Upper Darby, PA – The St. Demetrios gym was bustling last night with eager fans and the smell of fresh baked spanakopita. Which, by the way went up in price, from five to six dollars. It’s a justifiable fee, since they don’t charge at the door to watch great basketball. And so it began. The Philadelphia Greek Basketball League (PGBL) launched it’s tenth anniversary season. Smiles, hugs, and handshakes were exchanged as generations of Greek-Americans welcomed each other back to this weekly event that unites and entertains the community.
Nine teams were listed on the newly updated website. Mr. PGBL (who we still don’t know) listed and discussed 4 of them that will arguable compete for the title. While analyst Foti Giannopoulos of Cosmos Philly said “between five and six will have a shot”. But the old adage still applies in this league. “On any given Thursday or Sunday night it can happen. Anyone can rise up and win”.
Warriors 49 vs. Ellas 41
No team works harder than the Warriors, no team! These guys hustle from opening tip to the final horn. Bodies flying and diving for loose balls, feet sliding on defense and everybody crashing for rebounds. Last night the Warriors came out focused and ready to hustle and that led to a 1-0 start. The Warriors controlled the for most of this game led by Will Galiatsatos (17pts) and Nick Karalis (13pts). I’ve said this many times, when these two guys are on their game, this team is hard to beat. The Warriors can enjoy this for now but quickly refocus for their Sunday matchup against the mighty Kings.
Same team name, new jerseys and new players. The much improved Ellas team gave us a preview of what this season will look like. More offensive weapons than the past seasons and better ball handling and defense. Although Ellas had a rough start to yesterday’s game (scoreless for the first 12 minutes ), they quickly recovered and started making shots. That being said, the offense does need to play better and I’m sure they will. Peter Kyriakodis led in scoring with 13 points and the hard working George Pantzaris scored 11. Ellas is off until next Thursday when they face the new Boardwalk Empire team.
Mr. PGBL’s Game Ball – Will Galiatsatos
Wolfpack 73 vs. Danny’s Boys 65
The Champs are back and they look just as good as last year. The Wolfpack faced a tough test on opening night against one of their rivals, Danny’s Boys but they responded well and played solid team basketball which led to the win. Aris Haritonidis (21pts) came out firing on all cylinders, scoring 9 points in the first few minutes and did a great job getting to the free throw line (8-10) in the second half. The inside presence of Lou Sarris Grau (13pts) gave DB’s center, Jim Armenakis a run for his money and provided a defensive stopper in the paint. Another major factor yesterday was the hot shooting of Nicko Papatsaras, who scored 18 points and made 5 three pointers. He is a threat no team can forget about.
Danny’s Boys is still as strong, if not stronger than they have been, but I think there will be a short adjustment period as they build chemistry with this slightly different roster. Anytime you add a Hall of Fame player like Jim Armenakis, things need to be slightly tweaked. Armenakis did have a solid game yesterday, scoring 18 points on previous DPOY award winner Lou Sarris Grau. But it was Pete Kathopoulis who provided the bulk of the offense for DB, scoring 31 points and going 11-13 from the free throw line. Kathopoulis has excellent body control and has the ability to create space between himself and his defender and draw fouls on shot attempts. DB will face the new Lakers next Thursday!
Mr. PGBL’s Game Ball – Aris Haritonidis
Kings 87 vs. Revolution 80
The Kings have to be the most fun team to watch in the PGBL. They are the highest scoring team in the league, and their fast paced offense leads to many exciting plays. Last night, it was the fast break points and 3 point shooting that propelled the Kings. Nicko Balis (24pts) and Bill Zonios (22pts) alone combined for 11 three pointers. When shooters like that get hot, its hard to stop them. Niki Veronis also had a very good game with 20 points and stifling defense but the Kings got contributions from every player, overcoming an early double digit deficit with a big run to take the lead. Good start for these guys but they have to regroup fast with the Warriors game coming this Sunday.
A unique situation for the Rev’s Pete Kada as he goes up against his former teammates and he did not disappoint. Kada was all over the floor, scoring 26 points from what seemed like every spot on the court. When your activity level is that high, scoring points is inevitable. Vasili Nasis looked impressive to say the least. His foot work is second to none and his touch around the basket was critical as he dominated the paint. Nasis scored 27 points and put the league on notice. The big 3 combination of Nasis, Kada and Vasiliou will be a force throughout this season but like Danny’s Boys, I believe they will need a slight adjustment period to build more chemistry. Look out for these guys in the future, they are indeed one of the leagues top teams.
Mr. PGBL’s Game Ball – Balis and Zonios 3 point shooting