Bruce Reiff, OH
'92, '97-'99, '10
Terry Coleman, BC
Ken Gutermuth, TX
Jon Diminnie, IN
Bruce Monnin, OH
Dennis Nicholson, NY
Debbie Gutermuth, TX
John Coussis, IL
Marvin Birnbaum, NY
2005, 2011, 2013
Jerome Billones, VA
Derek Landel, NY
Thomas Browne, PA
Andy Lewis, DE
Scott Nerney, RI
Upsets Abound as Overtime
John Coussis vs the Plaque King
Jeremy Billones vs Roger Taylor
Carrie Lewis vs Samantha Berk
ladies version of the final four
Peter Staab vs Danny Lewis
to the Final Four ...
They say you can’t go home again. While that might be true for certain things, I tend to be an optimist, especially where March Madness at WBC is concerned. Like an aging shooting guard who feels he can still hit that 3-pointer at the buzzer, we always seem to flirt with the magic number of 50 players.
Most years, we just miss that milestone. And dropping the poorly attended Thursday heat for an additional heat on Friday was seen by a few as confirmation that maybe, just maybe, the best days of MMS were behind it. My feeling has always been that if you do things for the right reasons, good things will happen. I’m not always right, but in this case the optimists seem to be vindicated. Not only did we have more than 50 players for the third time, we also matched our all-time attendance of 54—pretty good for a game that’s been out of print for nearly two decades.
Similarly, not all of the new Final Four teams in the real world met the GM’s high standards for the March Madness tourney—like all Cinderella teams, their ranking has to be neither too high nor too low. Rather than panic, I simply added some more classic teams that were just the perfect fit, to add some freshness for this year’s field. Now, the teams available for the MMS event total more than 130—some going all the way back to the days of short shorts, crew cuts, and set shots.
The variety wasn’t limited to the teams, either. Among the assembled coaches were the usual collection of sports games junkies, but there was a definite uptick in both Eurogamers and wargamers this year. Both of the latter seem to pick up the game mechanics pretty quickly, but they also find MMS a bit more challenging than they might have expected.
For example, Bryan Collars had a good team, but his Cincinatti ’62 Bearcats were no match for Sam Berk, who led her San Francisco 1956 squad to two wins, demonstrating that her Final Four appearance last year was no fluke. Likewise, Mark Mitchell and the highly ranked UCLA fast break of 1975 was no match for the defense of Danny Lewis and the aptly-named Wichita State 2013 Shockers. Danny would go on to beat 4-time champ Terry Coleman, and Roger Taylor, before running into the Johnny Wilson juggernaut in the regional semifinals.
It was hardly a surprise that Johnny would take a Louisville team, given the number of years he lived there. And given that Dr. Wilson had the number 2 seed, it was reasonable that he outlasted his fellow Reverend, Keith Hunsinger. What had all of us reaching for our heart medicine though was when Johnny also beat Sam, Danny, and then three-time champ Marvin Birnbaum, on his way to the Final Four. We’re not sure who bought the first tasty adult beverage for Johnny that night, but there were a lot of folks who were happy to offer…
In the second heat on Wednesday, we had 27 players, an excellent turnout for a 9 AM start. Scott Nerney fell prey to the Curse of the Top Seed, losing in the first round, but he also knocked off a lot of rust (which would really help him later). Doug Porterfield took time off from Ace of Aces to eliminate Johnny (who admittedly was still flying high after winning Heat 1). This left an opening for Sean McCulloch, who responded by winning his first two games.
Sean then played Bruce Monnin in a game that had one of the most bizarre coaching decisions I’ve ever seen. Late in the game, Bruce was nursing a lead, and inexplicably played a Zone to void one of Sean’s cards. The only problem was that Sean had a three-pointer, which was doubled in effectiveness, due to Bruce’s Zone! Bruce survived the scoring rolls, but probably had to field a few anxious calls from alumni after that game.
Meanwhile, Terry Coleman had been quietly moving through the upper half of the bracket, with wins over Jeff Mullet, Max Jamelli, and Roger Taylor. He seemed eager to face Bruce’s multiple coaching personalities, but Monnin didn’t try anything esoteric—his superior defense put an end to Terry’s triple digit scores, and placed Bruce in the Final Four.
Heat 3 was more of the same, with Monnin beating all comers to make another regional Final. In the ‘Battle of the Bruces’ he even beat Reiff, to deny him a chance to extend his record of MMS titles. But then Monnin ran into something even more intimidating -another one of the Lewis family, who in recent years have come close to making March Madness their family event. Following on his dad’s title last year, Wes decided to make his own Final Four. After all, if you can beat your mom and dad playing at home, why not win at WBC? In a wild game, Wes outscored Bruce, and set up a showdown in the Final Four with…
Scott Nerney, he of the ignominious first-round defeat in Heat 2. Scott learned his lessons well, and coached an offensive-heavy team to win after win. Constantly pushing the tempo, Scott took out the top seed, John Shaheen, and perennial Final Four contestant Harry Flawd to win the heat and make his first Final Four.
As one would expect from two offensive powerhouses, defense went out the door when Wes met Scott, and the fans certainly got their money’s worth. The game fittingly went into overtime. Wes played well and scored 99 points. However, his reliance on a tight man-to-man defense finally caught up to him, with two fouls in the extra period. Once the smoke had cleared from the dice, Scott had scored a total of 105, putting him in the title game.
The other national semifinal was exuberance vs. experience. Amazingly, prior to this year, Johnny had not won a game in March Madness since Hunt Valley. But he had all of the momentum on his side during his current streak, coaching a team whose strengths he understood very well indeed. Bruce seemed sober after his loss to Wes in Heat 3, and quietly determined. In the end, Bruce’s focus and veteran savvy in the clutch won out. But I doubt it will be another ten years before Johnny wins another MMS game.
All of the teams in the MMS tourney are pretty well matched, but the Final was particularly close. Both teams had a big ‘A’ scorer along with a very good number 2 threat, and B defenses. Each team scored more than 50 points by halftime, and it looked like another photo finish might be in order. Bruce tried to employ the Run & Gun in the second half, but it didn’t work as well for him as it had throughout the tourney for Scott. In the end, Bruce’s Michigan squad couldn’t keep up with the Providence bucket-filling machine, and Scott pulled away, 114-98.
Congratulations to Scott for his first title. Good luck next year (it’s tough to repeat, trust me). And kudos to Bruce as well—even though he fell just short of his first over the board MMS title in 15 years, he still has those three PBeM titles to console him.
Also, thanks to everyone who attended the demo, and to all of you, veterans and newcomers alike, who continue to support one of the most fun-to-run events at WBC. We hope to see you all back here (with a few friends) to join in our summertime version of March Madness next year. Until then, I’ll be researching to see what new teams we can add for our new Final Four venue in Seven Springs.
Play By Email 2015
A field of 48 entered this year's 11th anniversary BPA March
Madness PBeM tournament. After 95 games, our tenth champion
was crowned, as Debbie Gutermuth carried the ladies banner all
the way through seven rounds to become our first female champion—earning a bookend plaque to match her 2002 WBC hardware. A
dual title possession shared by only three others: Bruce Monnin,
Dennis Nicholson and Derek Landel.
Debbie's 10th seeded Arizona 2003 squad ran roughshod over
the field—winning all but one contest by double digit margins.
Only a 85-83 squeaker over Robert Rund's Illinois '89 squad in
the Sweet 16 gave her any trouble. She then defeated Thomas Browne's
Michigan '13 squad in the Elite Eight to relegate Tom to fifth
place laurels and dropped newcomer Oliver Searles' Kansas '57
team in the Final Four. Oliver finished third overall in the
Marvin Birnbaum also had a relatively easy path to the Final.
His top seeded Houston '68 was only slightly threatened by #48
seed Syracuse '13 in the second Round in a seven-point win and
an 8-point win over Joe Yaure's Houston '67 squad in the Elite
Eight. The 84-76 loss nontheless earned Joe sixth place laurels.
Marin led at half 48-42 behind 19 points by AA Elvin Hayes.
It could have been worse though were it not for a Great Pass
that nullified Marvin's Double Team. Debbie took her first lead
with only two positions remaining on a Technical Foul and won
going away when her Bench outscored Marvin's 14-6 for the winning
eight-point margin in a 94-86 victory.
The tournament will be restarted this coming October. Come join
us in determining next year's PBeM champion of the BPA March