PATTERSON, NJ - It was playoff time at the 16u Playaz Spring Fling on Sunday with the quarterfinals getting underway early in the morning.
New York was represented by a couple of teams from the same program, with Team Scan's 16's and 15's both winning their pools and making the quarters, but both were in with tough spots, and the question remained, could either break through and bring NY an important early season title.
With 2 Peach Jam spots up for grabs for the 2 teams that made the championship, the level of play was high. Add in the fact that coaches from St. John's, Seton Hall, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio State, Villanova, and Temple among others were on hand, and the pressure and intensity was on even more.
Team Scan 15's got the locals started off with their 16u quarterfinal against CIA Bounce. It was a tight game early on with Scan looking good against the pressure that the Canadian squad through at them. Temple Gibbs, the highly thought of freshman from Seton Hall Prep (NJ) did a nice job of creating spaces for his shots, as they fell in the name of 12 first half points. Unique McLean, a 6'0" freshman out of the Hoosac School in Upstate NY also did a good job penetrating the lanes, and using their speed to their advantage. It was tied at 31 all at the half and still any bodies game.
Things deteriorated rather quickly though for Scan in the 2nd half. They seemed to settle for perimeter shots more, and even though Bounce wasn't a big team, they were proving to be more aggressive at the rim as the game wore on. Another reason why Scan struggled was 6'4" Findlay Prep sophomore Jalen Poyser. He was a scoring machine both taking the ball inside, and pulling up and hitting the quick stop and pop jumper. He had 20 of his game high 26 points as CIA Bounce was able to outscored Scan 15's 41-21 in the 2nd half to coast for the 72-52 win.
Gibbs led Scan 15's with 18" with McLean adding 15. Both though showed that even against older, more experienced competition, that they can compete on the highest level.
With 1 of the 2 NY teams knocked out, it was Team Scan's main 16u team that was now our areas lone hope. They got off to a great start too against Boo Williams from Virginia. They came in with the clear game plan to feed Bishop Kearney's Thomas Bryant and let the game play him. It worked to perfection as Bryant was a beast around the rim, showing an array of post moves to show why he is so highly thought of among college coaches. He was also able to kick the ball out to St. Andrew's (PI) swingman Chancellor Ellis, who was knocking down catch and shoot threes early with regularity. Scan was up by as many as 13 in the first half, but good things don't always last.
Bryant came down hard on his ankle with 2:30 to go in the opening half with Scan up 7. His impact on both ends of the floor was truly felt when he had to come out with the injury. The lanes to get to the basket for Boo were much more available with 6'5" Middlesburg Academy (VA) sophomore Brandon Alston and promising 5'11" 8th grade phenom Cliff Coleman able to take advantage and drive to the rim with authority. Even though Scam held a 33-28 at the half, you could sense without Bryant, that the tides were changing.
It really came unglued early in the 2nd half when Coleman nailed back to back threes, and then Alston and 6'6" Scott Spencer hit lo range bombs. Boo Williams hit 6 threes on the 3rd as Scan's zone was just not as effective as it had been on prior games. Bryant was able to come back in the game with 10 minutes to go and he did stem the tide somewhat, but the shots just couldn't stop falling for the Virginia based squad. It wasn't until Scan started pressing late in the game that they started causing Boo turnovers. Ellis, and Long Island Lutheran 5'9" guard Chris Atkinson each bit threes, and when OSNA 6'7" big man Kassoum Yakwe converted on a putback with 8 seconds to the game was tied at 57. Bryant though, unaware of the situation, fouled Cape Henry Collegiate (VA) guard Malik Gray right away, sending him to the line for 2 shots. Gray hit both and while Scan got off a decent look, it fell short and Boo Williams send Scan home in the quarters, 59-57.
Ellis led with 19 points with Atkinson, Yakwe, and Bryant each adding 10 points each for Scan, while Alston led Boo Williams with 16.
That was it for the New York teams with both being eliminated in the quarters. It was a tough finish to what looked to be a pros king day going in.
The championship of the 16u Spring Fling ended up being played between King James Shooting Stars (Ohio) and Team Fast (Oregon). With their respect semifinal wins, both qualified for the 16u Nike Peach Jam in July.
In the title game, King James just looked too deep and too good with 6'5" Franklin (OH) swingman Luke Kennard doing damage from the perimeter, showing the range and skill set that have so many high major schools wanting him. V.J. King, a 6'6" forward out of St. Vincent-St. Mary (OH), was a true force inside, putting back almost any miss that came his way. 6'0" freshman point guard from West Linn (OR) Payton Pritchard of Team Fast, have been the biggest surprise in the tournament, really making a name for himself as a dangerous scoring floor general who has speed and strength do be a future high major commit.
It was a 42-35 King James lead at the half, but Kennard had huge 2nd half, scoring 16 of his 26 late to help King James pull away for the 93-77 win, and the title of 16u Playaz Spring Fling champions.
King also added 12 for King James, and Pritchard who had 32 and 24 points in the quarters and semis respectively, had a respectable 20.
It was a great tournament with an extreme high level of talent from all over the country, and whole the NY teams may not have gotten as far as they would have liked, they did with Team Scan and the NY Lightning, show that the talent is still shining through for our top local AAU programs.