Crown League semi-finals brings out the best of Toronto basketball

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 15: The Nike 'swoosh' logo is displayed on the outside of the Nike SoHo store, June 15, 2017 in New York City. Nike announced plans on Thursday to cut about 2 percent of its global workforce. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 15: The Nike 'swoosh' logo is displayed on the outside of the Nike SoHo store, June 15, 2017 in New York City. Nike announced plans on Thursday to cut about 2 percent of its global workforce. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) /

Despite the presence of NBA and G-League players, it was the local talents who showcased their game in what was a thrilling Week 4 of the Crown League.

One of the main reasons Toronto basketball fans flock to the Crown League is because you truly never know who will show up on a week-to-week basis. In the past, the likes of James Johnson, Tristan Thompson, Bruno Caboclo and Kelly Olynyk, who just recently showed up for Week 3, have all made appearances at the Crown League.

This past week might have been the most impressive collection of talent yet, though. From the Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam, to Dwight Powell, to former Raptors 905 players Brady Heslip and Axel Toupane, to NCAA standouts Dyshawn Pierre and Dylan Ennis, to local Toronto legends Jevohn Shepherd and Junior Cadougan, this past week had it all.

To top it all off, Week 4 was the semi-finals and the winner of M.A.D.E. versus ACE would have a chance to take on the winner of 1 Love TO versus 6Man. With each team fighting for a chance to “Claim Royalty” in next week’s final, the intensity was fierce and both semi-final games were decided in the final minut.

Here’s a recap of how things went down in Week 4.

M.A.D.E. edges ACE in overtime, 85-84

In a back-and-forth game that featured 52 lead changes, M.A.D.E. forced overtime with a put back tip-in at the buzzer and eventually squeaked past ACE, 85-84.

Led by their core four of players from the Greater Toronto Area, Jermaine Anderson, Junior Cadougan, Jevohn Shepherd and Dyshawn Pierre combined to score 71 of M.A.D.E.’s 85 total points. Pierre led the way with 23 points, while Anderson finished with 20.

On the other side of the ball, Siakam and Warren Ward led the way for ACE. Although Siakam drew most of the attention, it was Ward who put together a fantastic game. The former Ottawa Gee-Gee finished with a game-high 25 points and also chipped in eight rebounds and two steals.

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As for Siakam, he went 6-for-9 from the field, but a disappointing 3-of-11 from the line, which is uncharacteristically bad for him. The missed free throws ended up costing ACE and it allowed M.A.D.E. to hang around down the stretch. Aside from his poor performance at the charity stripe, Siakam also lost out on a few key rebounds, but you could tell he wasn’t nearly as invested in the game like the majority of the roster players were. Not to make an excuse for Siakam, but you could tell by his body language that he wasn’t going to match M.A.D.E.’s physicality down the stretch, which is more than understandable considering he has to try to crack the Raptors’ roster this fall.

Overall, the difference in this game was free throws and three pointers. M.A.D.E. went 15-of-26 from the line, and 12-of-33 from three, while ACE shot 15-of-30 from the stripe, and 5-of-20 from distance. With the victory, M.A.D.E. will head to their second consecutive Crown League final.

6Man erases a double-digit deficit and defeats 1 Love T.O., 79-75

Led by the dynamic duo of Brady Heslip and Axel Toupane, 1 Love T.O. controlled the first half and entered halftime with a 49-39 lead over 6Man. With Heslip unconsciously draining threes from Steph Curry range, and Toupane cleaning up the glass and slashing to the rim, it looked like 1 Love TO was going to cruise to a decisive victory.

However, after shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half, 1 Love T.O. could not buy a bucket in the second half, and I mean they absolutely could not buy a bucket. After shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half, 1 Love shot 29.4 percent from the field in the second half and were an abysmal 3-of-17 from three.

Parlay 1 Love’s shooting woes with the strong play of Christian Kabongo and Richard Amardi, and you can see where things started to fall apart for 1 Love T.O. in the second half. Kabongo and Amardi, who was named the league’s Player of the Week in Week 3, took over and the duo combined to score 40 points, which was highlighted by Kabongo’s game-clinching three in the dying seconds of regulation.

To put in perspective just how big 6Man’s comeback was, 1 Love T.O. led this game for 22:27, and not only were they up by 10 at the half, they were also up by as many as 13 at one point. Kudos to 6Man for never giving up, though. They mounted one hell of a comeback and they outscored 1 Love 40-26 in the second half.

With the win, 6Man will take on M.A.D.E. in this week’s final in what should be an entertaining contest featuring tons of local talent.

Northern Kings sneak past CIA Bounce at the buzzer, 73-72

Talk about a wild finish. In a battle for fifth place, the Northern Kings scored four points in the final 10 seconds to shock CIA Bounce. After a questionable non-call led to a turnover and a bucket for the Northern Kings, all CIA Bounce had to do was inbound the ball, make a pair of a free throws and hang on for roughly three seconds.

Well, here’s where things got messy. As Dwight Powell was trying to inbound the ball, the player he was passing too was still jawing at the official and the inbound pass deflected off his chest and turned into a loose ball. Northern Kings scooped the ball up, kicked it out to the corner and a had a chance to win the game. With only seconds left, their player hoisted up an air ball, but, luckily for the Northern Kings, one of their players tipped the rebound back in as time expired.

There was controversy around whether he tipped it in on time, but after such a wild finish, you knew the officials were going to call it a good basket, which they eventually did. Outside of the bizarre ending, former South Carolina Gamecock Duane Notice, Raptors 905er Negus Webster-Chan, former Oregon Duck Dylan Ennis, and Dallas Mavericks’ Dwight Powell provided entertainment throughout this game.

If the semi-finals were any indication, the Crown League finals should be fantastic. If you have not already reserved a seat, you can do that here. The championship game between M.A.D.E. and 6Man is scheduled to tip-off at 8 pm, but the consolation game between ACE and 1 Love T.O. will take place at 6:30 pm. Doors open at 6 pm.

Next: Raptors leave Lowry's backup role in a race

Tip of the Tower will be in attendance on Friday and we’ll have a podcast and post up following the games. If you plan on attending the finals this week at Kerr Hall, come stop by and say hello to us. We always love chatting basketball with our readers.