Money Ballers: Keogh is the weekly winner, but John Grant Jr. wins overall season title

Colorado's John Grant Jr. is this year's overall Money Baller champion. (Photo: Ward Laforme Jr.)
Colorado's John Grant Jr. is this year's overall Money Baller champion. (Photo: Ward Laforme Jr.)

This has been a banner year for John Grant. He eclipsed both 1,000 points and 500 goals in his career, made the starting roster of the All-Star game, was Offensive Player of the Week four times, Player of the Month by himself twice and tied with Garrett Billings once, won the scoring title, led the Mammoth to their best record since 2007 (and third-best ever), and set a National Lacrosse League single-season scoring record with 116 points in only 14 games. It’s probably just me, but I think Grant is making a serious case for an MVP nomination. But that’s not all –- you can add yet another title to that impressive list: Money Baller Champion. Grant only  got half a MB point this past weekend, but it was enough to fend off Brendan Mundorf and Dan Dawson, his only real competitors in the final weekend. Grant finished the season with 52 MB points.

Last year’s Money Baller race was the closest ever, with Rhys Duch edging out Ryan Benesch by a single point. This year’s race was almost as close – Grant finished 1.5 points ahead of Mundorf, who was a half-point ahead of Dawson. One more go-ahead goal at any point in the season, and Mundorf would have pulled even.

Dawson and Mundorf had their chance to take the lead on Saturday night as the Wings traveled to Rochester to finish the season against the Knighthawks. Rochester had owned the Wings this year, already having won twice in Philadelphia by a combined score of 33-20. The goal-total in games between these two continues to drop, from 34 in the first game to 19 in March, and only 16 in this game. The game went back and forth for three quarters with two separate 10+ minute scoreless stretches, and no more than four goals scored in any of the first three quarters.

The fourth was a relative offensive explosion, with five goals being scored including Stephen Keogh’s winner. Keogh’s two goals and four assists led the Knighthawks to a 9-7 win and a season sweep of the Wings. Keogh led the game with 7.5 MB points, while Mundorf led the Wings with 2.5 and Dawson only had one. The win pushed the Knighthawks into second place in the division while dropping the Wings to third, so the Wings will once again head to Rochester for the Eastern semi-final next weekend.

Grant entered Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Swarm five points short of John Tavares‘ single-season record of 115 points and his chase of the 11-year-old record was the talk of the game. But the first half was all Swarm. By halftime, Joel Henry had a hat-trick and Callum Crawford was up to four points, while Grant was held to a couple of assists. The Mammoth finally started to make a game of it in the third, scoring four goals to Minnesota’s three, but they were still down by four and Grant picked up a single assist in the third.

Minnesota continued to score in the fourth quarter, with three in the first six minutes to take a seven-goal lead. Scott Stewart and Adam Jones then scored to get the Mammoth within five. Grant’s assist on Jones’ goal put him one back of the record and only 30 seconds later, he grabbed hold of it with his first goal of the game and 115th point of the season. Tavares, however, refused to let go of the record for four minutes, until Grant scored again to take it for himself. That goal, Grant’s 116th and final point of the season, put Colorado behind by only three goals with five minutes left which is, as we all know, plenty of time in a lacrosse game.

But the Mammoth could only manage one more goal, and Benesch’s second goal of the fourth quarter proved to be the winner. Benesch led the game with 4.5 MB points, while Sean Pollock’s game tying goal in the first was the only MB-relevant goal the Mammoth scored. Grant ended up with half a point. This was the second game of the weekend that was a preview of a first-round matchup, as the Swarm head to Denver for a more meaningful rematch next weekend.

The Edmonton Rush have played six games in Toronto and have never won there. But they’ve had much better luck against the Rock in Edmonton, having won four of their six matchups at home. Not to be outdone, Garrett Billings was chasing a few records of his own: he began the game with 106 points, only 5 back of Colin Doyle’s Rock record of 111 points in a season and 9 back of Tavares’ record. He also held the NLL single-season record for assists with 79, two ahead of Dawson.

The first quarter was a defensive battle with only three goals scored, but the Rock started to take control in the second. By halftime, the Rock were up 7-3 and Billings had a hat-trick and an assist, sitting one short of Doyle’s team record. It was known at this point that Philadelphia had lost and not only would the season assists record belong to Billings but the Rock had already clinched first place in the East division. No longer having anything to play for except pride made no difference to either the Rock or the Rush, and by the end of the third quarter, the five-goal lead the Rock had once enjoyed had vanished.

Shawn Williams tied the game with a minute and a half left in the third after the Rush outscored the Rock 6-2 in that quarter. The Rush took the lead twice in the fourth only to have the Rock tie it up again, and with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Stephan Leblanc scored the the game-winner. Billings ended up with five goals, three assists, the NLL assists record (82), the Rock points record (114), and a game-leading 6.5 MB points. Leblanc’s game-winner netted him 4, and Williams and Corey Small each got 4 for the Rush.

In the final game of the regular season, the Buffalo Bandits traveled to Washington to take on the Stealth. Washington’s playoff hopes were dashed last weekend, but they were determined to give their fans a good performance to thank them for their support during a difficult year. The first half began just as Washington’s season did –- they were down 4-0 and didn’t score until 12 minutes in.

But then it started looking more like Buffalo’s season; after a strong start, the Bandits gave up seven of the next eight goals. A quarter after leading 4-0, the Bandits were down 7-5. Then things just got crazy. Buffalo scored three to take an 8-7 lead into halftime. The teams traded goals early in the third before the Bandits scored four straight and 7 of the next 9 to lead 16-11. Then the Stealth scored five, including four in three minutes, to tie the game with less than two minutes left. In regulation time, the two teams scored 32 goals and didn’t go six minutes without scoring.

Then in overtime, they battled for almost 10 minutes before Tavares scored the final goal of the 2012 regular season, his third of the game. The scoring lines in this game couldn’t have been much more different. Yet another record was set (most goals in a game this season), as Lewis Ratcliff scored seven and added four assists. Duch, Athan Iannucci, and Brett Bucktooth each had eight points, and only three other Stealth players got any points at all.

On the other side of the floor, fifteen different Bandits players got points. Tavares led the game with 7 MB points, and Ratcliff’s 5 led the Stealth.

Stephen Keogh wins the final week of the regular season with 7.5 MB points, with Tavares and Billings right behind him at 7 and 6.5. But is that the end of the Money Ballers for 2012? Oh no, my friend. Not only can you check back each Monday during the playoffs for the Money Baller summary from the previous weekend, but later this week, we’ll have a Money Ballers season summary. We’ll list the top rookies, the top defenders, the best games, the top Money Baller from each team, and more.

Here are the final Money Baller standings for 2012. The number in brackets after a player’s name is their ranking in the scoring race.

  Final standings   First Fourth OT  
      Three Quarters Quarter    
      Tie Ahead GWG Tie Ahead GWG GWG  
# Player Team G A G A G A G A G A G A G A Pts
1 John Grant Jr. (1) COL 7 4 4 20 0 1 3 0 2 0 2 2 0 1 52.0
2 Brendan Mundorf (T16) PHI 6 9 7 4 1 0 3 1 2 0 2 1 0 1 50.5
3 Dan Dawson (3) PHI 5 14 7 17 0 1 1 4 0 0 1 3 0 1 50.0
4 Garrett Billings (2) TOR 3 11 8 6 0 3 2 2 1 0 2 2 0 0 46.0
5 Jeff Shattler (T12) CAL 5 3 7 5 1 0 0 0 1 1 5 0 0 0 45.5
6 Adam Jones (T10) COL 2 6 8 5 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 3 1 1 40.0
7 John Tavares (7) BUF 5 8 8 8 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 39.0
  Kevin Crowley (14) PHI 6 6 8 5 0 1 1 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 39.0
9 Ryan Benesch (T12) MIN 2 4 9 5 0 2 1 0 0 0 2 1 1 0 38.0
10 Sean Pollock (T23) COL 2 3 9 7 0 1 1 1 0 0 2 1 0 1 36.5
11 Shawn Evans (T8) CAL 3 6 7 8 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 5 0 0 35.0
12 Gavin Prout (T5) COL 2 6 7 12 0 0 0 3 0 1 0 2 1 0 34.5
13 Rhys Duch (T8) WAS 3 7 6 5 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 1 0 34.0
14 Drew Westervelt (30) PHI 4 3 4 4 0 0 3 0 1 1 2 1 0 0 33.5
15 Curtis Dickson (29) CAL 3 4 7 3 0 0 0 0 2 2 1 2 0 0 33.0

Leaders:

  Weekly leader Overall leader
Week 1 Scott Ranger Scott Ranger
Week 2 Dane Dobbie Scott Ranger
Week 3 John Grant John Grant
Week 4 Garrett Billings John Grant
Week 5 Rhys Duch John Grant
Week 6 Ryan Benesch John Grant
Week 7 Jeff Shattler John Grant
Week 8 Dan Carey John Grant
Derek Suddons
Week 9 Mike Accursi John Grant
Week 10 Sean Pollock John Grant
Week 11 Brendan Mundorf Dan Dawson
John Tavares
Week 12 Brendan Mundorf Brendan Mundorf
Week 13 Garrett Billings John Grant
Week 14 Kevin Ross Dan Dawson
John Grant
Week 15 Mike Accursi John Grant
Josh Gillam
Week 16 Jeff Shattler John Grant
Week 17 Stephen Keogh John Grant
Graeme Perrow started blogging about the NLL in 2005 and now wonders what he did with all his free time before that. He began writing the Money Ballers column for IL Indoor in 2012. He lives in Waterdown, Ontario with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @GraemePerrow.

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