The outside temperature was close to a frigid zero degrees but the action inside St. Demetrios’ Church hall in Upper Darby was anything but cold… simply put, it was Ghost pepper hot!
On February 19, 2015, the exciting finale to the Philadelphia Greek Basketball League (PGBL) season climaxed with the championship game between last year’s champions, Danny’s Boys (12-1), led by the league’s top player, Peter Kathopoulis, taking on the Kings (11-2) commanded by PGBL 2013 Hall of Fame member, Bill Zonios. Fans had their thoughts about who would win, but in the end, everyone knew that these were the two best teams in the league and it would be an impressive and great showdown.
Like the gunslingers of the old West, only one would be left standing. And the After the Kings had an imposing first-half lead of 12 points, Danny’s Boys clawed back, point by point, and the two teams battled toe to toe to the end with Danny’s Boys winning 84-76. They became the second team in PGBL history to win back-to-back championships (the Knicks winning. But that’s not the end of the story.
This PGBL championship game drew the largest crowd in its history. Over 250 fans came to Upper Darby to watch an All-star game, a 3-point shootout, listened to DJ Makis spin your favorite hits, and then cheered on their favorite team and players in the championship game, all while eating the now famous St. Demetrios Church hand-rolled spanakopita. There were kids and teenagers, parents and grandparents, and Greeks and non-Greeks, all there to watch a basketball game, mingle with friends, and be entertained. If you missed it… well, my friends, you really missed it!
There are many good and successful social gatherings in our Greek-American community, but there are only a few that have stood out, a special affair where people say to their friends that didn’t attend, “wow, you missed the most amazing night ever!” One of those was the 2013 Sandy Hurricane Relief Concert held by the Federation of Hellenic American Societies and Churches of Philadelphia. It was a night where you could feel the excitement in your bones.
That’s what the PGBL championship game, and the regular season, is all about – the excitement you feel when you watch the games. The PGBL in Upper Darby has become the hot spot, the place to be and the place to be seen. It’s where young and old watch athletes compete. It’s where friends meet and yell at the ref for a perceived bad call, or slap their foreheads because of a missed shot. And it’s where you get one great spinach pie! Besides, outside of Greece, where can you hear players yelling at each other in Greek! Only in Upper Darby!
But the PGBL is the gift that keeps on giving. Co-commissioners John Vasiliou, Bill Zonios, and Vas Rousseau are not satisfied with just playing basketball games and eating spanakopita. These forward-looking young men are not of the type to sit on their laurels. They established the PGBL Cares program, which reaches local communities through philanthropy and other hands-on services. There is also the PGBL Scholarship for students of Greek descent and who play basketball. The PGBL has become a full member of the Federation of Hellenic American Societies and Churches of Philadelphia and will participate in the Greek Independence Parade on March 22, 2015.
And if that was not enough, the PGBL is hosting its first Annual Hall of Fame Banquet on March 12, 2015, where they will induct certain individuals into the PGBL Hall of Fame and, the guest speaker will be Eleni Zarbalas Pantaridis, a member of the Greek National Team in the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup, who also grew up in Upper Darby.And, if you thought that’s it, you would be wrong.
The PGBL is also sponsoring Greek Heritage Night with the Philadelphia 76ers on April 13, 2015, at the Wells Fargo Center, when they take on Greek star, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Greek music, Greek dancing, Greek food, basketball, and much, much more.The PGBL is the new Greek-American society, bringing our youth, young adults and everyone, from all over the Delaware Valley, together. The PGBL is certainly the gift that keeps on giving.