LOS ANGELES — LAUNFD F James Harden (Arizona State, Houston Rockets) scored a game-high 37 points, including the last seven points for the team down the stretch, as LAUNFD defeated M.H.P. 98-93 to win the 2015 Drew League championship.
It is the fourth championship for LAUNFD, all won in the last six years, as they are now arguably the greatest dynasty in Drew League history.
Harden was effective and efficient, dealing with urgent defense from M.H.P. captain F Nick Young (Southern California, Los Angeles Lakers) for most of the game to make 10-of-18 field goals, 6-of-13 three-pointers, and 11-of-12 free throws.
M.H.P. was down by as many as 15 points in the third quarter. But they got going on the fast break, a strength for them all season. The highlight of the game came in the final minute of the third quarter, when a Victor Rudd (South Florida) block led to PG Michael Williams (Cal State Fullerton) feeding an alley-oop to a player on the right side of the rim. Harden jumped to defend the attempt to the rim as the last player back – only to be overcome by The Hawk, M.H.P. SG DeMar DeRozan (Southern California, Toronto Raptors), swooping over the top to finish the lob with one hand.
LAUNFD led 68-60 at the end of the third quarter, and 85-76 after LAUNFD G Pooh Jeter (Portland) made a three with 4:10 left to play. M.H.P. went on a 15-6 run over the next three minutes, capped by a three-pointer by Young, who finished with 25 points. That tied the game at 91, the first tie of the second half.
LAUNFD had control for most of the game. After the first quarter ended with the score tied at 15, M.H.P. took a 32-21 lead in the second quarter. But LAUNFD flipped the game after Coach Dark called timeout, scoring 18 unanswered points and ending the 1st half on a 21-2 run. LAUNFD led 42-34 at the half.
Harden was just too good in the final minute. He answered Young’s three by beating him to the cup and getting a tough layup to drop, giving LAUNFD a 93-91 lead. DeRozan then made two free throws, giving him a team-high 28 points and tying the game at 93. As the capacity-packed crowd shouted “defense” in support of M.H.P., Harden pulled up and broke the tie with a cold-blooded three. M.H.P. tried to call a timeout, but the referees ignored them, presumably because they were out of timeouts. Rudd was left to attempt an unorganized, difficult three-pointer that missed with 7.2 seconds to play. Harden then made two free throws, and M.H.P. failed to score again.
Harden’s individual play was just enough to overcome the onslaught by Young and DeRozan, who combined to score 53 of M.H.P.’s 93 points. Pooh Jeter finished with 17 points, while C Jerome Jordan (Tulsa) had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocked shots.
Both teams had to beat the #1 seeds to play in the championship game. M.H.P. defeated the defending champs, Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars. LAUNFD defeated Citi Team Blazers, who were undefeated in all other games this season.
The championship game was also highlighted by the people who came out to see the end of the Drew League season. That list included Drew League veterans Kevin Durant (Texas, Oklahoma City Thunder), Paul Pierce (Kansas, Los Angeles Clippers), and Trevor Ariza (UCLA, Houston Rockets). Jordan Clarkson (Missouri, Los Angeles Lakers) also came through.
The only question remaining now with the Drew League season over: Will there be a Seattle vs. Los Angeles pro-am game?
Author Law Murray is a USC Annenberg graduate, who writes for the ClipperBlog on the ESPN TrueHoop Network.