A New Philly-NY Rivalry
Villa Holiday Classic pits top NYC high schools against Philly’s best.
Rice (Harlem) vs. Penn Wood (Lansdowne, PA)
Diggy Simmons, Rev Run’s son and new 15-year-old rapper, performed before this game. That was…cool? He looks like he’s 10, but, yes, apparently he sure does appeal to those high school ladies who were ready to burst into tears when Diggy ran on to the court.
Once that was over though, the game I was most interested in commenced. This match-up featured two Big East recruits: Rice’s Jermaine Sanders who will be in a Cincinnati uniform next year, and West Virginia-bound Aaron Brown of Penn Wood High. Both 6-5. Both 205 pounds. Both covered each other. Both didn’t disappoint.
Brown, Penn Wood’s MVP, was definitely the player of the game, and maybe the tournament, with 31 points (off 11-26 shooting), 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. He also went 5-9 from beyond. At the end of first quarter, the teams were tied at 11, with Brown contributing ten of those including a dunk instantly after the tip-off was swatted to him.
Sanders wasn’t far behind though, as he had posted 7 of his team’s first 11 and finished with a team-high 19 points. Still, he didn’t take home the MVP, which went to 6-3 junior Melvin Johnson who keyed the second half rout Rice poured on Penn Wood.
Johnson had two three-balls and two separate stretches of five straight points in the third quarter to stretch Rice’s five-point halftime lead to 15, only to extend it to 18 with his third trey on Rice’s first possession of the fourth. From that point on, Penn Wood’s D completely shut down. Brown did all he could in the fourth, hitting three long-balls on three straight possessions to bring Penn Wood within 14, but it wasn’t enough. Final score: Rice 69, Penn Wood 54.
New York 3, Philly 0…Hm.
Also, during halftime of this game, Tyga performed which is a pretty big hook-up for Villa I must say. And if I thought the girls loved Diggy, man… then this was a sight. Dude’s three bodyguards weren’t farther than three feet from Tyga the entire time as they pushed off females left and right who were trying everything to hug and tackle the rapper. Pretty hilarious scene I must say.
Christ the King (Queens) vs. Neumann-Goretti (Philly)
It’s a shame that most of the Palestra had cleared out by the time the final game started as they missed out on easily the best game of the day between the two cities’ Catholic League Champions.
But, as most of the people left, many of Neumann-Goretti’s parents saddled up behind me and were certainly a prideful bunch, as they should be. Neumann-Goretti finished second in the entire country last year, behind Yates (TX), but lost four seniors to DI coming into this year. Still, the way these N-G fans were talking about their bunch reminded me of parents from Texas high school football movies.
As the game started, it looked as if New York was going to sweep this tourney early and easily. Christ the King jumped out to leads of 10-2 and 27-16, the ladder coming off a three-ball by Christ’s Omar Calhoun. Calhoun, a 6-5 junior, touched the ball on almost every possession he was in, as he should have, finishing with 31 points. But Neumann-Goretti’s senior guard Lamin Fulton took matters into his own hand at that point when he nailed three straight long balls on as many possessions to bring his squad within two before halftime.
The game remained tight the entire second half, but with 20 seconds left and Christ the King up 55-52, Calhoun missed two crucial three throws which gave N-G the opportunity for a quick layup and foul. TJ Curry only converted one from the stripe to extend the lead to two, which Fulton tied up with two free throws of his own after he was fouled. Curry would miss at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Calhoun would take over the game in OT, scoring seven and redeeming himself by hitting all three of his FT attempts, but still N-G wouldn’t go away after a six-point deficit with under two minutes left. While Calhoun handled his business at the line, the rest of his team went 5-10 down the stretch which allowed N-G to keep pulling closer. With 20 seconds left and Neumann-Goretti down 68-64, Ja’Quan Newton would hit a quick lay up, only to have teammate Derrick Stewart steal the inbound pass and pass it to 5-8 guard Billy Shank, who was literally wide open under the basket. Shank would miss the easy lay-up to tie the game, and later missed a full-court heave at the buzzer which gave Christ the King the 69-66 victory. A truly great high school basketball game which saw Fulton and Calhoun take home MVP trophies.
New York 4, Philly 0. Damn.
Whatever. You can have your Villa Classic, New York. I’ll take the NFC East and Cliff Lee.