The Machine Elves squeaked out a narrow 68-55 victory over Next Air last Sun., June 2 in a recreational basketball game held at the Rohnert Park Athletics Center.
Recreation is the key word there, though one wouldn’t guess it by their shouts and coordination. Most of the players involved in Rohnert Park’s athletics program are fully grown adults and many years removed from their time in high school. They’re men that bear the trademarks of age: a bit of a paunch, a few wrinkles here and there and a little less hair up on top—signs and symptoms of the hustle and bustle that is adulthood. It can become difficult to make time to exercise when compared with the demands of a job and family.
That, more than anything else, is the reason Ryan Anderson joined the Machine Elves.
“I played in high school and it was really fun,” Anderson said. “This is really my only form of exercise, so it’s really good for my body. I enjoy the cardio. Just running outside is not as fun as playing ball.”
Yet committing to play on a team and actually showing up are two entirely different beasts. Next Air stepped onto the court with only five of their nine players, which was just barely enough to fill all the positions with no reserve.
And for the first half of the game it worked.
Next Air seized the early lead with a pattern of aggressive play that forced their opponent onto the back foot, but they couldn’t outstrip the Machine Elves completely. The two teams went tit-for-tat all the way up until the last couple seconds. A missed shot by the Machine Elves granted possession to Next Air’s Amobe Onwe, who blitzed up the flank to try and edge in from the side.
The Machine Elves were ready for him, though. They closed ranks, keeping Onwe out, and in a moment of desperation he dumped the ball to his teammate, Jordan Marquez.
The clock ticked towards zero. Two Elves sallied to stop Marquez’s progress, but Marquez didn’t wait for them to arrive. He took the shot from the three-point line. The ball sailed in a smooth arc and passed through the net to the scream of the buzzer.
With such a small bench, however, Next Air struggled after the break.
“It’s just a bad time of the year for a lot of our players. A lot of them are at graduation, so we knew we were going to be tight,” Onwe said. “It was a good game. I love the competition, but I understand that to compete at a high level you have to practice every day and work at it, so I’m not out here expecting great results. I’m out here to have fun.”
Tired, they slowed down. The Machine Elves eroded Next Air’s lead when their Jacob Beeler landed a three pointer from the bottom right corner of the court. Beeler repeated the play less than thirty seconds later to tie up the game about midway through the second half.
Slowly but surely Next Air fell behind. The death knell arrived when the Machine Elves’ Jack O’Dea plunged up the middle and dumped off to his teammate Ryan Anderson. Anderson had positioned himself perfectly. While Next Air swarmed O’Dea, he swept in from the side for an easy layup. The basket put his team ten points in the lead and secured the win.
“We played smarter. We recognized they were only five and they’re gonna tire going on. The smarter we played the better we’d be. It was all just IQ,” Beeler said.
Next Air versus the Machine Elves was one of the final games of Rohnert Park’s recreational basketball league. The regular season is done now. The league now moves on to tournament playoffs which will begin in earnest Sun., June 9.