City of Palms MEGA Update
Young bucks steal the show at the nation’s toughest tourney.
by Aggrey Sam
After waking up at 4 for a 6:25 a.m. flight Friday from Philly, if I didn’t see some good ball at Fort Myers’ Bishop Verot High School, there would have been some problems. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. I saw sleepers, stars, upsets and underachievers on the second and third days of the Bank of America City of Palms Classic, before getting to work yesterday (an off day for the tourney) on the top-secret magazine assignment I’m in town to do. Once again, a big thanks to the staff at the Comfort Inn and Suites Airport. Enjoy:
Dunbar vs. American Heritage:
–Dunbar, the hometown squad, is a very intriguing team. Early on, it’s obvious that they’re athletic, quick, strong and good shooters. They have some smaller guards, about three or four players in the 6-2 to 6-5 range and a 6-10 kid on the inside.
–On the other hand, American Heritage has Kenny Boynton, arguably the best scorer in the country. And given that the Florida signee lost a tough game to John Wall’s Word of God team the day before, I wouldn’t want to be Dunbar right now.
–Boynton’s partner in the backcourt is the diminutive (5-7 if you’re lying; 5-5 if you’re being generous; 5-3 if you’re being honest) Ray Taylor, a Florida Atlantic (Mike Jarvis!) recruit. By virtue of playing with Boynton in both high school and on the AAU circuit, I’ve seen a lot of the lil’ fella’s game, and I think he’ll make a lot of high-major coaches regret recruiting him. Despite his size, he’s a pesky defender, can hit open jumpers, nobody can stay in front of him and he’s obviously used to playing with (and passing to) big-time talent.
–David Paulk stands out the most to me on Dunbar. He’s about 6-5 and built like a college football strong safety (being Florida, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a heavily recruited prospect in that sport, too), but he has a decent handle and stroke, is quick, physical, athletic and a good finisher. Only a junior, too.
–Darius Perkins is another Dunbar player with a lot of potential. At 6-2, he’s a solid ballhandler with good size for a point guard (although I see him as more of a combo at this point), but what he truly excels at is shooting the ball. Off the catch, coming off screens and especially after putting it on the floor, the sophomore has a chance to develop into a big-time player, particularly when you consider he could grow a few more inches.
–On to the game: Boynton and Taylor force some shots early, but it seems necessary, as American Heritage relies on them to create opportunities for themselves and others. Of course, there’s no 6-11 big man with 3-point range (Eloy Vargas, a freshman at Florida, played for them last year) to bail them out, either. Boynton has 11 after one.
–While the game was close at halftime, American Heritage starts pulling away in the third behind Taylor’s ridiculous playmaking and Boynton’s automatic scoring ability. Also, they have about four kids who are all 6-7 or 6-8 and have begun to assert themselves on the boards and when finishing, as well as some decent role players on the perimeter.
–Dunbar ends up losing by 20, but with only two seniors on the roster (and one in the rotation), they’ll be a force in the state this season and next year, especially as their junior center John Florevous (agile, long and athletic with some good tools, but needs strength, assertiveness and experience) continues to develop. Paulk ends up with 24 (5-7 on treys) and 13 boards and Perkins adds 23 (also 5-7 from deep) for the losers, while Boynton has 43 (on 16-28, 7-11 from long range) and Taylor chimes in with nine points, nine dimes, eight boards and two highlights–one on a textbook stop-and-go move and another on a crossover that made a kid touch earth.
Fort Myers vs. Arlington Country Day:
–Fort Myers, another hometown school, looks like a complete victim on paper and in warmups. ACD has K-State commits Wally Judge (Jake’s boy) and Rodney McGruder (both DC Assault products), a 6-9 big who can do just about anything on the court (when he wants to) and a 6-5 scoring wing, respectively–not to mention role players who would be superstars if they played for Fort Myers. That said, Fort Myers has at least one kid who looks the part in 6-10 center Joshkema Nicholas.
–Fort Myers isn’t intimidated. They’re scrappy, active and knocking down shots early. ACD, maybe suffering from a hangover after a tough loss to Philly’s Roman Catholic on the tourney’s opening day, is a bit sloppy and lax out there. Tied at 17 after one. Great fan support for Fort Myers.
–I haven’t seen McGruder, a DC product who just transferred to ACD this season, in a while. He’s gotten stronger and looks both more polished and aggressive, although his ballhandling still needs work. He’s fine in transition or an one-on-one iso situation from the wing, but breaking pressure or making too many decisions aren’t his strengths. He reminds me a little bit of my boy from college, Dave Hawkins (ironically, Hawk played for DC Assault and graduated from the school Rodney transferred from, Archbishop Carroll in DC, Lawrence Moten’s alma mater), but a better shooter and not quite as strong. He’s a pure scorer, but a straight-line driver and willing to do other things in search of a win. Destined to be a very solid player on the next level.
–Wally is a tease. At 6-9 (he might just be the 6-10 he’s listed at in the program by now) and possessing more strength than I remember, he’s super long and athletic, a good passer for his size and able to put it on the floor well enough that some people see him as a 3 down the line. He looks more comfortable shooting the ball, but I still prefer him manuevering on the baseline, high post and low block. Dominating rebounder and shot-blocker whenever he decides to do it, but that’s why he’s a tease. Nice kid, however, and a future star in college and likely pro with more polish and consistency.
–Behind Rodney’s scoring, some flashes from Wally and Fort Myers making some mistakes and missing shots, ACD is up by eight at the half. Fort Myers mounts a brief comeback, trimming the lead to as little as three, before Wally and Rodney turn it up and ACD wins by 10. Rodney ends up with 25 and 11, while Wally has 13, seven and three blocks.
Winter Park vs. Duncanville:
–Duncanville came into the season ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation (Mater Dei of Cali, also in this tourney, was also one of the consensus preseason top-two teams), as their starting five (and sixth man) of high-major Division I players (6-1 point guard and Oklahoma State signee Reger Dowell, 6-7 wing and Texas signee Shawn Williams, 6-5 combo forward and Oklahoma State signee Roger Franklin, 6-7 top junior Julian Washburn, 6-11 junior and early Baylor commit Perry Jones and 6-0 widebody junior scorer Jamison Sterns) could probably beat several college teams–at least on paper. Despite their impressive win over Lance Stephenson’s Lincoln squad on ESPN a week or so ago (Lance did drop 30+ in a losing effort, including a sick one-handed power dunk in traffic off one step), Duncanville has struggled early in the season, losing a game already.
–While Duncanville has six big-time players, Winter Park only has one: Austin Rivers (right and on home page). The son of Doc is a 6-3 combo guard and while I was impressed by the early Florida commit when I saw him on the AAU circuit, he struck me as the type of player who would fare better in a more structured, team-oriented setting. This is what we call foreshadowing, my friends.
–Rivers starts the game by skying to catch a two-handed oop off a backdoor cut. Didn’t expect that.
–Early on, Duncanville is settling for treys, while Winter Park is attacking the rim against their bigger opponents.
–One player I’ve been privately critical of since first seeing him about two years ago is Perry Jones. He has all the tools in the world (length, athleticism, great basketball body), but I’ve never really seen him do anything besides look the part. While he’s still not all the way there as far as polish or actual moves, I’ll take him simply being aggressive for now.
–Dowell, another player I’ve seen for a while (I actually saw him, his teammates Jones and Sterns, as well as Winter Park’s 6-7 junior Adam Jones, not to mention John Wall, at the same camp in the summer of ’07; time flies) and have been so-so on his perceived national status, hits a 3 at the first-quarter buzzer to put Duncanville up a point.
–Rivers is phenomenal. Extremely quick, good size for either guard spot (although he’ll be a point down the line), excellent IQ, moves well without the ball, moves his feet on D, goes hard to the rack and finishes, beautiful stroke, tight handle, nice athleticism, fearless mentality and constantly hustling out there. And only a sophomore. Think Stephen Curry with more hops, but not the automatic stroke. The kid is fun to watch.
–Dowell and Shawn Williams begin to heat up for Duncanville. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t that big on Dowell, but he’s doing a great job in this one. He’s being assertive and showing that he can be a solid four-year guy in the Big 12. I love it when kids prove me wrong.
–Adam Jones from Winter Park has some nice tools. He can run the floor, he’s long and athletic, he’s willing to battle against bigger guys, he has some nice moves on the baseline and a decent touch. As he continues to develop those wing skills, he could end up being a solid high-major combo forward by his senior year (he’s a junior now), but I’d like him even more as an upper-level mid-major power forward.
–Isaac Turner and Robert Lovaglio from Winter Park aren’t bad, either. Both juniors, Turner might be the quickest kid on the court and what Lovaglio doesn’t have in size, speed or athleticism, he makes up for in savvy.
–Winter Park’s patience (as opposed to Duncanville forcing the issue) leads to a 35-32 halftime lead.
–Behind Rivers scoring 13 points in less than five minutes, Winter Park goes up eight midway through the third. Duncanville calls timeout. I smell upset and so does the crowd, as they pull for the in-state school.
–Dowell is third Duncanville defender to try to slow down Rivers, after Washburn and Williams also tried. Austin must have learned something from his big brother Jeremiah (now sitting out at Indiana after transferring) when he was at Georgetown about backdoor cuts because even without the ball in his hands, he’s killing Duncanville.
–Jamison Sterns, aka the human bowling ball, is willing Duncanville to stay within striking distance by bullying buckets. Sterns is a ridiculous athlete for a kid of his physique (let’s just say he’s rather round), but he’s also tough, highly skilled off the dribble and is one of the few Duncanville players not settling for jumpers.
–Winter Park’s Turner starts to turn the game into his own personal layup line, as he continually leaks out in transition and beats the D for easy buckets. He’s obviously not the most heralded player on the court, but he looks like the fastest.
–Winter Park, led by Rivers’ 26, ends up taking it, 69-64.
Olympia vs. Westchester:
–Olympia, one of the best teams in Florida, has four seniors who have signed with Division I schools. One in particular, Dexter Fields (headed to UAB), was one of my favorite players I saw on the circuit last year. With his strength, athleticism and shot-making ability, the 6-3 Fields will be a big-time scorer in C-USA. Overall, the team has great size and experience.
–Westchester, is a national power out of L.A. (alma mater of Amir Johnson, Trevor Ariza and Hassan Adams, among others) and while this isn’t their most talented team, they also boast excellent size, depth and several solid young prospects.
–Early on, both teams played hard (copyright R. Wallace) and as I expected, they match up against each other very well. There’s a lot of defense and outright good basketball on the court. Good to see. Also, Olympia’s Jamel Marshall is a man on the inside.
–Olympia’s William Green, a Western Kentucky signee, is his team’s sixth man, but may be the best college prospect on the court. Green is long and athletic, about 6-7, has an excellent motor, good touch on the inside and shows signs of possibly developing into a wing on the next level.
–On the other side, Westchester’s Jordin Mayes also looks like a player. A 6-2 junior, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Mayes, but had never seen him play in person. The kid isn’t quite a point, but makes good decisions with the ball, is very smooth and has a beautiful stroke. With more strength and a year playing the 1 after diminutive senior starter Dominique O’Conner graduates, I see him as a player ready to do damage in the Pac-10 or wherever he ends up.
–Speaking of O’Conner, he’s extremely quick, a capable shooter and has the fearless mentality all 5-8 kids need to be successful. Behind his decision-making and brass, Westchester is only down three at the half, despite Olympia outplaying them.
–Westchester junior Dwayne Polee, a 6-7 USC commit, is finally using his pogo-stick hops to make an impact. A highly-touted prospect from his ninth-grade year (when he committed), Polee is a fantastic athlete who understands how to play, but doesn’t have a well-rounded skillset just yet. However, just by asserting himself, he’s able to make things happen. Think of him as a poor (maybe homeless is a better description) man’s Julian Wright.
–An unbelievable steal and trey at the end of third quarter by Mayes puts Westchester up by nine. I like how the slender Mayes is willing to battle on the inside, too.
–Westchester’s big-game experience is showing, as they don’t panic, don’t turn the ball over and make free throws when they count. Olympia stays close, however, and a Fields trey with 11 seconds left makes it a two-point game. Olympia has a chance to tie it with a three at the buzzer, but misses. O’Conner led Westchester with 21 in the 69-66 win, while Fields dropped 20 for Olympia.
Mater Dei vs. Fayette County:
–The gym is packed for this game, probably because fans thought they’d be watching Lance Stephenson’s Lincoln team play against UNC recruit Leslie McDonald and Briarcrest Christian out of Memphis. Unfortunately, the New Yorkers’ flight got delayed, so this game, originally scheduled to be the finale of the evening, gets switched.
–While Fayette County is a top team in Georgia and features a big-time player in 6-7 scorer Noel Johnson, a USC commit, they don’t have the ammunition to battle Mater Dei, currently the nation’s No. 1 team.
–Mater Dei features a starting lineup of 6-3 junior point guard Gary Franklin (an early USC commit; Tim Floyd is getting it done, isn’t he?), 6-5 junior shooting guard Tyler Lamb (above right; an early UCLA commit), 6-8 senior and Stanford signee Andy Brown and the 6-10 Wear twins, David and Travis, both headed to North Carolina. Johnson, a slender wing, is Fayette County’s tallest player.
–Since this game was a blowout from the start, I’ll make this quick: Tyler Lamb is the real deal. He’s not a freakish athlete as far as pure hops, but he’s more than competent and great at maneuvering in mid-air. He still needs to add strength, but he uses his size well and seems to understands angles. Those are the negatives. Lamb is a knockdown shooter, an excellent and unselfish passer, terrific in both transition and the halfcourt, defends with intensity and has an aggressive, slashing mentality. This was my first time watching Lamb (like Mayes, I heard a lot about him, but had never seen him play), and I must say I was thoroughly impressed.
–Fayette County’s Maurice Williams and Malcolm Brogdon, both sophomore wings with good size, have bright futures.
Briarcrest vs. Lincoln:
–On paper, this is another excellent matchup, as both teams are defending state champs, have highly-touted wing prospects (Stephenson and McDonald), solid 6-7 post players (Lincoln’s James Padgett, a Maryland recruit and George Mason signee Johnny Williams of Briarcrest) and underrated point guards (my man Darwin “Buddha” Ellis from Lincoln and Briarcrest’s Gregg Wooten).
–Lincoln arrived to the gym during the second half of the previous game, but Lance showed no ill effects after the early going. He’s playing the passing lanes, locking in on McDonald and running the floor hard. “Born Ready” is playing with maximum effort (or close to it) on both ends and when that happens, he’s damn near unstoppable.
–I didn’t see much of Leslie McDonald, Briarcrest’s star, last summer, but my sources in Memphis inform me that after somewhat of a lull in his game after his junior season, he’s back to the old Leslie. Unfortunately, matched up against Lance, that’s hard to see. Leslie, is a well-built 6-5, but Lance has a pro body right now and with his aggressiveness on both ends, Leslie isn’t having an easy time. Still, he is noticeably stronger and as always, smooth with the rock in his hands.
–Briarcrest is struggling with Lincoln’s pressure, but is still within a point after a quarter because they’re hitting shots and Lincoln isn’t.
–Although Padgett is going to the ACC and Williams is going to the CAA, you wouldn’t know it tonight. Williams has a tremendous motor, is extremely physical and has a nice 15-footer on the baseline. While observers have always knocked him for being undersized, him and Padgett look to be about the same height.
–Watching Lance go to work in the post is fun to watch, especially when he goes up against bigger players. If his strength doesn’t overwhelm them, then his quickness does. The thing that makes him so hard to defend, in my opinion, is that he’s so big and fast, that when he goes in one direction, defenders have to commit and even when they do, he can overpower them. If they somehow aren’t muscled out of the way, then he can change directions on a dime and if they’re quick enough to stick with his counter-move, he has outstanding range on his much-improved J. Then, throw in the fact that he’s extremely creative with the ball. Matchup nightmare.
–Lincoln’s helter-skelter style of play puts the Railsplitters (loved that nickname since I first read The Last Shot) up 10 at the break. Williams is Briarcrest’s saving grace right now.
–When Lance takes a breather in the third, Leslie starts to do his thing. His own ability to overpower opponents, pull-up game, athleticism and high IQ are on full display, as Briarcrest cuts the lead to six.
–Buddha, at only 5-8, is Lincoln’s second most-important player, in my opinion. The kid has been through the fire (no pun intended), is pretty reliable with the ball and makes big shots. He’s obviously limited by height, but a low-major Division I coach or a high-level juco could do a whole lot worse than him.
–Lance, back in the game, has cooled off and is showing frustration. Then comes a beautiful sequence where Lance gets an and-one tip-in, followed by Leslie with an open court spin move and pull-up trey. Shortly after, however, Leslie fouls out, and it’s all academic after that. Lance finishes with 37 in the double-digit win.
On Saturday, I skipped some of the early games (I did catch the end of another Winter Park upset, over Westchester in the first quarterfinal game; Austin Rivers dropped 30), but I was there for most of the main events. By the way, Wally Judge is a cool kid.
St. Patrick vs. Word of God:
–Word of God is the team John Wall, ranked by many as the top player in the country, plays for. I first saw Wall before all the hype started, after his sophomore year in high school, and the same things everybody loves about his game now–his game-changing speed, playmaking ability and unbelievable athleticism–were also evident back then. I arrived at the tourney too late to catch his first game, reportedly a classic battle with fellow top prospect Kenny Boynton, so I was looking forward to this one, against St. Pat’s, always one of the best teams in the country. Unfortunately, UNC-bound senior Dexter Strickland, another top guard (not to mention junior transfer Kyrie Irving, who is out until January because of Jersey state rules) is sitting out this one for St. Pat’s, due to a school-related infraction.
–Sophomore sensation Mike Gilchrist (right) of St. Pat’s might be my favorite player in this tourney, as well as the nation. There’s nothing he does that I don’t like, starting with his approach to the game. As one scout notes, he does everything with a purpose. At a rail-thin 6-7, he looks like a player, but it’s his intangibles–high IQ, defensive mentality, leadership, plays incredibly hard and team-oriented approach–that set him apart.
–Speaking of the devil, Gilchrist opens the game with a dunk. Shortly thereafter, he gets a steal, makes an outlet pass, runs the floor to rebound a teammate’s miss and gets an and-one. Special player.
–Gilchrist isn’t matching up with any slouch, either. NC State commit CJ Leslie, a 6-9 junior, is one of the top athletes in the country. He proves this early on with a huge follow-up dunk. Later, he gets a rebound and takes it coast to coast for a one-hand bang from outside the lane. This might be a good one.
–Without Strickland playing, Gilchrist senses he has to step up offensively and finishes with 12 in the first quarter, leading St. Pat’s to a 23-12 lead after one.
–Wall’s first highlight is a full-court push that ends up becoming a monster lefty dunk. His speed is incredible. I’d like to see him and Derrick Rose, who he’s compared to most often, in a footrace, with and without a ball. It’s too early to say what kind of pro he’ll be (and he will be a pro), but I see an All-Star Skills Competition in his future.
–Gilchrist just makes plays. A huge pin block and an outlet pass for an assist. Running the floor in transition and catching it as a trailer, then making a touch pass for an assist. Pressuring CJ, a good ballhandler for his size, to death when he attempted to face him up. Special.
–Wall hits his man with a double crossover, then makes a tough fadeaway. His J has improved, especially from inside the arc. Then he pressures a St. Pat’s guard into picking up the ball and calling a timeout, before screaming out, “Hey, let’s play man!” When he plays with that type of intensity–especially on the defensive end–consistently, the sky’s the limit.
–After the timeout, Wall has a pretty drive and spin for a short pull-up. Gilchrist, thinking they’re playing H-O-R-S-E, comes back with the same exact move.
–Derrick Gordon, a less heralded sophomore for St. Pat’s, is very solid for a youngster. A 6-2 guard, Gordon seems to get every loose ball (most impressive was his save while leaping over the scorer’s table, then hustling back to get a layup after a teammate made a steal), finishes strong and makes open mid-range jumpers.
–Wall is too quick for the refs. One of the zebras can’t get out of his way in time, leading to a turnover. The crowd didn’t like that one.
–Gilchrist does a small hop on his free throws, but he makes them. Interesting.
–After Word of God cuts the deficit to five, Gilchrist scores the last four points of the half to send St. Pat’s into the break up 38-29. He has 20.
–CJ has about four goaltending calls already. I admire his effort, but you have to let some of those shots go. He picks up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and ends up fouling out.
–Wall makes a ridiculous move you just had to see to believe. After splitting two defenders, he splits two more by making a 360 layup. This was all done at full speed.
–Word of God sophomore guard Bishop Daniels (great name, right?) is more highly touted, but I like his classmate and teammate Dezmine Wells more in this one. At 6-4, he’s undersized to play in the post, but he’s a strong rebounder and finisher, as well as having decent ball skills.
–Wall picks up his fourth foul on a charge, leaving the fans unhappy. In fairness to the refs, there have been a lot of bad calls against both teams.
–St. Pat’s is in complete control now and coasts to a 77-69 win by executing and making free throws down the stretch, a theme among the more experienced teams in this event. Gilchrist ends up with 30 and 14 and Gordon has 27 in a breakout game, while Wall drops 21 and CJ has 20 and eight.
Lincoln vs. Wheeler:
–Wheeler, one of Georgia’s (and the nation’s) best team on an annual basis, features two ACC recruits in the frontcourt, 6-7 Wake Forest-bound wing Ari Stewart and 6-8 NC State signee Richard Howell. The two couldn’t be more different. Stewart is a slender, bouncy athlete with range on his J, while Howell is a mostly ground-bound widebody who can bang, as well as put it on the floor and pass extremely well for his size.
–Lance starts off the scoring, with his freight-train style, but he doesn’t seem to be as motivated for this game as he was for his matchup with McDonald, a high-profile player who plays his position.
–Lincoln senior Anthony Allen, a 6-2 guard, is a classic city scorer who drives strong and hits tough shots. He makes an early impact. Bet on him being a solid player at a small Division I school or possibly raising his stock by going the prep school or juco route and re-surfacing at a mid-major.
–Howell is fun to watch. I wasn’t that high on him early in his career, as he tried to force things that he wasn’t necessarily capable of doing, but he seems to have found his niche as a high-low threat who can do some nice things with the rock in his hands.
–Stewart, who didn’t seem to be the toughest player in the past, is getting a lot done on the inside by out-jumping and out-quicking Lincoln’s interior players for offensive boards and tough buckets. Combined with his outside shooting ability, he’s a tough matchup for the Railsplitters.
–After leading through a quarter, Lincoln falls behind and trails Wheeler by nine at the break.
–While Lance has his moments, he hasn’t been a consistent performer. Allen, along with Buddha, have been keeping Lincoln in the game, especially as Lance sits for a long stretch.
–Wheeler guards Tahj Tate, a 6-3 senior, and Phil Taylor, a 5-9 junior, are doing their thing. Both are slicing through the D for layups and Tate in particular is putting on a show with his explosive athleticism. He seems to handle the ball well enough to be a combo on the next level, plays solid D and can keep the defense honest from deep. Taylor is more of a scoring point than a true playmaker, but Howell is such a good passer for a big man that he doesn’t need to be Wheeler’s only distributor, especially with his shooting ability.
–Wheeler really pulls away at the end, as Lincoln’s effort lags. They win it, 101-84, led by Taylor’s 26 and seven dimes, Tate’s 24, Stewart’s 25 and nine and Howell’s 16 and 12. Lance has 26 in the loss, while Buddha chips is with 16 (including four treys) and six dimes.
Mater Dei vs. Roman Catholic:
–Being that I lived in Philly from ’99 until January, I’m very familiar with Roman. In fact, I just wrote about their star, Villanova-bound point guard Maalik Wayns, for the magazine. They’re always one of the best teams in Philly and in the Northeast, but playing against a team with the size of Mater Dei, their four-guard starting lineup looked to be overmatched–at least on paper.
–Mater Dei came out hitting early, keyed by Andy Brown and Gary Franklin. A Franklin oop to David Wear (thank goodness for rosters; they are truly identical, in appearance and game) caps a 28-10 Mater Dei first quarter.
–Brown is the type of player who I think could be much better in college than he is in high school. Playing for Johnny Dawkins at Stanford (I’ve only seen them play on TV briefly this season, but he looks to be running a Duke-type system; makes sense, as he played for and coached under Coach K), he’ll have the chance to be in a system that suits his game. At 6-8, he can handle the rock, shoot it and score on the inside. Think of a less talented Kyle Singler.
–Roman goes on a run, led by Wayns. A tough drive in traffic, followed by a long outlet pass to 5-10 junior Rakeem Brookins for a layup, then a rebound and nice dish to athletic 6-7 senior Koron Reed for a dunk and another tough finish shows why I think he’s the best true point guard (Wall is a scoring point) in the nation. 6-8 junior Anthony Mayo comes off the bench to make a couple of big blocks, then Brookins (a poor man’s AJ Abrams from Texas) goes on his own run with two treys, a pull-up J and a floater.
–Roman has cut the lead in half and trails 41-32 at the break. Mater Dei looks as shellshocked by their speed as Roman looked by the Cali’s team size at the outset.
–6-3 junior Kevin Regan, a star football player who’s the team’s glue guy, hits a trey to cut it to five early in the third, then Brookins cuts it to two with a deep ball of his own before Wayns ties it on a strong layup. Reed makes a layup off a dime from Wayns to tie it. Wow.
–I’ve seen Brookins play since he was a freshman and I really liked how he’s developed. He’ll never be a big (as in super strong) dude, but he plays tough, is ridiculously quick, a knockdown shooter, plays tough D, has improved his ballhandling enough that he can play at least some point and is fearless. He’ll be a steal for a top level mid-major program in a year.
–Mater Dei battles back to go up five after three quarters, then Roman ties it again at 58 with six minutes left. Mater Dei goes on a 7-0 run before Regan hits two treys, sandwiched around a free throw to tie it again.
–More see-saw action in the last two minutes leads to a tie game at 70 with 23.2 seconds to go and Mater Dei ball. Unfortunately, the refs took the game out of the players’ hands by calling a foul on Brookins with 5.5 seconds left. Lamb nails two free throws and Mater Dei wins, 72-70. I probably sound biased, but I think even the Mater Dei players would have liked the game to go to OT. Lamb’s 19 and David Wear’s 18 and eight led Mater Dei, while Brookins led Roman with 27 and Wayns had 20 and nine dimes in the loss. Best game of the tourney so far.
Sunday was an off day for the tourney, but yours truly was still hard at work, on a top-secret mission for the mag. Give it a few months and you’ll see the fruit of my labors. Shout out to Kelly Kline, Stretch and Brian. Stay tuned for my recap of yesterday’s semis and tonight’s chip, if you have the energy after reading all that.