Big Apple Basketball HS Invitational
Tobias Harris and Jayvaughn Pinkston clash for the Empire State’s top spot.
by Franklyn Calle
Martin Luther King Weekend is a paramount weekend in the world of high school basketball. In Springfield, Massachusetts, probably the most high profile tournament during the high school season takes place in the Hoophall Classic. But the atmosphere in New York City isn’t that far off thanks to Jason Curry and his Big Apple Basketball staff. The BAB High School Invitational has drawn a long list of blue chip prospects in its seven years of existence. The likes of Michael Beasley, Jonny Flynn, Tyreke Evans, Jeremy Tyler, Brandon Knight, Lance Stephenson, Devin Ebanks, Kemba Walker and Brandon Triche are a few in the long roster of talent that have taken part in this midtown showdown.
This year was no different as college coaches and fans packed the Baruch College gymnasium to full capacity once again. Rising stars such as Academy of the New Church’s junior Rakeem Christmas (ranked top five nationally), Syracuse bound-Dion Waiters, Georgia Tech recruit Jason Morris, UConn commit Maurice Harkless, Villanova-bound Achraf Yacoubou headlined the event.
But the 2010 Big Apple Basketball High School Invitational will be remembered for last Monday’s primetime game.
Aside from these high profile athletes was the marque matchup of Tennessee commit Tobias Harris and Villanova bound Jayvaughn Pinkston. They are the top two players in the state of New York– order varies depending on who you ask. Around the city, Pinkston of Bishop Loughlin HS is the top player. If you ask those in Long Island and then suburbs then you’ll more than likely get Harris of Half Hallows Hills West as the answer. The long anticipated battle turned out to be a classic, but still left many disputing over who really is the top player in the state. This was NY’s version of the NBA’s LeBron Vs. Kobe. The stakes were high and the whole city was watching.
From the very tip-off, spectators were galvanizing for both forwards to go at it head-to-head. Each time either one touched the ball while being guarded by the other, roars and chants would come from the stands. It’s safe to say that a good amount of the crowd was from Brooklyn and on Pinkston’s side. The first quarter didn’t really see much of the scoring coming from the Pinkston-Harris matchup. Instead it was the younger Harris, Tobias‘ brother Tyler, who seemed to be pumped and ready to go to war for his brother. The 6-7 junior got the game started with a 3-pointer and would eventually finish the first period with 10 points. Along side was 5-9 guard Tavon Sledge who seemed too quick for everyone else on the floor to keep up with. The former St. Benedict’s guard has little trouble slashing defenders on his way to the basket.
It was in the second quarter when the match-up everyone came to see really got underway. Pinkston began to take the ball to the hole and at the same time sent some of Hills West’s players straight to the bench with foul trouble. The 6-6 forward does a good job recognizing mismatches and physically just can’t be matched. Pinkston’s teammate Branden Frazier, who doesn’t get as much credit for Loughlin’s success as he probably should, demonstrated his perimeter shooting skills as well as versatility. The 6-3 Brooklyn native is arguably the deadliest shooter in NYC’s 2010 class. Heading to the locker rooms the score was knotted at 34 apiece. Pinkston led all scorer’s with 14 points while Harris had a quiet four. For Hills West, Sledge had a team-high 12 points while the younger Harris, Tyler, contributed 11 points.
Tobias came out in the 3rd quarter looking to cause damage. And he did. His seven 3rd quarter points helped Hills West take a 54-47 lead heading to the fourth. A 3-pointer by Tobias over Pinkston with 5:46 remaining gave the Long Island school its biggest lead of the night at 62-49. And just when it seemed that Tobias and company had the momentum and were on their way to a W, Pinkston answers back by once again punishing defenders at the rim and leads Loughlin into a 16-4 run which cuts HHH West’s lead to one at 66-65 with about a minute-and-a-half to go in regulation. The very final basket of Loughlin’s run led to controversy as Pinkston drew a foul from Tobias while finishing at the hole. According to the official book the foul was Tobias‘ fifth. But after a discussion between the officials, the call was overruled and he was charged with his fourth, allowing Tobias to remain in the game. The Brooklyn school coaching staff completely disagreed and so did many in the stands. A couple of free throws put Hills West up by three, 68-65, with 18 seconds remaining. Loughlin looked for a quick three but weren’t able to connect. However, they would grab the offensive rebound which eventually ended up in Pinkston’s hands at the top of the key. The future Wildcat sinked the tying 3-pointer before the sound of the buzzer, sending the game to overtime and causing pandemonium throughout the gym.
All tied up at 64 each heading into overtime, the Pinkston-Harris matchup was expected to go up a notch. That was until Harris officially fouled out with 2:45 remaining on a charge as he attacked the baseline. Both teams traded baskets and with the score 72- all, Sledge stepped up and made the difference. With less than 30 seconds to go, the junior guard continued to show his ability to get to the basket and finish over bigger guys with a lay up in traffic followed by a free throw, putting Hills West up by three, 75-72. As the clock winded down, Loughlin was unable to get the ball to Pinkston and a desperation shot by junior guard Kareem Canty missed to seal the win for Harris and Half Hollows Hills West HS.
Harris came away with the team victory, while Pinkston clearly walked off with the better personal performance after finishing with 34 points and 14 rebounds compared to Harris’ 19 points and seven rebounds. For Hills West, Tyler Harris, who is receiving interest from Big East, ACC and Atlantic-10 schools, finished with a team-high 24 points. But the MVP award went to Sledge after his 21 points performance which included the winning baskets. Frazier added 16 points for Loughlin.
So who is New York’s top player?
The debate seemed to carry itself out the building as the crowd filed out. Instead of solving the debate, the game seemed to have left everyone craving for a part two. Something that can very well occur come March, but this time with much bigger stakes up for grabs.
Wings Academy (Bronx) 87
Peekskill (NY) 63
MVP-Krystian Foriest (Wings)- 18 pts
Sportsmanship- Daquan Brickhouse (Peekskill)- 17 pts
Winchendon (MA) 84
Impact Academy (NV) 53
MVP-Eric Ferguson (Winchendon)- 18 pts
Sportsmanship- Joys De La Rosa (Impact)- 18 pts
Cardozo (Queens) 66
St. Raymond (Bronx) 57
MVP – Ryan Rhomes (Benjamin Cardozo)- 14 pts
Sportsmanship – Nkeruwem Okoro (St. Raymond)- 19 pts
Boys and Girls (Bklyn) 53
L.I. Lutheran (L.I.) 40
MVP – Antoine Slaughter (Boys and Girls)- 18 pts
Sportsmanship – Hart Gliedman (Long Island Lutheran)- 16 pts
L.I. Lutheran (L.I.) 60
Forest Hills (Queens) 49
MVP – Achraf Yacoubou (L.I. Lutheran)- 19 pts & 13 rebs
Sportsmanship – Nicholas Padgett (Forest Hills)- 16 pts & 4stls
Academy of the New Church (PA) 85
Impact Academy (NV) 70
MVP – Savon Goodman (New Church)- 32 pts & 12 rebs
Sportsmanship – Omar Grier (Impact)- 26 pts
Life Center Academy (NJ) 72
Hotchkiss (CT) 54
MVP - LaQuinton Ross (Life Center Academy) – 25 pts,13 rebs
Sportsmanship – Jason Morris (Hotchkiss)- 22 pts 5 asts
Plymouth Whitemarsh (PA) 63
St. Raymond (Bronx) 54
MVP – CJ Aiken (Plymouth Whitemarsh)- 12 pts & 13 rebs
Sportsmanship – Devin Brooks (St. Raymond) – 20 pts & 9 rebs