The Challenge had a 22 point statement win over the T-Mac All Stars earlier in the morning, but had little if anything left in the tank for the surging Indiana Elite team.
Emmanuel Negedu paced the winners with 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting. Two of those misses were from behind the arc, but he did make both his free throws. Negedu got his share of points on transition dunks and put back dunks, but he also threw in a couple skill plays. On one possession, he took the ball into the middle from the left wing and scored with a jump hook. On another possession, he posted hard in the midpost on the right side of the court, faced his man up and then blew right by him on the baseline for a dunk. Negedu also added 9 rebounds and a steal.
An undersized, but authoritative finisher, Negedu isn't going to hand out a lot of assists, but he also played both the semifinal and final without committing a turnover. The bottom line is that he plays bigger than his size, and although somewhat limited skill wise, he makes positive plays and avoids negative plays.
Tyler Zeller prepped for his outstanding championship game by scoring 10 points on 5 of 5 shooting and grabbing 8 rebounds, blocking a shot and going without a turnover. In his last two games of the tournament, Zeller went 13 of 14 from the field and 7 of 7 from the line.
DeAndre Liggins showed some scoring pop with 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting. He also had a couple rebounds and assists.
Beas Hamga played huge on the inside, blocking 6 shots and grabbing 6 rebounds. He also scored 7 points on 3 of 6 shooting and 1 of 2 shooting from the line.
Lewis Jackson is awful small and has a suspect jumper, but he certainly played efficient basketball in the final two games of the day. Against the Challenge he scored 8 points on 2 of 2 shooting and 4 of 4 shooting from the line. He also handed out 5 assists to 2 turnovers. Over the last two games, he had an assist/turnover ratio of 5 to 1.
Andrew Steele deserves credit for going down fighting as the leader of the Challenge. In fact when Corey Smith was quit guarding the ball with 40 seconds left in the game, it was Steele who encouraged him to pressure the ball and compete to the finish. Steele didn't have one of his best days from the field, but he grinded his way to a game high 16 points on 5 of 15 shooting and 5 of 5 shooting from the line. He also had 3 rebounds, 2 steals, a block, 2 assists and 3 turnovers.
Jamychal Green simply looked exhausted in this match up after having some spectacular games for the Challenge. In the semifinals, however, he only mustered up 8 points on 4 of 10 shooting and had 2 rebounds, 2 steals and a block without a turnover.
Corey Smith led his squad with 8 rebounds and also scored 8 points on 4 of 7 shooting.
Nick Williams struggled fro the field, scoring 9 points on 4 of 12 shooting. He also grabbed a rebound and had 2 assists.
Observations and notes
-J'Covan Brown was at the forefront of a T-Mac meltdown in a sweet 16 game against the Alabama Challenge. Frustrated by the intense and physical defense of Andrew Steele and perceived missed calls by the refs, Brown did his best to get thrown out of the game and was successful. All of this took place in front of the eyes of Kentucky head coach Billie Gillispie. According to Brown's high school coach Kentucky, Florida and Texas are the top three schools in the hunt for brown. But you have to wonder if Brown has enough talent to outweigh his baggage.
-Mac Irving Fire won the Gold Division with an undefeated record throughout the event. Leading the charge was skilled point guard Jeremiah Kelly. In the one game Rivals.com caught him in action, he was outstanding. He scored 24 points against 2D1 Basketball Academy, hitting 5 of 6 three pointers. Some of those threes came off the catch and the others on pull ups off the high ball screen.
With a 2008 class almost completely barren of quality team oriented point guards, it was refreshing to watch Kelly run the show for his team. He was a vocal leader and did a fine job distributing the ball when he wasn't scoring.
Kelly told Rivals.com that he is getting interest from DePaul (offer), Valparaiso (offer), Florida State (offer), North Carolina and Georgia Tech among others.
-Alaskan 6-foot-9 post man Damen Bell-Holter stood out for 2D1 Basketball Academy, scoring 24 points on post moves, dunks and 15-footers. Not the most athletic player, but Bell-Holter is large, poised with the ball and skilled.
Washington State and Gonzaga have made their way to Alaska to see him and Arizona, Georgetown and UC-Santa Barbara are also interested according to Bell-Holter.
-Playing with Bell-Holter is a fine looking 2009 prospect Victor Rudd. At 6-foot-8, Rudd loves to shoot the three ball and has athleticism in the paint. His ball handling has a ways to go, but he can shoot it and is effective around the basket.
-Speaking of 2009 prospects, Royce White of Howard Pulley was one of the best young prospects at the event. At 6-foot-7, White can do a little bit of everything everywhere on the court, from knocking down threes, to hitting runners in the mid-range, to getting rebounds in traffic.
-2011 already? Rivals.com spotted three eighth graders playing in the 17-under whose names are worth jotting down for future reference. Laquinton Ross has the athletic small forward game at 6-foot-8 that makes you wonder if he might not be the best prospect in the class. Also impressive was Ramon Eaton of PHPS travel team. A 6-foot-4 lefty, Eaton shows a lot of promise as a wing player. Although he didn't play in the game we watched, the word is that Mac Irving Fire's Mike Shaw is going to be quite good as well.