By Brian McInnis
We have our title match in place.
In the first of two College Summer League semifinals at Maryknoll, Julian Sensley uncorked a vintage 33-point performance to lead Wealth Strategy Partners over defending champion Solar Universe, 94-86.
In the second semi, top-seeded Central Medical Clinic was surgical late in an 85-67 win over Clark Hatch Fitness. Bill Amis scored 21 points in the victory, in which CMC had to rally from an eight-point halftime deficit.
No. 1 Central Medical Clinic (8-3) faces No. 3 Wealth Strategy Partners (7-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Maryknoll gym.
Without further ado, here's some details from each game.
It was an exorcism.
Julian Sensley banished demons of both the short- and long-term variety with a sensational 33-point performance in Wealth Strategy Partners' upset win over Solar Universe.
In the immediate sense, he got a measure of satisfaction over Solar, the team he was a central figure in an altercation against last month. Going back further, he'd never managed to advance past Artie Wilson's teams in the playoffs.
The 6-foot-9 Sensley's scoring total was important in the end result, of course, but so too were his numerous rebounds, blocked shots, assists and general command he imposed on Solar before the crowd of about 500.
Almost unbidden after the win, Sensley offered a mea culpa of sorts. It was clearly a load off his mind, a weight off his chest, a ... you get the picture.
Here's Sensley, in his own words:
"I've never been able to get past Artie in the playoffs. So for me it was kind of personal, as opposed to just trying to get this win. Obviously I had an altercation with his team earlier, with me kind of acting out immaturely. Let the game get the best of me. But it was a lot of emotions behind this game.
From the start, I wanted to pace myself. I took some bad shots early, tried to find a rhythm. They did a good job of collapsing on me, making me pass out and kind of force bad shots. I was able to adjust in the second half and kind of take over.
My teammates too, they played, with steals and getting shots. JR (William) Broadus, did an unbelievable job on defense, him and Waly (Coulibaly). So I obviously didn't do it by myself. But yeah, toward the end, like I said it was a personal thing, and I was going to go down, I was going to go down fighting. You know, a captain always goes down with his ship, so if we were going to go down, we were going to go down with it in my hand."
Coulibaly added 23 points and Broadus 13 in the win.
It was Sensley who hit the big shots, specifically a couple of 3-pointers after his failed attempt to draw a foul on a previous corner 3.
"It was a hard game," Solar guard Derrick Low said. "We don't have a lot of size, and when you have a player like Julian who's hitting shots, and we don't have our bigs to guard him, it's just really hard to stop. Julian made some tough shots, and he basically did what he does. That's his game. He's a big guy who can handle the ball, put it on the floor, and hit tough shots. He did that against our guys."
Brandon Spearman scored a team-high 22 points for Solar, while Negus Webster-Chan added 20. Zane Johnson tried to resurrect his team late with some 3-pointers and 17 points, but it was too late for the team with probably the most overall talent stocked on its roster.
Besides Spearman and Webster-Chan, current UH players on Solar Niko Filipovich and Dyrbe Enos saw their summer league season come to an end one game earlier than anticipated.
"I think we took a lot of bad shots in the second half, a lot of fast shots where we could have gotten better shots on offense," Webster-Chan said. "On defense, Julian Sensley, I don't know who was guarding him but he was just getting off. That wasn't supposed to happen."
Sensley has actually won a summer league title, but it was with Wilson, the dean of summer league coaches, back when Sensley was playing for UH.
He's since played in the summer league just about every year, and thus appreciates those who come out to watch. Drawing the kind of attention to himself that he did in his dust-up with Solar/UH's Spearman and Webster-Chan was something he immediately regretted.
"Yeah. It was past me the minute I walked out of the gym. The thing with the young guys is, I'm an older guy, I'm a vet. It's only natural when you've got young, good guys coming in, they want to challenge, you've got something to prove. They see me as like a measuring stick. I kind of let it take it personal, plus we lost, we got smacked that game (97-84). So, I was caught up in the heat of the moment and I acted out immaturely.
We were cool. Me and (Spearman) shook hands and kind of let it be. We doing this with our children here, our fans, that guy was part of my alma mater, UH. So I just want to see my former school do well. It's on both of our hands, us feeling like we had to prove something. And we shouldn't be doing that. We're family nonetheless.
It was all basketball, and that's what it should be. People come out here just to watch good guys play. It should never be stuff like that. We got a lot of kids in the building that look up to a lot of the guys in here. The last thing we need is being horrible role models by acting out and fighting."
After that, Sensley could stop and reflect on what was an impressive setting at Maryknoll. For the semifinals, bleachers on both sides were unfurled and nearly full.
"I was just saying to my friends and some of the fans, this is an unbelievable venue," he said. "The atmosphere is great. In all the years I've played, this has probably been the best atmosphere. Brand-new gym. So thank you to Maryknoll for extending their home to us. If we could have it here every year, I think that would be great."
He didn't care which team he would face out of the winner of Game 2. It turned out to be Central Medical.
"You know, we were able to beat Artie, which was a tough team, but now we gotta focus and get ready for Saturday night."
Central Medical had its work cut out to avoid being the second upset victim of the night.
It looked stymied early by physical play inside by Clark Hatch Fitness, and had to rally from an eight-point halftime gap.
Clark Hatch center Scott Kato and wing Kaunaoa McGee grew increasingly frustated with Central's big man Amis, who managed to impact the game greatly after a slow start.
Afterward, Amis revealed on the Olelo broadcast that he'd be going back to play professionally in Europe, this time with a team to be determined in Germany's top league. Amis stepped away from hoops for the past year but succeeding in summer league has reignited his fire for the game.
A key factor in Central Medical's comeback was UH sophomore guard Michael Harper, who had his best game since his delayed arrival from Australia due to visa issues. Harper scored 19, including 17 in the second half.
"We were a bit slow to start off," Harper said. "Some of us got our shots going in the second half. I think we played better as a team. Making shots gave us momentum, and then good defense as well.
Harper tested the Clark Hatch defense repeatedly by smartly leaking out. He's still the master of the "No-no-no-YES!" shot on the UH roster.
He's been grateful for the chance to compete after some apparent limitations back home.
"Just getting into the rhythm of things, I suppose," he said. "Just trying to improve my shot and get a bit of game time in. I wasn't able to play back (in a league) back in Australia due to the NCAA. So just getting in the swing of things."
UH point guard Quincy Smith made good on his intent to play coming off a three-week layoff due to a bruised big toe. He matched his UH contemporary, Keith Shamburger, point-for-point with 11.
"It's my first time playing in three weeks, so I was definitely rusty," Smith said. "But you know, it was the playoffs, and I wanted to come out here and get a little sweat and help my team win so we can go to the championship."
He was playing through some pain which he said arose from a workout earlier in the day. Going hard in the summer league, including a lefty dunk attempt, surely didn't help matters.
It didn't matter to Smith, who was hungry for someone to test himself against and said he was fine once adrenaline got going.
"It's definitely a good thing (getting to the final), just to come in with a winning attitude, just so it can translate over to the season," he said. "Of course, it's just Michael (and I as current UH players) on the team, but it was good competition out there playing against the other UH guys and some other good guys."
He was asked specifically about going against Shamburger.
"It was good," he replied. "There were referees and other guys other than the UH players. It's good competition. I didn't guard him a lot, because I couldn't slide my feet on defense, so I was most of the time guarding an off guard. But you know, I like the way he came off the ball screens. He was real aggressive. He had some good moves to the basket."