After winning last year's Mansion Park Summer Basketball League Division 1 championship with American Solutions, league MVP Chris Buchanan learned he would need to find a new team for the 2014 season.
When Buchanan sat down to organize a team, he knew that Ryan Lestochi was the first player he wanted to add to the Soul Platterz roster.
While it was not quite "The Decision" LeBron James made in the summer of 2010, the addition paid off as Lestochi led Soul Platterz with 15 points as it upset previously unbeaten Guy Landolfi, CPA, 54-51, to capture the Division 1 championship of the Mansion Park Men's Summer Basketball League at Mansion Park.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Soul Platterz’s Ryan Lestochi shoots over Guy Landolfi’s A.J. Leahey on Wednesday.
"I knew (former American Solutions teammate Jesse Betar) wasn't playing this season because of his shoulder injury," Buchanan said. "The first person I thought (to call) was Ryan. The kid can really play. I think it worked out."
While he is not just a kid anymore, the 35-year old Lestochi jumped on the opportunity to get back on the court.
"It's been a while since I have played, so it took a while to get in shape," Lestochi said. "But, I always liked playing with Chris. He's smart and plays hard. We have a big team and you can't teach size. We've been around the block and have some smart basketball players."
After losing to Landolfi by double digits in the teams' first meeting this season without a few of their starters, Soul Platterz had their full lineup and took it to the top seed early.
Eight early points from Corey Boone, including two 3-pointers, set the tone as Soul Platterz ran out to a 16-9 lead just five minutes in.
Landolfi guard and former league MVP Demetrius Davis provided it with some much-needed scoring as he poured in 12 of his team's final 17 points in the first half with a deep 3-pointer and a couple acrobatic layups.
Davis scored a game-high 26 points, while Drew Shubik added 12.
"We have to play hard all the time," Davis said. "Teams like Soul Platterz are really good. We expected them to come out and be competitive. They got lead early, so we had to turn up the intensity."
Buchanan came off the bench to score seven points in the final five minutes of the first half, as Soul Platterz led at the break, 29-26.
"I usually do a little more scoring," Buchanan said. I didn't have my legs tonight, so I couldn't get it going. It's a good thing the Boone brothers had a good night. That helped us out."
Soul Platterz extended its lead to start the second half when Matt Dukery and Lestochi each hit 3-pointers. Lestochi then hit a jumper and two free throws on consecutive possessions that extended Soul Platterz's lead to 39-33 with 12 minutes remaining.
Lestochi led Soul Platterz with 15 points, and Corey Boone chipped in 11.
"I don't think I played very well tonight," Lestochi said. "I passed the ball more and didn't look for the shot as much, but when it came to foul shots, I wanted the ball. I've always been good foul shooter."
Lestochi later received the Stu Nolan Award, which is given to the regular season MVP.
Landofi got back within four points at 45-41 after Davis made a layup and Shubik added a free throw, but Corey Boone scored on a back-door pass and Soul Platterz hit seven of its ten free throws down the stretch, including four from Lestochi.
Landolfi received one last opportunity when Cody Boone it one of two free throws with four seconds left to set the score at 54-51, but it could not get a shot off before the final buzzer sounded.
Boone finished with seven points and received the Dick Hankinson Award for the championship game MVP.
Game notes: The all-league team was announced following the game and included Demetrius Davis (Guy Landolfi, CPA), Ian Vescovi (Guy Landolfi, CPA), Tyler Mertiff (Ciocca, Benton & Okonak), Noah Davis (New Balance), Brian Shawley (TCals) and Chris Buchanan (Soul Platterz)...
SOUL PLATTERZ (54): Buchanan 2 3-4 7, Forney 1 0-0 3, Patterson 0 2-2 2, Lestochi 4 6-6 15, Dukery 2 0-0 5, Dinkins 2 0-0 4, Cor. Boone 4 1-2 11, Hollins 0 0-0 0, Cod. Boone 2 3-8 7. Totals - 17 15-22 54.
GUY LANDOLFI, CPA (51): Shubik 3 6-8 12, Leahy 2 1-2 6, I. Vescovi 0 2-2 2, Davis 9 3-3 26, B. Vescovi 0 2-2 2, Lytle 1 0-0 2. Totals - 15 14-17 51.
SCORE BY HALF
Soul Platterz29 25 - 54
Guy Landofi, CPA26 25 - 51
3-point goals: Soul Platterz 7 (Davis 5, Shubik, Leahy); Guy Landolfi, CPA 5 (Cor. Boone 2, Forney, Lestochi, Dukery).
Records: Soul Platterz (13-2); Guy Landolfi, CPA (14-1).