SOUTH JAMAICA, NY - Sunday was the last day of iS8 pool play, also known as the first day of the iS8/Nike HS Tip-Off Classic to hardcore iS8 aficionados who expect the highest level of play on the regular.
NYCHoops.net was on hand to check out three of the highly anticipated games with playoff implications.
Juice All-Stars Top New Heights (Art), 77-74; Clinch Southwest
New Heights came out swinging as Jordan Fuchs (13 points & 8 rebounds) and Diamonte Zarba (6 points) paced their squad. In addition, New Heights' head coach Artie Cox received rebounding and scoring from an improved Joey dela Rosa (12 points & 4 rebounds). Perimeter shots by sharpshooters Ian Vasquez (15 points) and Isaiah Whitehead (22 points & 5 rebounds) would keep Juice within striking range until late arrivals Da'Shawn Suber (12 points) and 6'8"Tafari Whittingham (7 points, 2 rebounds & 2 blocks) could join in. New Heights would still manage to hold on to a 19-18 lead as the second quarter started.
As New Heights decided to live or die from the perimeter, Juice began to dominate inside, especially on defense and with 4:54 left in the half, Suber knotted the game at 21. New Heights countered but three balls by Trevonn Morton (9 points) followed by another from Vasquez would spark an 8-0 Juice run, giving them a 6 point lead. PG Ethan Telfair (8 points) would extend the Juice lead to 8 points before 6'7" Chris Ortiz (16 points, 12 rebounds & 1 block) could respond for New Heights.
Ortiz would reduce New Height deficit to 39-34 as the third quarter began but a dunk by Whittingham would top off another Juice run re-extending their lead back to 10 points with 6:21 left in the quarter.
New Heights began to lose traction as they deferred to unsuccessful perimeter shots in response to Juice's pressure defense from their guard heavy squad.
Coached by Jermaine Brown, Juice's lead was 63-49 to start the fourth and even though aggressive play by Fuchs and Ortiz would cut Juice's lead to a point with 1:10, the comeback energy expended was evident in missed free-throws down the stretch. As a result, Juice (players from Abraham Lincoln HS) would hold on for the win.
NIA Prep Outscore Shooting Stars, 60-52; In the Black
In a contest that would determine who would win the Black division it would be a game that was NIA Prep's from the second quarter on.
While the Shooting Stars had the bigness with Kentan Facey, Debonair Edwards and even a seven-footer, David Whitehorne, they were un-lucky quite literally.
NIA however was Lucky. Darrel Lucky that is. The diminutive, high scoring post grad guard was quite simply unstoppable as he led his team from being down by two to being up 42-24 at the end of three with buckets and steals.
In the fourth quarter, NIA would punt their lead up to 19 points and although the Shooting Stars would get the lead down to eleven with 2 minutes left to play, they were simply life support until the game ended due to lack of sufficient guard play.
If this were an experiment, it would prove that a backcourt heavy team beats a frontcourt heavy team. Lucky was the high scorer with 23 points but also notched assists to teammates including Evander Cruz who added 13 points. Edwards was the high man for the Shooting Stars with 12 points while Facey notched 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Panthers smash Starret City, 83-56 to own the Mideast
It's always wise to never underestimate Starret City no matter who they have on their team. They are usually tough, relentless and bring a certain swagga. For the first three quarters, this was the case as Ibra Toure (22 points) and Tyler Whitehead (11 points) gave Starret City the lead for the most of the first two quarters.
With a 1:49 left in the half, a basket by Nyheem Atkins (7 points) would leave the Panthers at an eight point disadvantage. Suddenly the tide would turn as buckets by St. John's commit Amir Garrett (21 points) and Melvin Johnson (28 points including 4 3-pointers) would give the Panthers a 37-36 lead.
To Starret City's credit they would remain close to the Panthers throughout the top of the third quarter and actually regained the lead briefly. The Panthers would then take their game to another level as Malik Nichols (16 points) soon tied the game at 50 and led them on a 14-0 run to end the quarter.
Down 64-50 to begin the fourth, things went from bad to worse as the Panthers ran a train on Starret City. With 6 minutes left to play, 7'0 Kansas State bound center, Laimonas Chatkevicius (6 points), extended the Panthers lead to 20 points. They would never look back on their way to a 27 point thrashing.
The playoffs will begin on Tuesday October 4th. Stay tuned to NYCHoops.netfor updates and scheduling.