After falling out of The Basketball Tournament in the first round last summer, few expected Team Colorado to play in the final game for the $2 million prize this year.
Yet, Saturday’s Final Four in New York tipped off with another win for No. 5-seeded Team Colorado as Marcus Hall led the Buffs’ alumni past the Midwest champion/No. 9-seeded Bradley University alumni squad, Always a Brave, 78-70.
How’s that for a TBT Cinderella story?
“The main goal was just to try to represent our university,” Hall said. “We knew that last year, but we didn’t have the fight and the gall that we needed to, and we just wanted to take one game at a time and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Hall, who graduated from the University of Colorado in 2008, boosted Team Colorado with 25 points off of 9-of=21 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 accuracy from 3-point range.
“Marcus Hall has been tremendous,” head coach Dwight Thorne II said. “There’s really no other way. Even tonight when he was out for a couple of minutes, you could see how discombobulated we were.”
Throughout the contest, it was a tale of two Marcuses. While Hall led the team from the field, Marcus Relphorde ( 2011 grad) also aided Team Colorado with a strong offensive showing of his own, scoring 20 points.
Hall, however, attributed the team’s big win on Saturday not to its offensive firepower, but the stifling defensive pressure they applied against Always a Brave.
“We all took a little bit more responsibility to kind of focus on defense,” Hall said. “I think Marcus Relphorde played excellent, especially in the first half, on defense. Our coach, he’s challenging guys to step up, and we are.”
The ex-Buffs got off to a rocky start after falling behind 7-0 early, but they were able to not only come back from the deficit, but ignite a 20-5 run to gain the eight-point lead. For the majority of the game after that point, Team Colorado led but wasn’t able to put the game completely away.
At the half, the ex-Buffaloes only led 31-27.
With five minutes left in the game, Team Colorado appeared to have the competition in the bag with an 11-point lead at 62-51. But as the clock wound down to 35 seconds, Always a Brave fought back to keep things interesting as they cut the lead down to 71-66.
In the end, though, a strong defensive effort for Team Colorado and a few additional buckets here and there held the former Buffs down the stretch as they went on to book a berth in Tuesday’s title game.
Team Colorado will go on to face the winner of No. 1 seed City of Gods or last year’s TBT champion, No. 2-seeded Overseas Elite, at 5 p.m. Tuesday in New York. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
“In this type of atmosphere, it’s more about what we do,” Thorne said. “Defensively, we have to continue our intensity, and then offensively, we have to continue to take care of the basketball. That’s been our Achilles’ heel.
“In regards to the two teams that we’re playing, they’re both great teams with great players. It’s going to be an all-out dogfight when we play on Tuesday night, whoever it is we play.”