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EarleyBirds Get Worm in Playoff Quarterfinal

August 9, 2012

Chris Earley scores 25 points to lead EarleyBirds into Summer Slam semifinal

MANASQUAN — An inadvertent elbow to his eye during the early minutes of Saturday’s action nearly kept Chris Earley from competing in the first round of the Summer Slam Hoops League Playoffs.

“Immediately it started to swell up,” said Earley, whose team, the EarleyBirds, were matched up against Squan Beach House at Curtis Park. “I was concerned it was going to shut on me.”

Earley’s eye would continue to swell, but never fully shut, allowing the 2004 Manasquan graduate to have a huge morning on the court for his squad.

Earley scored a game-high 25 points, including a game-tying runner in the lane with 21 seconds left to force overtime, when the EarleyBirds eventually beat Squan Beach House, 54-52.

With the victory, the EarleyBirds advanced to the Summer Slam Hoops League semifinal.

With the EarleyBirds seeded fourth and Squan Beach House fifth, Earley expected the matchup between the two teams to be one of the best of the round.

The game “lived up to its hype,” according to Earley.

“We knew these guys were good — we didn’t want to take this team lightly at all,” Earley said of Squan Beach House, which was led by 21 points from Jeff Bigos and 18 points from Corey Albano. “It was a great matchup.”

After a couple of free throws put Squan Beach House up, 48-46, with 27 seconds remaining in the game, the EarleyBirds called a time out to set up a play for Jeff Schiffner, a former guard at the University of Pennsylvania.

Schiffner, however, was blanketed by the Squan Beach House defense, forcing Earley to improvise.

Earley made the most of the opportunity.

“We actually had a play designed for Jeff to get the shot, but it fell through,” said Earley. “I saw I was one on one and that the whole right side of the court was basically open. I just went to the basket and luckily it fell for us.”

Earley and the EarleyBirds would ride the momentum of his big shot to take over in overtime.

A big 3-pointer from Matt White to open the 3-minute overtime and three free throws from Earley secured the deal for the fourth seed, which will face the challenge of trying to knock off the first seed, Manasquan PBA, in the semifinal on Saturday.

Earley feels the Summer Slam Hoops League championship is there for the taking.

“I think anybody can win,” Earley said.

QUARTERFINAL RESULTS

Along with the EarleyBirds’ victory in overtime, there were many other great quarterfinal matchups on Saturday.

Manasquan PBA, the first seed, earned a 69-53 victory over the eighth seed, Leggett’s. Ron Lauch led Manasquan PBA with 18 points in the win.

Ray’s Cafe pulled the round’s lone upset during the quarterfinal, with the sixth seed beating the third seed, Inlet Outlet, 65-51.

Ray’s Cafe got a big day from Sean Ulichny, who scored 24 points during the win.

In defeat, Inlet Outlet got a strong game from Dave Vadas, who scored 23 points.

In the game directly following the EarleyBirds’ victory over Squan Beach House, Edgar’s Pub, the second seed, topped Squan One, the seventh seed, 70-66.

Edgar’s Pub was led by Todd Eastmond, who had a hot shooting day to bury 23 points. Billy McDonough contributed 21 points to Edgar’s Pub’s winning effort.

In defeat, Squan One’s Paul Tonkovich scored a game-high 27 points.

THE FINAL FOUR REMAIN

There are just four teams left alive in the Summer Slam Hoops League playoffs, with the two teams that will play in the championship game to be determined this Saturday during semifinal action.

At 10 a.m., the number one seed, Manasquan PBA, will take on the fourth-seeded EarleyBirds, before Edgar’s Pub, the two seed, takes on the sixth-seeded Ray’s Cafe at 11 a.m.

Both games will take place at Curtis Park.

Information regarding both games will be available in the Aug. 16 edition of The Coast Star.

follow me on twitter: @samcostantino

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