Rec center’s resurrected summer league holds championship

Will Griffin (2, in white) drives to the basket for a layup attempt.

Rec center’s resurrected summer league holds championship
August 11
05:05 2016

Photo by Timothy Ramsey



The late night summer basketball league at the 14th Street Recreation Center was the place to be for nearly two decades. A few years ago, the league seemed to be in trouble with other leagues popping up left and right all across the city.  Thanks to Louis Lowery Jr., director of 14th Street, the league has been resurrected.

The league held its championship game Monday, Aug. 1, at the Hanes Hosiery Recreation Center.

Team Unknown faced off against Finesse Game.

According to Lowery, the league started off as the “Barn Burner” league, which was played outside at the Skyland basketball courts.  Lowery stated that Robert Little, director of 14th Street at the time, was instrumental in the Barn Burner league’s transition to the late night summer league during the late ’90s.

The league was created for African-American youth, 18 and up, to keep them off of the streets and doing something productive during the summer.  Many of the teams throughout the years have been comprised of former and current collegiate players, professional players from overseas and local players.

“We play Monday through Thursday and we have a good solid crowd every night,” said Lowery.  “The gym is packed and we have people parking everywhere trying to get in.  Some people come out every day to watch the games and get so hyped up they make the players play at another level.”

Lowery stated that they decided to play the championship game at Hanes Hosiery because the gym is bigger, which allowed more fans to attend.

From the tip off, Finesse Game took control of the game quickly, taking a double digit lead early in the first half. Olajuwon Felton and Derek Griffin were hitting shots at will while Team Unknown could not buy a basket. Finesse Game was able to stretch the lead out to as much as 20 points during the first half of play.  Team Unknown started to get into rhythm late in the first half. After the intermission, Will Griffin of Team Unknown began to put his stamp on the game.

“I kept telling the guys that it’s a lifetime left on the clock. Yeah, it looks bad now, but basketball is a game of runs, and one thing that’s guaranteed is that everybody gets their run,” said Will Griffin.  “I told the guys as long as we get it under 10, with eight minutes left we have a fighting chance to win the game.”

Coming out of half time, Will Griffin put Team Unknown on his back and started to make shots, which ignited his teammates to ramp up the intensity on the defensive end.  They also started to hit the easy shots that were missed in the first half of play.

During a 10 minute stretch of the second half, Team Unknown was able to chip away at the double digit lead and come to within four points of Finesse Game with less that 5 minutes on the clock.  Team Unknown kept their foot on the pedal and Will Griffin hit a couple buckets late that brought Team Unknown all the way back to take the lead.

“All year long if it wasn’t Nash taking over it was me,” Griffin added.  “Tonight if someone was gonna get us going, it was going to be me. If I’m driving and kicking or driving and scoring, I just knew I had to do something.”

According to Lowery, Team Unknown was one of the lowest seeds ever to take home the championship trophy during the summer league.  He said they had been a scrappy team all tournament and seemed to relish having to overcome a deficit in the second half.

Another Team Unknown player added that even though his team was down big and the crowd had become restless, his team has a “never say die attitude.”  He said he is very happy that they were able to take home the championship.

Lowery stated this was one of the most competitive and memorable games in sum-mer league history. He said he was very proud of the young men for coming back from such a large deficit.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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