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Rumble in the Bronx 2002
By Keith Mason

The playoffs started with the Ravens taking on the Tallahassee Wildcats. This was a great game. Both teams put up a lot of points. Early on in this game it looked like the Ravens were going to run away with it as their press was just too much for the team from Florida. But then they realized you can't dribble through a press, and it became a game. 6'0 Darius Washington began to make it clear he was the best player on the court. As he lit the Ravens up for 34. In the second half, 5'9 PG TJ Bannister began to play well, and the Wildcats looked like they were about to run away with the game as they opened up a 10 point lead, but the Ravens came right back behind 6'2 Curtis Stinson, 5'8 PG Daon Merritt and 6'2 SG Tariq Atkins. Atkins had his best game of the tournament in this one, as he put up 22 points, and looked the best I've ever seen him. The Ravens were able to cut the lead to 3 but could get no closer, because of one reason, they could not make free throws. The line was the Ravens worst enemy. The Wildcats would end up winning this game 93-87. All that had to happen for the Darius Washington vs. Sebastian Telfair matchup was for the Juice All-Stars to beat Team Breakdown, but that was easier said then done especially with Karron Clarke not being in attendance. Breakdown controlled most of the game leading by double digits nearly the entire second half before Juice cut the lead to 61-56 with about 4 minutes left in the game, but Breakdown responded and went back up by 11, virtually putting the game away. Breakdown won the game 78-74 on the strength of 15 3s, 6 of them by J. Tobias. Sebastian led all scorers with 25 points. 
    In the only first round game featuring two City teams, the Panthers took on the Gauchos. For the entire first half and much of the second half the Panthers looked like they were going to blow the Choz out but the Choz stormed back behind an intense press. Marlon Smith had a very good offensive game but did make some bad decisions at time. He led the way for the Choz with 26. Trailing by 4, Smith took a deep 3 only to see it go half way down and pop back out, which pretty much ended the Gauchos game, as they would lose by the same 4 point margin. Russell Robinson chipped in with 10 points for the Choz. Shagari Alleyne was a non-factor in this game because of the great defense by Lamont Hamilton and co. Mike Jones led the way with 14 points for the Panthers, while Josh Wright chipped in 11. The other semifinals featured one of the best endings to a game I have ever seen. Trailing by 4 with 18 seconds to go, Team Breakdown got the ball, and eventually got it to J. Tobias who hit a 3 from about 25 feet with 7 seconds on the clock. The Tallahassee Wildcats rushed the inbounds pass and had it stolen by Dawon Yolman, Yolman went up with it right away, but had the ball sent back at him, he gathered the ball back, and put it off the glass at the buzzer to put his team in the championship. 
    The championship was New York vs. Florida. For the entire first half it was tough to tell who the better team, as the game was close throughout but the Church held a 5 point lead at the break. But that's when the Church stopped playing games. Behind Gary Ervin the Church outscored Breakdown 35-19 in the second half before the game was stopped with 3 minutes left due to the mercy rule. The score was 78-57. It seemed as soon as the Church went on a run Breakdown called it a day. Dawon Yolman led the way for Breakdown with 19. Ervin dropped in 21, and the Church also got 16 from Gary Forbes to claim the crown.

The Champs
The most storied AAU program in the city, if not the nation has recently become the most underrated team. When I thought about the playoffs I didn't see Riverside getting past semifinals. But they showed they are still the best New York has to offer. The Church dominated throughout the weekend, winning every game with the mercy rule (up by 20 points with 3 minutes left). Including games against the Long Island Panthers and Team Breakdown in the championship. It seemed all weekend, in the second half Riverside would pull away from teams. That was made obvious in their final two games, they only led the Panthers by 2 going into the break, and then came out in the second half dominating and won by 25, 72-47. Gary Ervin looked great in that game, getting his teammates involved while players like Gary Forbes, Quincy Douby and Willie Irick scored the points. The championship game looked like it was going to be a good game at first, as the Riverside was only up by 5 at the half, and held a lead of less then that for most of the half. But that's when Gary Ervin caught fire, and hit 3 straight 3's and after that Breakdown seemed to give up. Ervin led the way in that with 21, while Gary Forbes chipped in with 16.
    For the first time in a while they have a  legitimate  post threat in 6'6 PF Willie Irick. While he was on the team last year, he wasn't as good as he is now. He has gotten much more athletic in the past year, and has great foot work  down low. Ervin is a much more explosive guard then they have had in the past two years. Which gives them an incredible advantage when other teams press them. Teams are learning on the national scene that if you leave Quincy Douby open anywhere within 25 feet just put the basket in the books. Gary Forbes had a great Rumble, and now hopefully will take that performance with him to the numerous camps the Riverside players will be playing in.

All-Tournament Team
There was no official All-Tournament Team so I have made my own, as well as MVP.
Tournament MVP- G- Gary Ervin 5'10 PGRiverside 2003
All-Tournament- G- Sebastian Telfair 6'0 PG Juice All-Stars 2004
                                G- Darius Washington 6'0 PG Tallahassee Wildcats 2004
                                G- Gary Forbes 6'6 SG Riverside Church 2003
                                G- Lou Rodriguez 6'3 SG CAS Warriors 2003
                                F- Dawon Yolman 6'8 SF Team Breakdown 2003

16& Under Summary
    The champs of the 16u division was Philly JMC who were led by 5'10 PG Kyle Lowry and 6'6 PF Shane Clark. Lowry dominated play in the 16u division, he scored 22 and 30 in the two games I saw, while Clark didn't score as much he dominated the backboards and got a lot of weak side blocks. They controlled the entire game against Riverside before winning by a score of 69-61. Riverside was without 6'0 PG AJ Price for the entire tournament because of a broken finger he suffered, however Price will be ready for ABCD camp. The championship game between Philly and the Westchester Hawks was a classic up until the final 5 minutes. These two teams were going back and forth with neither team able to seize the momentum. Philly won the game with defense, by shutting down Westchester star, Dave McClure for much of the second half. McClure had 21 early in the second half and only finished with 25. Lowry and Clark provided the offense for Philly as they combined for 46 of the teams 86 points, 30 for Lowry and 16 for Clark. 
    The most exciting game between two New York teams was the Westchester Hawks and the Riverside Church. This game was going back and forth for a while, and saw 6'2 SG Jason Holmes have the game of his life. He lit the Church up for well over 20. McClure also had a good game, but they weren't enough for the Church, especially 6'8 C Derrick Caracter who had a point where he scored 14 points in about 5 minutes. But the highlight of the game came when 6'7 C Taj Finger dunked on Caracter and got the foul. Eventually the Church pulled away and won by about 20. 
    The one team who performed better then I expected was the New York Ravens. They only had 6 players for most of their games, but they all played well and allowed them to win their pool. They got great guard play from Dante Chisolm and Wesley Wicks who both got to the basket and were able to draw fouls on the other team's big men. Rick Torres didn't play as well as he is capable of playing, he struggled finding his shot this weekend. The two big men, Shawn Hilliard and Chris Bethel played tremendous down low, grabbing boards and finishing in the paint. But in the semifinals after they beat Team Florida they ran into the Westchester Hawks. The Hawks just dominated this game, as the stormed out taking a 25-5 lead, and never let the Ravens get back into this one as they went on to win the game The fact that the Ravens made it to the semis is impressive considering they only had players that attend St. Ray's.  

Biggest Surprise
Lou Rodriguez, came back to the City and made a big splash. After spending the school year at Shores Christian Academy, he is now playing with the CAS Warriors. He dominated play this weekend. He scored 20 or more in every game he played except his last which was a lost in the Silver Bracket semifinals. He is looking like the same player that had everybody going crazy about him when he was a sophomore playing varsity for Rice. He did it all this weekend. The first game of the weekend, he played bad and still got 22 against the Ravens. Then came his best game, a 33 point performance against Team Texas. He showed a much improved jumper which is very consistent now, and a deadly cross that he can hit you with from anywhere on the court. He is very strong which he uses that to his advantage to finish around the basket against bigger players. I didn't see him get a clear lane so he can show off his athleticism but he has that too. He won't be going to either of the glamour camps, but he will be at Eastern during the session that ABCD is going, so he may be able to get the looks he deserves. 

Biggest Disappointment
In this category there is a tie, Emanuel "Tiki" Mayben and John Oates were equally disappointing. First I'll start of with Mayben. Mayben is a 6'2 pg with some skills. He can pass the ball very well and doesn't get flustered with the ball. But his problem is he is way to passive. It's like he has to be forced to take a shot. If he can become more aggressive he may one day be the best player in the class of 2005 but until then I just don't see it. Right now I wouldn't put him in the top 5 in the state of New York for 2005. the 6'10 C for the Washington Heights Warriors, didn't do anything this weekend. He reminds of Neil Fingleton, remember him? the 7'6 kid that went to North Carolina and couldn't even get any playing time, and is now at Holy Cross. Oates got set up a few times with nice passes and just couldn't finish the play. He has a lot to work on if he wants to be a division one player, he needs to get stronger, and work on his lateral movement.