By Rahsaan Thomas
The San Quentin Warriors seemed ready to sweep the 2016 season with their new recruits, but they fell short to Christian Sports Ministries’ Green Team, 74-66 in the season opener.
“I think it might have been first game jitters. My team came out a tad bit arrogant,” said Warriors’ Coach Daniel Wright about why the Warriors lost.
The Warriors warmed up in anticipation of the competition arriving. They won last year’s series 7-6 against the Green Team, and they planned to build on that success with an improved roster.
“We were projecting a flawless season,” said Warrior Harry “ATL” Smith. “We needed this first lost to get humbled.”
New starting players included: Mack Simekins, a former Memphis University player, Tevin Fournette, a former John Marshall High School player, and David Lee, who won a championship in the San Quentin half court Championship Basketball League.
Opening day was the first game together for the Warriors’ new pieces. Meanwhile, the Green Team has been playing together for years, especially former Claremont-McKenna college basketball teammates Chris Blees, Pat Lacey and Remy Pinson.
The Claremont Connection loves to reassemble its basketball team on the SQ green-blue court.
“To get that email from Bill,” Pinson said, referring to being notified by Green Team sponsor Bill Epling about scheduled times to go play the Warriors. “It’s the highlight of my week,” added Lacey.
On the beautiful April 16 sunny Saturday morning, 10 men dressed in basketball shorts and green jerseys came walking down the hill only accessible to non-prisoners – the green team had arrived to start the Warriors 2016 season.
“It’s so good to be back. I miss this so much,” said Blees.
Everyone met mid court to greet each other and start the opening event with welcoming words.
“Basket is the bait, Jesus is the hook,” said Robert “Bishop” Butler, the Warriors general manager.
Epling looked at 6-foot-7 Simekins and joked, “You have a visitor. When I come back, I’ll bring your visitor.”
After Smith led the teams in prayer, the game started with all the intensity of the NBA finals.
In the first quarter, Lacey went at Simekins, scoring on the taller man twice in the paint. The quarter ended with the Green Team up 19-16.
Lee and Simekins kept the game close. Lee stood out, leading the Warriors with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. He got his driving to the rack and dropping treys.
In the second, Simekins came to life, blocking shots, snatching rebounds and nailing short-range shoots and lay ups.
The Warriors made a few runs, but the Green Team remained patient on offense and made open shots, including four treys dropped by point guard Remy Pinson, who finished with 13. Teammate Anthony Maddox added 14 points and 8 boards.
The Warriors made another run down 56-52 to start the fourth quarter. Allan McIntosh made a dime pass to Smith, who gorilla slammed on a defender. (Smith finished with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal.)
Anthony Ammons stole the ball from the Green Team, went coast-to-coast but was fouled going up for a layup. He missed both free throws, but McIntosh grabbed the rebound for the put back, tying the score 56-56.
McIntosh, normally a leading scorer, did more passing than shooting. He finished with 5 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists.
Blees answered driving down court, Europe stepping to the rack. He led all scorers with 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 block.
The Warriors remained scoreless for five minutes while the Green Team improved to 61-56 and never looked back.
“I think the guys saw them (Green Team) and thought they couldn’t play,” said McIntosh. “The Green Team rose to the challenge and pulled out a victory – first and last of the year.”
Simekins finished with the edge over Lacey with 14 points, 18 rebounds and 5 blocks. Lacey had 11 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and a block.
“I’m not used to anybody being there. Where did he come from?” asked the 6-foot-4 Lacey, referring to Simekins.
Fournette missed the first half due to being on a visit. As soon as he entered the game, he scored with a floater over a defender. He added 8 points, making four of six shots.
“They’re lucky I wasn’t there from the beginning,” said Fournette. “Next time it’s going to be on.”
Lacey remarked, “We may need some more bigs. We’ll just get the next graduating class from Claremont-McKenna.”
By Rahsaan Thomas