Hornets Venom GT Rides Defense to 2021 THE TURN Championship

Charlotte Ends Tournament on 7-Game Winning Streak, Rigby Snags MVP Honors

By Sam Perley

With back-to-back sweeps of Heat Check Gaming and Blazer 5 Gaming, Hornets Venom GT made history on Saturday night, becoming the fourth different team to win the NBA 2K League’s mid-season THE TURN Tournament powered by AT&T.

Taking home MVP honors was guard CJ “Rigby” Burnett, who averaged 24.5 points on 62.5% shooting (68.8% from three-point range; 11-of-16), 6.5 assists and 2.0 steals in the championship series. Rigby is the first NBA 2K League rookie to be named THE TURN MVP and with the victory, Hornets Venom GT earned $117,000 in prize money.

“This speaks great volume for us as a team,” said Rigby after the win, which also marked the organization’s first-ever NBA 2K League tournament title. “We practiced hard this whole week. We went into this and we knew what the goal was. As soon as the week started, we knew we were going to win.”

“This is a big moment for us because this whole year, we’ve been counted out,” stated veteran guard Justin “Sherm” Sherman. “We felt like after the draft, we didn’t get a lot of the respect that we deserved. Now, we’re here to prove it. We came out here, dominated and obviously we’re the champs. We couldn’t be happier.”

Charlotte began the night with an 81-47 pummeling of Heat Check Gaming, an outing that included 20-point showings from Rigby (25), center Peter “PeteBeBallin” Malin (22) and Sherm (21 points and 15 assists). The squad then held a 21-6 lead after the opening quarter of Game 2 before having to restart following a player lag-out. Although the delay gave Miami some fresh life, Hornets Venom GT eventually righted itself and rolled to a 75-63 triumph.

Now squaring off against Blazer 5 Gaming in the final for the first-time ever in any NBA 2K League competition, Hornets Venom GT used a 12-2 fourth-quarter-opening run to put itself in prime position for a 76-65 Game 1 victory. Rigby had 31 points, nine assists and connected on 8-of-12 three-point attempts, with PeteBeBallin adding 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting and 13 rebounds.

Charlotte got off to another hot start in Game 2, but Portland battled back to take a one-point lead late in the third quarter. Hornets Venom GT closed the frame on a 7-0 run though to go up 45-39, then continued to stay comfortably ahead by multiple possessions in the fourth until the final buzzer sounded in the 67-59 win.

Sherm scored a team-high 20 points in the finale, but it was the defensive presence of lock Gio “Trap” Elizondo and forward Kingsley “Crown” Braggs that ultimately made the difference. The pair helped hold Blazer 5 Gaming point guard Matt “Bash” Robles to only 29 total points, five three-pointers and forced 14 turnovers across the two-game span. Bash entered the series averaging 25.6 points in the tournament, which included a 37-point showing earlier in the evening in Game 1 of the Semifinals against Wizards District Gaming.

“It was definitely tough because we really didn’t have any film on them,” said Trap. “I kind of know Bash. I know his tendencies, so I just tried to take away what he wanted to do. At the end of the day, I believe in myself and I trusted Crown. I told him you take [power forward] Goofy out of the game, I’ll take Bash out of the game, we’ll handle it like that and we’re going to win this one.”

In Charlotte’s four previous 2K League Tournament appearances, the squad had never advanced further than the quarterfinals. This also marked the first 2K League tournament victory for third-year players Sherm and PeteBeBallin, who both reached as far as the Quarterfinals of the 2019 TURN while suiting up for Mavs Gaming.

Hornets Venom GT will now return to regular season play on Thursday, July 22 for two home games against Magic Gaming beginning at 7:40 EDT, an event that will be showcased in front of live fans at Spectrum Center. Catch all the action on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels.