Few Good Men’s Sam Dower Jr. and Gael Force’s Stephen Holt were exchanging pleasantries near midcourt 12 minutes before tip-off when Omar Samhan pulled Holt away and said, “No, no, no.”
Samhan, the former Saint Mary’s center who rankled Gonzaga fans during his collegiate career from 2007-10, picked up right where he left off Saturday night at Lewis and Clark High’s gym.
Samhan was a multi-tasker, playing effective basketball while carrying on running conversations with anyone – refs, spectators, opposing players, an ESPN camera man as he walked off the court at half – as Gael Force rolled to a 95-48 win in the second round of The Basketball Tournament.
“I love them (GU fans) and they love me. They don’t want to admit it but they love me,” Samhan said. “It kind of helps me. If I think too much about the game I mess up. It’s better to be talking to the crowd and if the ball comes I just react.”
Samhan had 20 points and countless verbal jabs. He had plenty of company in the scoring department. Forward Ian O’Leary scored 17 points, point guard Mickey McConnell had 15 and guard Stephen Holt added 11.
Calvin Hermanson, a 2018 Saint Mary’s grad, put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter with three 3-pointers, including one 4-point play, en route to 18 points.
Gael Force, which won its two Hoopfest pod games by a combined 75 points, advances to the Super 16 in Atlanta in late July. The TBT champion takes home $2 million.
“We’re calling plays on offense and defense,” Samhan said. “We practiced for 3-4 weeks before we came here so we kind of know what we’re doing.”
Few Good Men had a short practice Thursday night so its playbook was limited.
“They have plays and they know how to read (the defense) really well,” FGM wing Ira Brown said. “A lot of us haven’t played together for a long time and a lot of us haven’t even played for a long time (due to injuries).”
Gael Force took the crowd out of it by jumping to a 10-2 lead. Few Good Men, with six former Zags, closed within 18-15 on Dower’s 3-pointer but Gael Force quickly pulled away.
Gael Force scored the last eight points of the quarter to open up a 26-15 lead. It got worse for Few Good Men as Gael Force closed the second quarter with a 10-0 spurt to take a 47-22 lead at half.
The team of former Saint Mary’s standouts found quality shots on nearly every trip down the court, stinging Few Good Men with six first-half 3-pointers and numerous layups. Samhan and O’Leary went to work inside and on the perimeter. Samhan made four 3-pointers and O’Leary added two.
“It hurts me honestly,” Brown said. “I play against Omar all the time in Japan and obviously I get the best of him. You know how he is, he talks a lot and when he talks a lot it kind of gets me going. It’s not a one-man show. It’s a five-man show and unfortunately we came up short against a team we didn’t want to lose to.”
Few Good Men struggled to score throughout. Turnovers, a problem in Friday’s 84-83 win over Team Utah, were a factor. Most of FGM’s shots were contested and it rarely capitalized on open looks.
Few Good Men had two different stretches when it missed 14 consecutive 3-point attempts.
“I don’t take anything away from them,” Brown said. “They just hit shots and we were abysmal shooting the ball. They just played better.”
Gael Force stretched its lead with 32 points in the third quarter. When the lead reached 40 early in the third quarter, several former Zags seated courtside and many of the 1,600 in attendance headed for the exits.
Dower and former Washington Husky Robert Upshaw both had nine points to lead Few Good Men.
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