Brooklyn Bridge Challenge
The first game of the Challenge looked like a blowout if you just looked at the team names, the Brooklyn Beasts and the Long Island Panthers. The Beasts didn't have a bad line up with Roscoe Biggers, Quincy Douby, Norman Simmons and John Baiano. The Panthers only had six players and were missing Gary Ervin, Charlie Villanueva and Lenny Cooke. Early on the Panthers were putting on a dunking exhibition as Jason Fraser and Curtis Sumpter caught alley-oop after alley-oop from Kendell Provet. The Beasts were able to hang tough. Sumpter had a great game for the Panthers and helped them hold on in a close game. Provet got the better of his ex-teammate Biggers. He showed the ability to knock down the open 3 and as usual break down the defense and hand off pretty dimes. Provet will be at ABCD and if he plays his best he will open the eyes of many college coaches.
The second game saw the Brooklyn Bridge take on the Riverside Church. The Bridge had Chris Taft, Gary Ervin, Sebastian Telfair, Karron Clark, Ramel Bradley, Mitchell Beauford and Kenny Eusey. The Church had the regular 17u team plus Tyquawn Goode. The Church dominated the first quarter leading 27-12 at the end of 8 minutes behind great shooting from Ricky Soliver. But they could never expand because of the shooting of Sebastian Telfair and the penetration of Gary Ervin. At the same time the Bridge could never really get close. With about 3 minutes reamaining in the 4th quarter the Bridge made a run behing Telfair's shooting and closed the lead to 73-67, with Beauford at the line shooting 2. Beauford missed both shots and that closed the door on any Bridge chance to win the game. The two best players for the Church were Soliver and Jason Wingate who is once again looking like the player that many people thought was one of the 2 best players coming out of 8th grade. He is looking for his shot but at the same time being unselfish. After watching this game I realized that Telfair shoots too much to be a point guard, instead I think he is a shooting guard. He is very similar to Allen Iverson, in that he can make the pin point pass but is much more comfortable scoring. If you watch Telfiar closely you see that he gets off shots that 99% of high school players can not get off, and this is why I think he will be a pro one day.
Riverside vs. SONDAY Express
The championship of IS8 was between two teams that many thought would meet in the championship, the Riverside Church and SONDAY Express. Express came out hot, opening a quick 12-0 lead behind 5 points from Japhet McNeil. The lead would balloon to 18-2 but thats when the Church realized it was Sunday. The Church led by Ted Munford went on a 10-0 run to close the lead to 18-12. Munford had 5 points and an assist in the run. Express led 20-12 after 1. The Church would close the lead to 23-19, but 2 3's by Marlon Smith coupled with a Riverside bucket would make it a 29-21 game. Once again the Church had an answer, as the ended the half with a 14-1 run. A Wendell Gibson basket gave them their first lead and a Tyquawn Goode layup would give the Church a 4 point lead at the break. Express would come out of the locker room the same way they started the game and were able to take a 40-37 lead. Behind Rob Barrett and Rashad Bell Express was able to take an 8 point lead into the 4th. The Church could never make a legit run at Express in the 4th. Their best chance was when they were trailing by 7 at 59-52 with the ball. but they came up empty, and Express would cruise from there, and win 78-66. Japhet McNeil had an excellent game for Express as he scored 13 points and handed out 9 assists. Barrett was named the game's MVP with his 16 point 10 rebound performance, while Wendell Gibson earned the Sportsmanship award, both of them were named to the All-Tournament first team. Joining them on the first team was Julius Hodge (who could not make today's game), Sebastian Telfair and Sammy Mejia. As expected Lenny Cooke was named the Player of the Year. Rookie of the Year honors went to Yata Gaines, who also played very well for Express.
Brooklyn USA Challenge
In this year's addition of the Brooklyn USA Challenge, Brooklyn USA took on the Tim Thomas Playaz. The 7th grade game was a very competitive game which saw Brooklyn USA win the game by a score of 48-42. Willie Etheridge led the way for USA with 17 points, Micheal Shine added 9 for the winners. Nijeer Park scored just 4 points for Tim Thomas but he was clearly their best player as he opened up shots for his teammates. Lamar Pannell led the Playaz with 13. The 8th grade game was never close, with USA leading by 8 after one, winning the game 57-31. Superstar 8th grader Saiqoun Stone led the way with 14 points and showed off some nice point guard skills, wth a nice handle and some pretty dimes. Derek Echols scored 11 for USA. Nayan Boateng showed a lot of skills despite only scoring 4 points. He is a great athlete and can knock down the mid range jumpshot.Victor Cruz scored 10 in the losing effort for Tim Thomas.
The 9th grade game was another start to finish blowout with USA leading by 9 after 1 would win by 21. They were led by 12 from Carlos Collazo, all of his 12 came in the second half. Terrance Jackson scored 11, Terrance Portis scored 10 all of which came in the first half and Robert Thomas also scored 10. Tim Thomas was led by Andew Pusar's 17. The 10th grade game ended up being Tim Thomas's 10th graders against Brooklyn USA's 9th graders, because USA's 10th graders were still at the Island Garden for the AAU regionals. This game was completely dominated by Tim Thomas as expected. They won the game by 30 behind 22 points a piece from Sean Banks and Jamal Warren. Ava Bowey added 19 for the Playaz. The Playaz pretty much had a dunk contest in this game as they seemed to be on the break on every play. Carlos Collazo once again led the way for USA with his 15 points, but it wasn't nearly enough.
The main event of the day was the 11th grade game. One of the key participants was a no show, Sebastian Telfair. This game was close throughout with Tim Thomas holding a slim 37-34 lead at the break, behind 11 points from Jamar Nutter. Quincy Douby matched that with 11 for the kids from Brooklyn. USA used a big 3rd quarter to take a 5 point lead into the 4th. USA would bring the lead up to 65-54 on a Chris Taft dunk. Thats when Dwayne Lee cought fire hitting 3 consecutive 3's to bring Tim Thomas within 2 at 65-63. But Tim Thomas could never get into the lead and fell 71-65. Lee scored the Playaz last 11 points but could only manage 1 point before then. Elijah Ingram was held in check and could only score 14. In the matchup between Chris Taft and Darryl Watkins, it turned to be no real matchup as Taft dominated scoring 17 points and pulling down 9 boards while Watkins only scored 3 points and grabbed a handful of rebounds. Quincy Douby led all scorers with 21 including 3 3's. Gary Ervin scored 11 but turned the ball over about 7 or 8 times. Duke recruit Lee Melchioni didn't look like Duke material as he was held to just 5 points. I would like to congratulate the Brooklyn USA staff for running an excellent event, and I will be in attendance every year it is run.
In a much anticipated game the LI Panthers, the defending Spring IS8 champions met SONDAY Express, who featured the two leading scorers in the CHSAA, Rashad Bell and Julius Hodge. The Panthers jumped out early in this game leading 10-4 using pressure defense and a quick start from Charlie Villanueva who ended with 18. But the lead would not last due to hot shooting early on from Julius Hodge. Express led by 4 after one quarter. The game would stay close through most of the second quarter with Express leading by 2 until they went on a 7-0 run to end the half, which was capped off by a 3 at the buzzer from Rob Barrett. The lead would not grow for the whole 3rd quarter but the 4th quarter was all Express. Rashad Bell took over in the 4th as Express would dominate the quarter and win 87-66. Barrett despite being undersized against the much taller Panthers was able to dominate the boards. Fittingly Barrett ended the game with an offensive rebound and put back dunk at the buzzer. Next up for Express is the Wolfpack with Lenny Cooke who dropped in 45 today against Rebel. The Panthers are in need of at least one more guard or they will struggle in the summer. If Gary Ervin doesn't play good they will lose often, just like today.
In another anticipated game Tim Thomas took on the Church. This wasn't the same Tim Thomas team that played in the regular season, they brought in the Roundball Classic MVP John Allen for the playoffs. In turned out they didn't even need him. The Church barely even went out with a whimper. This game was never really close as the jumpers were just not dropping for Riverside. And as usual the jumpers from Elijah Ingram were dropping, as he lit them up for 31 on 11-13 shooting including 9-11 from 3. In the 4th quarter someone in the crowd said something like he can't go to the basket, so Elijah decided to take his man off the dribble hit back to back finger rolls. After the second one he stopped and gave a stare over to the person who said that. As for Allen he put up about 20, and didn't even work hard. Ingram looked the best out of the players I saw today, and that includes Julius Hodge (New York State Mr. Basketball, McDonald's All-American), Rashad Bell (CHSAA leading scorer), Jason Fraser (Daily News 1st team) and John Allen (Roundball Classic MVP). Right now Ingram is ranked around the 20 range, but after ABCD camp I expect he will move up into the top 10. Elijah Ingram and the rest of Tim Thomas organization will be playing against Brooklyn USA in the 3rd Annual Brooklyn USA Challenge next Saturday. I will have more details later in the week.
I started the day off at IS8, I saw the 4th quarter of the Gauchos (B) vs. Hoop St. Gang game. This was a blowout as the Choz won by 24. In the second the Tim Thomas Playaz took on the Renaissance Warriors. I was hoping that Elijah Ingram would play in this game but his ankle wasn't in good enough shape for him to play. Also Renaissance were without their star player Sammy Mejia, because he missed practice. As for the game it was another blowout with the Playaz winning by about 20. But Renaissance did make a run to close the gap to 8, before the Playaz scored 11 straight points to put it out of reach. Tim Thomas was lead by Dwayne Lee's 20 and Shawn Banks' 18. Jose Cabreja led the way for Renaissance with 26.
The 3rd game of the day matched up Nate Blue's Real Scout team against the New Jersey Jaguars. Real Scout had just 5 players, Leon Fuller, Lou Rodriguez, Rashawn Vaughn, Lashard Duren and Curtis Stinson. That would play a huge role in this game as they were just being outhustled. Near the end of the game Real Scout was trailing by 11 when big man Leon Fuller fouled out. This only made them better as it opened the floor and made them a quicker team. Stinson would score 7 straight points to close the lead to 4 and give him 36 to end the game. With about 10 seconds left Rodriguez stole the ball and was fouled as he hit the layup sending him to the line leading by 1. He made the free throw which capped off a streak of 8 straight points for him. Mike Wasilenko got the ball and dribbled up court, he pulled from a step behind the free throw line and as soon he released it I said "thats good" and it was, touching nothing but net leaving Real Scout with just 2 seconds left. They didn't get a good look and now Nate will go from making the championship game in the Fall to not even making the playoffs.
The 1st half of the last game was one of the best half's of basketball I have ever seen regardless of level. Tim Thomas had their star, Elijah Ingram ready to do work, but on the other side for FYA Woody Souffrant was just as ready. Woody and Ingram came out hot, Woody scored 14 in the first quarter while Ingram scored 12, all on 3's and he only missed one. Ingram still bothered by his ankle didn't really drive to the basket but when your jumpshot is as good as his you don't to have two good wheels. He would hit 2 more 3's on 2 more attempts in the second quarter giving him 18 at the half. Woody would also continue to light it up hitting for 13 more points in the quarter giving him 27 at the break. Tim Thomas would lead by 4 at the half, in large part due to 6'9 Sophomore Darryl Watkins. The first two games I saw Watkins he did not show me anything but this game he was excellent scoring about 14 points in the first half and 23 for the game. But also the first 2 times I saw him play he didn't have Elijah Ingram to get him the ball. The second half saw Dwayne Lee emerge as he hit 4 of his 5 3's in the half. Ingram would look to pass a lot more and didn't really shoot scoring just 7 in the half to finish with 25. Darryl Watkins continued to play well in the second half, and Shawn Banks also stepped it up, as Tim Thomas would pull away in the second half to win 105-86. Woody finished the game with 38 but he slowed down in the second half and was unable to carry his team the whole game.
Chase the Game @ Fordham University
After IS8 I went home got a bite to eat then went back out to the Chase the Game exposure games. I don't really see the purpose of this because there was only pool play and no champion crowned, and with this being the dead period no college coaches were allowed to be present. But anyway I saw two games, one was a 17u game between the Ravens and Long Island Lighting. This game was surprisingly close. The Ravens led by 6, and Allan Ray scored the first 5 points of the second half to bring the lead up to 11. But the Lightning would not fold as they came storming back and would be tied with 10 seconds left with the ball, but they were unable to convert. Daon Merritt got the ball in his hands and pushed up setting up Tariq Atkins for a layup, he missed the layup but was fouled. Atkins then missed both free throws sending the game to overtime. Merritt would score the first two points of the 2 minute overtime, then Donnie McGrath would hit 2 free throws with about 10 seconds left to ice it. The Ravens won 80-78. Merritt led the way with 23 while Ray added 19.
I also saw the best 15u team in the nation take on the Ravens. The Gauchos as usual had the 3 headed monster of Yata Gaines, Ronald Ramon and Russell Robinson. But in this game Robinson and Ramon did not have it going. Gaines would step it up carrying his team for the entire game. Midway threw the first half the Ravens were trailing by 2 when Shahee Martin was fouled attempting a shot. Gavin Grant was then called for a tech. Martin hit all 4 free throws, then Yata would hit a 3 putting his team up 9, and took a 28-24 lead into the half. Late in the second half the Choz led by 2, but then would go on a 7-0 run to put the game away and win 55-47. Brian Laing played well for the Ravens showing strength inside and a pretty good mid range game. Gavin Grant did not play well, as he went away from his game of shooting the ball, yes it is possible to be too unselfish. That is what Grant was doing, in order for the Ravens to win they need him to score and if he's not scoring they won't win.
When I got to IS8 the Tim Thomas Playaz were in the closing seconds of a 73-69 loss to the Wolfpack and I saw Elijah Ingram on the bench. Later on I found out he got hurt and only played two quarters, but in those two quarters he put up an amazing 31 points including 7 3-pointers. He didn't play in his teams game against the Queens Cobras, and I am not sure if he will be playing tomorrow. I left at halftime of the Playaz and Cobras game with the Playaz up 28-23 at the break. Nobody was real spectacular on either side. In the full game I saw Brooklyn Bridge took on Rebel. The Bridge was missing star players Sebastian Telfair and John Quintana, and it showed they needed them early on as they trailed by 13 at the half. Mark Riley and Rob Legister led the way in the first half. Riley hit every open shot he had scoring about 11 in the first half while Legister had about 10. The Bridge had a very young team led by Mitchell Beauford but he did not play too well. Jamaal "Tank" Dart played well in the second half and so did #11 (not sure of his name). The Bridge closed the gap to 4 late in the erd but they could get no closer as Rebel would pull away for a 87-69 win. Latwann Scott played well for Rebel in the 4th quarter hitting a few pull up jumpshots. I may be going out to IS8 tomorrow but I'm not sure yet.
Today I made a trip down to IS8, I saw two games. The first was between St. Mary's and Rocksteady Beacon. Rocksteady was led by by Chris Taft who was dominant in the first half. Taft scored on baby hooks, off offensive rebounds and 15 footers to help put his team up comfortably for most of the first 3 quarters. St. Mary's trailed by 9 going into the 4th quarter, and thats when they started to heat up. Brian Preston who was hot all game continued to hit 3 after 3, but what was constant the whole game until the 4th quarter was his brother Matt Preston who started hitting his shots in the 4th. What hurt Rocksteady the most is the stopped getting Chris Taft the ball. St. Mary's ended up winning the game by about 9. Brian Preston scored at least 30 points to lead the Gaels. After watching Chris Taft dominate I am convinced he is the best player in the Sophomore class, and I hope he is attending either Nike or Adidas Camp.
The second game I saw and the final game of the day matched up the Queens Cobras and the Wolfpack. The Wolfpack had a loaded roster with Lenny Cooke, Tommie Eddie, George Jefferson, Mikail Malik, Shaheen McNair and Justin Marshall. But for reason they couldn't pull away from the Cobras for the first 3 quarters, who had a bunch of kids that no one has heard of. The scored heading into the 4th quarter was 52-50, and thats when the game turned the way it should've from the start. The Wolfpack put up 38 points in the 4th quarter to pull away from the Cobras. Lenny Cooke led the way for the winners and showed off his shot blocking abilities as he rejected 4 shots. Tommie Eddie hit 3 3's in the 4th quarter but couldn't get anything going in the first 3 quarters. It's funny to watch Brian Raimondi play over people like Shaheen McNair and Mikail Malik, for any amount of time. That just shows what money can do and how currupt some AAU programs are.