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Wheelchair Classic 4/10- Matt Grasso
   
Tonight at the Long Island University campus in Brooklyn, the Bronx team took on the host Brooklyn squad in the championship game of the 2002 Wheelchair Classic. This game looked like the second mismatch in a row for a talent team from Brooklyn, but that was just not the case. The Bronx came out early and staked their that this game would be a battle to the end. They were led by the great ball handling and passing of Providence bound Donnie McGrath. He set up Villanova bound Allan Ray with some pretty impressive passes. He threw one behind the back pass for a layup and unanticipated alley oop to Allan for the slam dunk. These two have shown great chemistry dating back to last summer playing together with the New York Ravens AAU team. The Brooklyn team was equally impressive in the early going behind the play of Robeson's Gary Ervin and the strong inside play of Villanova bound Curtis Sumpter. The two teams were pretty evenly matched with their first squads in the ballgame. Actually, the surprise of the night for me was when second units were on the floor. Lenny Cooke was playing for Brooklyn and he was havin quite a bit of trouble. Once again, Lenny made me think he was overrated. He was being guarded by St. Raymond's junior forward Louie McCroskey and he was having a very hard time getting by him. In contrast, Louie was scoring on Lenny almost with ease. No offense to Louie being a first team all catholic league player, but if Lenny thinks he is ready for the NBA, he is dead wrong. He should be able to handle a player like Louie. He wasn't even winning the matchup with him and he's 3 years older than Louie. I feel Louie is gonna have a breakout summer playing for the Ravens and will be recruited by a lot of big time schools. Another thing about Lenny, he couldn't produce any offense without help from his teammates,Gary Ervin and Curtis Sumpter. A player of NBA calibur should be able to take over a game on his own. Along with Louie on the second squad for the Bronx, Mount Vernon's Jomo Belfor and Iona College bound Marvin McCullough really made a statement creating turnovers and turning them into easy layups. Despite their efforts, Brooklyn led 48-46 at the half. In the second half, Coach Gustus of Bishop Loughlin decided that lenny couldn't creat on his own and put him out there with the first unit. Thus, Lenny scored many easy hoops off his teammates' nice setups and missed shots down low. The Brooklyn squad went up by as much as 15, but the Bronx never let the game get out of hand as they received timely shooting from Theodore Roosevelt's Ed Berrios and McGrath. They were down 78-72 going into the fourth quarter. In the last period, the game continued to go back and forth. The most emphatic play of the night came on a fast break slam dunk by Allan Ray with Lenny trailing close behind him. The whole arena went nuts after that play. However despite the Bronx's efforts late in the ballgame, Brooklyn held on for the 111-106 to win this year's championship. Brooklyn was led by Lenny Cooke's game high 29 points along with Curtis Sumpter's 22 points. Gary Ervin scored 19 earning MVP honors for his team. Allan Ray put up 22 points along with team MVP honors, while Donnie McGrath added 16. In the consolation game, Ramel Bradley led Manhattan back from a 20 point deficit for a 78-74 victory over Queens.

Wheel Chair Classic 4/8- Matt Grasso
    Tonight at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, the 2002 Wheelchair Classic tournament kicked off. This tourney is the last opportunity to see all of the best players in NYC playing on the same court. In the first contest, the Bronx team took on the squad from Queens. The Bronx team consisted of players from that borough along with those from Westchester County. The Bronx team came out strong in this one behind the excellent guard play of Providence bound Donnie McGrath from JFK Somers, Villanova bound Allan Ray of St. Raymond's High School, and Mount Vernon's Jomo Belfor. These three guards put on a fantastic show while setting each other up for some impressive buckets. McGrath made some great passes to Ray for some nice scoop shots, Belfor played the point very well making his teammates better. Jomo has not chosen a school yet, but any division one program needing a solid PG better get up to Mount Vernon and get a steal. He will make a visit to Texas A&M next week. On the Queens side, Charlie Villanueva of Blair Academy kept them in this game. He showed excellent range for a big guy as well as finshing strong around the hoop. He takes it to the rack with authority. One part of his game that jumped out at me for the first time tonight was his great passing skills. He always made an extra pass to find the open man when he received a great amount of focus from the other. He threw down a few thunderous dunks and he was equally brilliant on the defensive altering some of his opponent's shots. This game was very close throughout as the Bronx held a 52-50 at the half  off a buzzer beater by Iona College bound Marvin McCullough of All Hallows. The Bronx continued that strong play in the second half behind the play of their stellar quartet of guards. Allan Ray looks to have rebounded completely from a foot injury which kept him on the bench this season. He had some nice takes to the basket as well as showing the range on his shots. McGrath also showed the uncanny ability to hit the outside shot. The Bronx looked to be in control of this one, but Queens made a late run behind Villanueva and Hempstead guard Aubin Scott. Charlie hit a couple of free throws to tie the game at 104 and send it to overtime after the Bronx failed to get off a shot at the buzzer. In OT, the game continued to go back and forth. Queens was up to with a little under a minute to go and McGrath hit two free throws to tie the ballgame at 115. Villanueva was fouled by Belfor and hit one of two foul shots. The Bronx got the rebound and had to go the length of the court with 5 seconds. Marvin McCullough took it himself up the court and hit Donnie McGrath with a beautiful pass for the layup at the buzzer to win the ballgame. The final score was 117-116. Mcgrath and Ray each put up 23 points to lead the Bronx squad. Villanueva scored 27 points to pace Queens. The Bronx move onto the championship game on Wednesday against the winner of the second game between Brooklyn and Manhattan. 
    In the second matchup of the night, a highly stacked Brooklyn squad took on the team from Manhattan. Brooklyn consisted of such all stars as NBA bound Lenny Cooke, Villanova bound Curtis Sumpter of Bishop Loughlin, and Gary Ervin of Robeson High School. Manhattan had rapidly improving seven footer Shagari Alleyne and Steve Burtt Jr. of Federation Champion Rice High School. All the big name players were really doing theit thing in this one, but one player really popped out in my mind. Ramel Bradley from Park West High School really kept Manhattan in this game. During warmups, I thought Brooklyn would blow them out right from the start but that just was not the case thanks to Ramel. He really showed tonight why he is getting recruited by a lot of programs in the Big East Conference. He has benefited from playing in the backcourt with super sophomore Sebastian Telfair of Lincoln High School for the Brooklyn Bridge organization, but he always played second or third fiddle to Sebastian highly touted forward Chris Taft from Xaverian. Tonight, Ramel jumped into the spotlight. He was very slick handling the rock and took it very strong slashing to the basket. He is a very good mid range shooter and is a very good ballhandler. Bradley also showed off his passing skills making a behind the back bounce pass to one of his teammates for the score. He finished with a game high 31 points. He kept his team in this one but only for so long. They got blown out in the end losing by as much as 20 points. The star power on the Brooklyn squad was just too much for Manhattan to withstand for the whole game. Gary Ervin kept setting up Lenny Cooke for dunk after dunk. Lenny is a very impressive athlete, but I don't what he'll do if he doesn't make it in the NBA. I'm hoping that he can get it done, but I haven't really seen that much of a vast improvement in his game. He's 20 years old playing against kids three years younger than him. He won't be able to do the majority of things that he does in games now in the NBA. He really should go to college if he doesn't make it big time in the league. On the other hand, Gary Ervin continues to look impressive when I see him play. His speed and athleticism continue to go unmatched by most players on the high school level. It will be interesting to see him matchup in the championship game against either Donnie McGrath or Allan Ray. The Championship game between Bronx and Brooklyn will take place Wednesday night at 8 pm on the campus of LIU in Brooklyn.

Applebee County Classic 3/23- Matt Grasso
   
Tonight at Yorktown High School, the best seniors in Westchester County played in the 2002 Applebee's All County Classic. There were 2 games. The first featured those seniors that were at least all league, while the second showcased the top players in the county. 
    The second ballgame was the feature showcase. The Gold team consisted of Providence bound Donnie Mcgrath and Rashard Turner, while the Blue team featured Uconn bound Hilton Armstrong and Jomo Belfor. This game was like any other all star game. The play was rather sloppy and the players were just looking to be fancy. They were definitely impressive though. Hilton showed his power down low, while Mcgrath, Turner and Belfor all showed their division one skills on the perimeter. Every player took part in the scoring in this one. The blue team took a 20 point lead in the first half and then Rashard took over with his perimeter jumper and brought them back. Next, they took a 15 point lead. The Gold team was up 62-57 at halftime. The blue team was extremely impressive in the second half behind the play of Saunders' Khnemu Draughen and Tyrice Scott of Leake and Watts. The blue team took over in the end and won the game 127-105. There was a slam dunk contest and a three point shootout as well. Donnie McGrath won the dunk contest. Jason Weltman won the three point shootout. It was a great event run by the Westchester County Basketball Coaches Association.
    There weren't many players that showed up to this first game so the gold team was split up. Shonte Sasser of White Plains and Randy Brunson came out firing in this ballgame right from the start. They jumped out to a 20 point lead in the first half, but the gold team behind the play of Alexander Hamilton's Kyle Lockett cut their deficit to seven going into the half. The gold team came out firing right off the bat in the second half as well. This time, they jumped out to a 25 point lead, and once Lockett made his claim as the game's MVP. He brought them all the way back, and they tied this game up at 122 on a layup by Gorton forward Kenny Amparo. In overtime, the Blue team did not get down at all. They didn't trail in the extra session and held on for a 131-129 victory. Kyle Lockett scored an unbelievable game high 45 points to lead the way.