GLOUCESTER — Throughout the YMCA 18-plus summer league season, the consensus opinion was that Anthony Anderson of Crow's Nest was the best player in the league. The star point guard led Crow's Nest to a championship in 2007 and looked to be leading them to another title in 2008 after a 96-72 victory over Flynn's Physical Therapy in game one of the best of three championship series last week.
Anderson, however, was given a big chance that he couldn't pass up: to play professionally for Cypress in Greece. As a result, he will be unable to play the rest of the series since he had to go abroad to sign a contract. In Anderson's absence, Flynn's seized the opportunity to even up the series at one-all with an 82-74 win in game two. The league championship will be on the line in game three tomorrow night (7:30, Cape Ann YMCA).
Flynn's forward Josh Oxton knew exactly what the difference in the game was.
"Anderson wasn't there," Oxton said. "Besides that we did do a better job of hitting our shots, but Anthony not being there was a big equalizer."
Crow's Nest guard Gregg Sousa admitted that the team was affected without their go-to player there but also pointed out that the team can still win without him.
"It definitely hurt, Anthony is the best player in the league," Sousa said. "But we should be able to win without him. I think we relied on him so much all season that the rest of us got a little lazy, we have to step it up without him."
The teams played an evenly matched first half, with Flynn's going into the break with a 37-32 lead thanks to 20 points from Dave Stantial, including five three-pointers.
Just as Crow's Nest was sparked by a big run in the second half of game one, Flynn's would come out with a similar burst of their own, starting the second half of game two on an 18-5 spurt to take an 18-point lead.
"(Crow's Nest) came out and played man-to-man defense and we took advantage of the mismatches," Oxton said. "They hurt us with a zone in game one so we were happy to see the man-to-man."
Crow's Nest, however, would not go away without a fight, twice cutting the lead to six points with six minutes and one minute respectively to go. Flynn's withstood each rally to come away with the win and force the third game.
"We pressed them at the end and it worked," Sousa said. "When the game turns into a scramble like it did late, we are at our best, we need to push the pace again (tomorrow)."
Stantial led Flynn's with 29 points, Oxton had 21. On the other side, Marcos Echavarria paced Crow's Nest with 26 points and Zak Zegarowski added 18.
While disappointed with the loss, Sousa is still confident Crow's Nest can come away with the title tomorrow with more consistent scoring.
"Myself and Zak need to score more than we did tonight," said Sousa, who finished with only six points. "Marcos is going to score, we need to back him up."
On the other hand, Oxton says Flynn's will rely on defense to help them capture the title.
"We have to pick up the defense like we did tonight," Oxton said. "If we do that and control the glass we will win."