By Brian McInnis
The College Summer League playoffs are this week, but the "game of the year" in this setting may have just happened over the weekend.
Sparked by Bill Amis' halftime appearance (he thought the game was at 7:30, not 6 p.m.), Central Medical Clinic rallied from 20 points down to defeat Solar Universe 127-122 in overtime and claim the top seed in the playoffs at 7-3. Amis scored 20 points in the final 25 minutes, while 'Iolani product Kyle Pape poured in 39, including the 3 in OT that just about sealed it.
"It felt good, I wanted to get the first-round bye and also try to avoid Clark Hatch (Fitness) for as long as we can," said Amis, who has been the best big man in this running of the league. "They're going really hot right now. So that's going to really help us out, trying to not play them until the championship."
Central Medical vs. defending champ Solar Universe is a solid bet for the final pairing, but you can't count out Keith Shamburger and Clark Hatch, nor Julian Sensley and Wealth Strategy Partners.
"We've shown, we've now beaten every team at least once," Amis said. "I think that's a good confidence builder. We can beat (Solar) even though they play a different kind of basketball (small ball) than the rest of the guys out here."
Solar, which got a big shot from another UH alum, Zane Johnson, just to send it to the extra period, is the No. 2 seed at 6-4 and also gets a bye on Tuesday, when No. 3 (Wealth Strategy Partners, 5-5) plays 6 (Grantco Pacific, 2-8) and 4 (Clark Hatch Fitness, 5-5) takes on 5 (National Fire Protection, 5-5).
The complete playoff schedule can be found here. Note that all games this week are at Maryknoll High School's gym, not the traditional Manoa Valley District Park. The games will also be televised on Olelo (Ch. 49) and broadcast at youtube.com/olelocm.
For current or former pros like Amis and Johnson, these summer league games remain competitive in both quality of play and player temperament and are a terrific outlet for their skills.
When Johnson is back in the islands between pro seasons, he works out often with his old teammate Amis. They both left their mark Saturday night with hero roles for their respective teams. Amis couldn't be stopped against Solar's smallish lineup while Johnson (27 points) showcased his deadeye shooting.
Johnson's contested shot from the deep corner in the final seconds of regulation was at the same spot on the court that Ray Allen hit his unbelievable shot to send Game 6 of the NBA finals to overtime. Of course, the stakes were infinitely greater for that one.
"(Brandon) Spearman set me a good screen. Artie (Wilson), the Phil Jackson of the summer league, drew up a good play," Johnson said.
UH teammates Spearman and Negus Webster-Chan each added 26 points in the loss.
It was hard to find a seat in the Manoa gym on this night. Overflow hoops fans crowded the corners of the court for a good view.
"I enjoy it because I can come back and play in front of the fans," Johnson said of playing local summer ball. "It's a good opportunity. You know, it's good to just get out here and compete."
Amis elected to enter the local real estate/loan market over a second pro basketball season in Europe, where he excelled in his rookie go-around. You may have noticed; he was an analyst for OC Sports' UH hoops broadcasts last season. His on-court game clearly hasn't dropped off, and he could be the summer league MVP.
"It's a lot of fun," Amis said. "It's a good way to stay in shape and keep the competitive juices going. This is the best year I've seen of the summer league."
There was plenty of talk for a rematch between the two teams — one that wouldn't occur until the championship this Saturday.
"I hope so, because we're getting there," Johnson said. "I don't know about them, though."