Bobbito Garcia’s Full Court 21 got crazy in Week 3. Six games were played, and a first-timer earned a spot in August 26th’s championship.
“Nine Fingers Will” Hightower came to play in the first game. He drove hard to the rim, scoring nine first-half points on mostly layups. He went at it a little bit with newbie David Melendez aka “The Puerto Rican Hulk”. Hightower denied Melendez on a jumper from the right elbow, but Melendez recovered the loose ball and looked back at Hightower right before drilling a floater over three other defenders. Melendez’s floaters would become the shot of the night.
Full Court 21 vet “International” Jay Gray woke up in the second half and quickly hit for 19 points. He also had some words with Melendez, who said that the trash talk was “fun.”
The aggressive play led to a shootout between “International” Jay and Melendez, who both finished regulation with 19 points. Gray missed his shot and shouted at Melendez when he put his up, but it didn’t matter. Melendez drilled it and moved on to Week 3’s qualifying game.
The second game belonged to Slovakia’s Josef Durkac, who Garcia dubbed “Brent Barry.” Durkac, in his first ever game of not just Full Court 21, but his first game of 21, had a breakaway slam reminiscent of Barry’s cuff from the 1996 NBA Dunk Contest. Skinny and long like Barry, he streaked down court for layups and was able to take the win with 17 points, despite being in awe of Garcia and “BlackJack” Ryan.
“I was so nervous I couldn’t even shoot,” Durkac said with a smile after the game.
“Big Whitt” Barnes won in the women’s game. Monet “Peiwwun” Sealy, with 6 points, put up a nice game, drawing Kyrie Irving comparisons from a few people in the crowd. But Barnes showed off a gorgeous sweeping sky hook from the left block that showed how dominant she was. She knocked down some jumpers and won with 7 points.
“I saw they were trying to cut me off on my angles, so I was just trying to get a nice floater over the defense,” Barnes said about her hook shot.
With so many people wanting to play, Garcia had to split up the full court and run two half court games. One of the games featured Week 1’s Jeff Leider and Week 2’s winner Tyson Hartnett. “International” Jay suited up for that game too while newcomers Loffe Benabderrahunge from France and Samuel Velasquez made it entertaining and competitive.
The other half court game was for the 40-plus oldheads. Garcia and Ryan played, as well as Marcus Hawthorne and Jansy Gonzalez. Gonzalez put up a fight, finishing with 10 points and a remarkable ability to never get beat off the dribble. But “BlackJack” caught fire. He dropped too many jumpers for his opponents to keep up.
Both half court games got heated and physical. Elbows were thrown and shoves were exchanged. Garcia, Ryan and Benabderrahunge put on dribbling displays that wowed the park hecklers.
Players fought hard to win these games and after “BlackJack” won his game, Harnett swished six straight jumpers to move on to the qualifying game. Hartnett, for the third week in a row, was unstoppable.
Durkac had a highlight early on—hitting a spinning, one-footed leaner off glass from the top of the key. He and Barnes didn’t back down from the physical play at all. Ryan shot the ball well from the field, but couldn’t capitalize on his free throws, finishing with 14. Melendez and Hartnett went at it. Melendez’s floater was on-point the entire night. Most of his 17 points came from his signature shot. Hartnett couldn’t keep pace, ending the night with 12.
Melendez, who rode his bike from the Bronx to Booker T. Washington Playground on 108th street in Manhattan, got a little testy with other players—and talked a little bit of junk with the crowd—but proved that his game is legit.
“Yeah, I really thought I was gonna lose because of the legend, Jack and the sharpshooter, Tyson,” Melendez said, after falling behind early.
Melendez was able to right the ship and guarantee himself a spot in August 26’s championship game. There are three Tuesdays left in the season, so be sure to check fullcourt21nyc.com for updates.
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