On an overcast morning at Boston’s William Smith playground, faith was rewarded.
Marius Bausys arrived at the playground early yesterday after a day of traveling. Less than 24 hours before he first stepped foot onto William Smith’s blue and silver courts, Bausys was in Washington D.C. trying to punch his ticket to Alcatraz for the 2011 Red Bull King of the Rock world championship.
The outcome at the D.C. qualifier was one Bausys was familiar with: for the third straight time, he failed to reach the finals and advance to the world championship. But with one qualifier in the northeast remaining, Bausys decided it was not yet time to give up on making it to Alcatraz. So just hours after he was eliminated in D.C., he was on the bus to Boston.
The fourth time was a charm. Bausys â€” along with Boston native Tony Lee â€” survived a field of over 30 fierce competitors to reach the finals of the Red Bull King of the Rock Boston qualifier and earn the right to compete in San Fran.
But when Bausys first took the court for his opening round matchup, he looked like a guy fresh off an eight-hour bus ride. Even so, the Lithuanian forward managed to use his size to grab a 6-5 lead with under a minute to play. But a long rebound led to an easy slam for his opponent, and Bausys found himself just seconds away from another disappointing bus ride home.
With ten ticks on the clock, he worked his way deeper and deeper into the paint, and finally, with just two seconds remaining, flipped a lefty hook at the basket that found the bottom of the net and propelled him into the second round.
Bausys rode the momentum to another win, and, just like that, he was into the Elite Eight and two wins away from Alcatraz.
Standing in his way were seven talented opponents, including Lee â€” a former Robert Morris guard who captured the 2007-08 Northeast Conference Player of the Year award â€” , Sedale Threatt Jr. â€” the son of former NBA player Sedale Threatt â€” , and Anthony Thomas â€” a former Bryant guard.
In the Elite Eight, Bausys matched up against former Salem State player Eric Downie. And, once again, he waited until the final seconds to pull out the victory, sticking another hook shot just before the final buzzer to take the 12-10 win.
With Alcatraz in his sights, Bausys came up with the last victory he needed to secure his place in the world championship and to set up a final showdown with Lee for the $1,000 prize awarded to the winner of the qualifier.
“It took a lot of determination,” said Bausys. “I started in New York, then went to Philly, then went to D.C., and lost some really close games over there. I just felt I could do it.”
But even Bausys’s determination could not slow Tony Lee.
By the time the pair met in the final, Lee had already sent six opponents packing. Relying on his smothering defense and remarkable ability to get to the basket, Lee blew past two play-in opponents to make his way into the final field of 32. The extra contests didn’t seem to bother him, as he continued to make quick work of his opposition.
After breezing past his Elite Eight opponent, Lee finally faced a worthy challenger in the Final Four when he met Threatt Jr.
In what would prove to be the day’s premier matchup, the duo went back and forth. After Lee established a three-point lead midway through the contest, Threatt Jr. knocked down a jumper from beyond the arc to knot the score. Lee answered by taking it to the basket for an easy two, and then came up with a block to take back possession. With less than two minutes to go, he nailed a three to grab the commanding five-point lead.
Threatt Jr. would not go down without a fight, eventually pulling within one, but it was too late, and Lee advanced to the final with a 13-12 victory.
With $1,000 on the line, the crowd gathered around the first court to watch the final matchup between Lee and Bausys.
Lee proved to be too much. Using his superior quickness, he took an early 11-4 lead and never looked back.
“It was great, man,” said Lee after the win. “There was a lot of talent in here. I played two tough games back-to-back. I probably played the most games all day, but me being from Boston and letting the money stay in Boston is great.”
Bausys may have left Boston without the cash prize, but he certainly did not leave without hope and renewed motivation.
“I was quite tired in the end, and obviously need to work a little bit on my stamina and quickness,” said Bausys. “(Lee) was good. He deserved to win it, but you never know what’s gonna happen when we play next time.”
If you would want to play in the upcoming King of the Rock qualifier in Norfolk, Va. (August 20), send us an e-mail at KOTR@dimemag.com or give us a call on our special King of the Rock athlete line at 917.651.5414.
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