DAYTON, Tenn. - The road has ended at the National Association of Christian Athletes championships and Friday provided a number of good games that went down to the wire. Five-star guard Tyreke Evans closed out his junior year on a high note.
Evans, American Christian claw to victory
Good thing for American Christian, ugly wins are still wins. In a game that lacked any kind of fundamental basketball, the boys from Philadelphia made the most of a turnover laden, poor free throw shooting and down right ugly basketball to hold on to a 62-60 victory over National Christian from Fort Washington, Maryland.
After a quiet seven point first half, Tyreke Evans turned it up a notch offensively with 20 points that eventually helped seal the deal despite a constant comeback from National Christian.
Evans finished with 27 points on nine of 23 shooting from the floor and four of 13 from behind the three-point line. The five-star guard also grabbed nine rebounds.
Despite his good scoring numbers, it wasn't a typical scoring night for the much discussed. In fact, it wasn't a typical game period for anyone. Evans was sidelined for a short bit after he took an awkward fall after a lay up and seemed to strain his back.
He turned it up in the second half with his scoring and even though his percentages weren't where he's capable of having it, he hit some tough shots to hold back the short runs that National Christian responded with.
Evans is now finished with his junior season. He said his next stop will be the Boo Williams Invitational. Recruiting hasn't changed either. It is still the same high-major faces and still a tight race for his commitment. Connecticut assistant coach Tom Moore sat courtside to see him play while Louisville, Villanova, Memphis, Connecticut, North Carolina, Virginia, Syracuse and Texas remain hot in the hunt.
Usually efficient and down right intimidating, Michael Glover didn't have the same kind of energy that he displayed at other big national events earlier in the year. The Seton Hall bound forward put in a very quiet nine points and nine rebounds.
With Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, Connecticut assistant Tom Moore and Tennessee assistant Steve Forbes on hand, Anthony McClain was good on the glass (11 rebounds) and used his length to disrupt things (six blocks). But offensively, he wasn't very aggressive and had to be coaxed into taking more shots. He finished with a quiet six points on three of eight shooting from the floor.
David Diakite was a nice surprise for National Christian. The 6-foot-5 junior started the game with a giant dunk in the half court. Then he knocked down a 12 foot baseline jumper and then a bucket from the right elbow.
The junior finished with 12 points and showed enough to leave a good impression and leave those watching wanting a bit more.
Victory Christian of Charlotte relied on team play to win its divisional championship and claimed a hard earned 56-53 win over Veritas Christian.
Kourtnei Brown, Andre Cornelius and Eladio Espinosa were the mainstays on the offensive end of the floor and helped earn the trophy and championship banner.
Brown, an athletic and strong 6-foot-5 power forward, tried to dunk everything with power and was a workhorse down low. Cornelius used his speed to step up things on the wing and allowed the post players to work in single coverage defense.
The best prospect on the team is Espinosa, who shined again to the tune of 15 points and eight rebounds. The long 6-foot-7 power forward had to earn his buckets inside. He's been the most impressive come from nowhere guy here in Dayton.
After a so-so game on Thursday, Catalin Baciu responded well with a strong performance in the championship game. The four-star junior scored 14 points on seven of nine shooting from the floor. He missed a number of point blank shots on Thursday but his confidence was back and made the shots he should have made. He even showed a nice soft touch on a left-handed baby hook. The 7-footer also grabbed 11 rebounds in the loss and handed out four assists.
Point guard Jonathan Ellington was fiery as he was on Thursday and hit a hot streak in the second half, scoring seven straight points. The junior finished with 16 points in the defeat.
Hope Christian holds on
J.T. Thompson, a Virginia Tech signee, was just too athletic and too strong for Decatur Christian's lineup. The 6-foot-5 junior scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in the victory. Simply put, Decatur Christian didn't have an answer for him in the Hope Christian (N.C.) 50-46 win.
Kenny Gabriel, a skinny 6-foot-8 junior forward for Hope Christian, is a prospect worth charting this spring. The big man made plays and finished with a modest 10 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
Gabriel said he is has offers from East Carolina, High Point and UNC Wilmington but would like to earn an ACC offer this spring and summer. Gabriel will play for the Charlotte Royals on the AAU circuit and certainly should be a guy that coaches watch.
Lucca Staiger was the only bright spot on offense, with 15 pints. The future Iowa State guard came out with the hot hand to start the game by knocking down two of his first three attempts. Staiger has a college ready frame and the German understands how to play. He'll be best suited in a structured system in college to utilize his good passing and his confident shooting touch.
Before possibly breaking his finger, future Iowa center Beas Hamga was a presence in the post with his imposing 7-foot size. He finished with seven points and six rebounds in about a half of game's time. The big fella is taking baby steps in his progress and by the time he suits up for the Hawkeyes, he'll be a nice addition to the frontline in the Big 10 because of his defensive capabilities.