This evening, the Annapolis Men's Summer Basketball League's second season will begin in earnest.
The league's annual postseason tourney will be conducted at Truxtun Park in Annapolis, with the finals slated for Saturday night at 8.
Perennial league power and defending champion F-Force (10-3, first-place finishers in the Michael Jordan Division), along with last year's finalists Pro Jersey and up-and-comer Harris and Sons (both 10-2in the Magic Johnson Division with one game left after The Anne Arundel County Sun's deadline) head the list of favorites to take the league crown.
"We are in it to win it," said F-Force forward Jody Beck, who's been a member of the squad for the past five years.
"I think we have a good chance of winning it all again this year. We've got two good shooters, Tracey (Evans) and Rodney Rice, and they really help us open things up in the middle for the big guys."
To say that F-Force head coach Shawn Wright also feels confident is an understatement.
Asked if he felt any pressure as reigning league champ, Wright responded, "For what? I know that when it comes down to crunch time, we always come to play. As long as my starters go 110 percent, and everybody off of the bench can blend in, I think we can win it."
Harris and Sons head coach Norm Johnson relishes the dark-horse reputation that his team carries.
"We've played well all year. The guys have played terrific," he said. "I think we have the right blend of talent and experience. And we're the type of team that sneaks up onpeople. Every year about this time, other teams just start to realize that
we've been winning a lot of ballgames."
Johnson, whose team had been known as Spa Road before the beginning of this season, also credits his team's 20-4 record over the past two years to its commitment to play each game for two men who meant a great deal to the Annapolis community.
"These guys not only go out and play for themselves, but they also dedicate every game to the memory of Kevin Slade(former football star at Annapolis High and Morgan State) and Mr. George Johnson, the 'Godfather' of Spa Road, a man you could go to withany problem you may have had," he said.
"These were guys who werereally looked up to by people in the neighborhood. And it really helps when you go out and play not only for yourselves, but someone elseas well."
The 1991 semifinalists have relied on veterans David Chapman, Frank Johnson, Londell Owens, Marvin Johnson, David Kir
by and Lody Mackell, as well as recent Annapolis High stars Gene Slocum and Jeff Brown.
At 6:30 tonight, the Seahawks (4-9) and Selly's Auto Care (2-10 before press time) will engage in the battle of the fourth and fifth seeds in the Michael Jordan Division. The night's othercontest will pit Gunthers (0-13) against either Henry's Liquor's (6-6) or Annapolis Gardens (5-7).
Hunt's Movers sits alone as the second seed in the Jordan Division, with an 8-4 mark, while PJ's Pub finished with a 7-6 mark after losing to F-Force last night.
"Other than slight complaints about the refs from the fans, it's been a very good year," league commissioner Leslie Stanton said.
"It's been highly competitive, and everything's gone down to the wire as far as playoff seedings. You know you have a competitive league going when no one runs away with a division title."