Upper Darby, PA – PGBL fans were treated to two great games last night in the first round of the playoffs. The first went down to the last few seconds that saw the Kings pull out a victory on a three-point shot over PAS Giannina. The other, an upset victory by one of the newest teams in the league, Boardwalk Empire, over two-time champion – Danny’s Boys.

Kings 77, PAS Giannina 74

PAS Giannina has to be commended for their wonderful effort last night. They came out on fire, dropping three straight three pointers and taking a commanding lead 17-8, early in the first half. Evan Tsiklidis was on fire as he did everything his team needed to keep them ahead. But, let’s remember again who they were playing, the Kings. Veterans of the league, with more appearance in PGBL playoff history than any other team, they would not lie down. By halftime, they were separated by a single point 39-38. And then it became a game of who wants it more.

Both teams made aggressive challenges, running the floor on fast breaks. Kosta Pavlidis and Evan Tsiklidis kept PAS Giannina alive in the second half and even managed to give them the lead with just minutes left in the game. At that point, I thought we had witnessed a changing of the guards. The Veteran Kings were finally going to be eliminated from the playoffs early after five years. But Nicko Ballis and Alex Veronis of the Kings, the new youngsters had something to say about that. They managed to share scoring duties each half and lead their team with 49 of their total points. And for Alex Veronis, he got to drop the last bucket outside the three-point line with just seconds to go, when the game was tied at 74 all. That sealed it for the Kings who advanced to round two.

Boardwalk Empire 74, Danny’s Boys 66

It was a total control for the 6th seed Boardwalk Empire last night, who upset the #3 seed Danny’s Boys. The boys from South Jersey came in looking confident and aggressive. Why not? Who knows Danny’s Boys better than their own family. That’s right, many of the Empires players were former Danny’s Boys members till last year. This was the first season in the PGBL for the Boardwalk Empire that was spawned from Danny’s Boys.

Boardwalk Empire struck first and never looked back as they led the whole game. And every time the Boys made a run, the Empire came on more aggressive. Nick Kafkalis and Matt Zacharides were key to this game as they controlled the tempo. By halftime, the Boardwalk Empire led 43-27. But I thought, and as everyone else did in the gym, Danny’s Boys would make a comeback and pull out a victory. After all, they were two-time champions with a history of falling behind early. And even though they were playing without MVP Pete Kathopoulos, they still had the guns on the floor and certainly a bench to feed off of. Big Jim Armenakis and the Broomall bomber Kosta Nikolos could certainly make this happen. Inside and outside the paint, and everywhere in between, they have solid players. They should win, right? Wrong. Last night, they needed a leader on the court to carry them, and that was the difference. And no matter how solid a team these guys are, the shoes of their leader and who this team is named after appeared to be too big.