. Each spring Reed hosts its own version of March Madness. For one glorious evening, students, faculty, staff, and alumni play in a single-elimination basketball tournament. The teams are a combination of amateurs, serious amateurs, less-serious amateurs, old amateurs, and croquet enthusiasts who mistakenly wandered onto the wrong court.

The tourney got off to a quick start with the first game, between the Leftovers, composed of professors, staff, and alumni, and the Title 9ers, a women's team with two "token males." Bruce Smith, associate dean of student services, had a sweet steal for the Leftovers, and, as he launched into a breakaway, teammate Scott "Travis" Grice '90 yelled, "take it slow, you're old." Though the Leftovers had a few years on the 9ers, they were genuine competitors and it was a hardscrabble match. It was nice to see the friendly faces of former faculty members like Eddie Cushman, Randy Hicks, and Chris Zinn, alongside current staff members like Bruce and Dan Hyde, maintenance specialist, not to mention my colleagues in college relations, Kevin Myers and Jeff Wright. The 9ers team made a great run and banked some impressive shots, yet the power of age and wisdom won out 28 to 14.

In the interest of fairness, the Fighting Griffs (the college's team of record) divided itself into two teams for the occasion. The younger half, calling themselves the Lil' Griffs, met the Amateurs, regular members of a basketball class that meets a few times a week. Despite the Batman tee that Ahmad Shabbar '12 was wearing, the Amateurs never got off the ground and were handily beaten 45 to 25.

This year's alumni team, Right Bank, included tourney founder Erik Brakstad '89, Imran Ahmad '04, Colin Daniel '00, Chris Hallstrom '92, Nayram Tay '09, and Mike Rosen '04 (showing his Chicago allegiance with a full Bulls uniform). Speaking of the Windy City, word has it that Imran traveled all the way from Chicago to be a part of this team for old time's sake. Another member, Anthony Odro '10, lives locally and displayed his civic pride with a "B Roy 4 Mayor" tee shirt. Alas, the opposing team, Ya B-Ballers, may as well have had the knees of Brandon Roy, as they lacked luster and fell to Right Bank, 30 to 3.

The team made up of Ultimate Frisbee players, Berserk, warmed up in the upper gym by throwing the ol' flattened sphere around. This group was far more agile and led off a fast-paced game against the OGs, however, they were outdone on the fundamentals and could not match the ball-handling prowess of the OGs, losing 13 to 31.

In the semifinals, the Leftovers met the Lil' Griffs and there was potential for Oedipal blood to be spilled as Chris Zinn [English 1985–92] faced off against his own son Gabe Zinn '15. Some kind of struggle was apparent when they were guarding each other, and at one point it appeared that Gabe, a keen playmaker, was hacked by his scrappy father (in fine form for a man who will turn 60 this year!). Gabe fought back with a lovely lay-up to put his team ahead. Certain spectators watching from above teased that he should get a Golden Globe for faux flopping, yet Nathalia King [English 1987–], his mother, commented that both father and son should be awarded, "one for his pratfalls and one for pulling faces." This was the closest game yet, but after Pater Zinn fouled out, the Leftovers were vanquished by the young up-starts, 18 to 21.

Wearing his "Battle Ground Mini Mart" tee shirt, Erik Brakstad '89 led Right Bank against the OGs in the second semifinal. Perhaps one OG member's Oxford University tee provided slight sartorial advantage because he and his buddies put away the Right Bank rowdies once and for all in another tight contest. It was a relatively low-scoring game in the first half, but by the second half both teams picked up the pace and it all came down to the last shot, making it a 21 to 20 victory for OGs.

The final game between the OGs and the Lil' Griffs was similarly intense and young legs on both sides made for some fun high-speed plays. It was a thrill to watch the fancy footwork and synchronization of the guys who play together most regularly. They seemed to really enjoy the rivalry, and when this tie game approached the end of regulation, onlookers let out a sigh of discontent because it appeared that the contest would end with foul shots instead of a forceful play by Torrey "T-Pain" Payne '14. The other Lil' Griffs were Adrian Bennett '15, Jon Chai '14, Nick Roberts, and Gabe Zinn '15.

OG Matt Edwards '12 missed his first free throw but made the second, putting the OGs ahead; however the ref invalidated it due to a lane violation, leaving us to believe that he too desired a more satisfying conclusion! They played for two additional minutes, during which time the OGs, including David Azrael '13, Chris Cahill '12, Ned Carson '13, Adrial Hsu '12, and Ben Williams '13, really turned on the jets and outmaneuvered the Lil' Griffs at every turn. Everything came down to a delicate floater by Chris that sealed the deal, 29 to 24. The win must have been all the more gratifying for the fact that the elders prevailed . . . not just once, but twice for good measure.

Many thanks to Frank Zornado, who has been organizing the tournament almost since its inception, for assistance with facts and figures for this piece.