Albany Patroons must be sharp for Game 2 of East Regional Finals Sunday

Will Brown is introduced as the new general manager and head coach of the Albany Patroons of The Basketball League at the Washington Avenue Armory Wednesday, October 27, 2021.

Will Brown is introduced as the new general manager and head coach of the Albany Patroons of The Basketball League at the Washington Avenue Armory Wednesday, October 27, 2021.

The good news for the Albany Patroons is that they have been in this scenario before: coming home after a Game 1 playoff series loss.

That, however, was against Atlantic City in The Basketball League’s Northeast Division Finals. In more than one way, Kokomo isn’t Atlantic City.

The Patroons host the Kokomo Bobkats at 5 p.m. Sunday in Game 2 of the best-of-three East Regional Finals at the Washington Avenue Armory. If the Patroons win, Game 3 is Monday at 7 p.m. in Albany. Kokomo topped Albany 123-110 Thursday. It was a close game through three quarters, with Albany leading 54-53 at halftime and only trailing 82-79 after the third quarter.

“I said to the team at halftime, ‘It’s amazing we’re winning because we’re not playing that well. If we start playing to our capabilities, we can open this up and win this on the road,’ ” Patroons coach Will Brown said in a phone interview. 

But, everything Brown found in his scouting report came true. He knew that Kokomo’s helping defense and extreme depth would be difficult to combat, as well as the loud environment provided by 1,700 fans. Two areas where those came into play, Brown said, were turnovers and 3-point shooting. Albany committed 21 turnovers and shot 4 of 20 from behind the arc.

“And a lot of it was self-inflicted stuff. Like, we had one player who had a tough night, and he had four offensive fouls. That’s four turnovers right there,” Brown said.

Kokomo played 12 men, and Brown said there was no discernable drop-off in talent.

Still, there were good points for Albany, and things that Brown can point to and think the Patroons aren’t that far away from beating the Bobkats. Albany shot 50 percent from the field and forced Kokomo into 16 turnovers. Brown knows his team had its opportunities.

Jared Sam had a double-double of a game-high 32 points and 10 rebounds. A.J. Mosby added 26 points, but no other Patroon scored more than 11. That, Brown said, belies Albany’s true depth.

Disturbingly, however, Brown pointed to the fact that Albany had 35 fouls to Kokomo’s 27, with Kokomo clearly being the more physical team.

“And so what happens is the team that isn’t as physical does more retaliatory moves and gets whistled for it,” Brown said. “The two keys Sunday are if we can match or exceed their physicality, we’ll win the game. And our ball screen defense needs to be better.”

Offensively, Brown would like to get more bench contributions and for the players to find some kind of rhythm and move the ball better than it did Thursday. He is glad to be back at the Armory, where the crowd for the clinching victory against Huntsville in the Eastern Conference Finals was loud and engaged.

“But we can’t think, ‘Oh, we haven’t lost at the Armory this year,’ or else we won’t like the outcome,” Brown said. “When I saw the two Regional Finals matchups, I thought the two best teams are in this semifinal. Whoever wins the Kokomo/Albany series should win the championship. 

“There are a lot of things you can’t control,” he added. “You can’t control the ball going in, but you can control your toughness, physicality, energy, enthusiasm and communication. I’ve always felt a desperate team is a dangerous team, and I’d be disappointed if we don’t play with a sense of urgency.”

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