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June 16, 2014

Rumble in Bronx Championships

ARDSLEY, NY - The Rumble in the Bronx concluded on Sunday with champions crowned in 4 different divisions, and New York rose up and grabbed 3 of the 4 titles, proving once again that basketball on the AAU circuit in the state is alive and well, with some top quality teams thriving against some of the best from around the nation. Here is a recap of the day's action from House of Sports.

City Rocks Take 16U Chip

The Albany City Rocks 16u team came into the day with just 3 losses all season long, and while they did have those losses, they have led by double digits in every game they have played, but closing games out late has been the one Achilles heel according to head coach Jim Hart, and they looked to break that issue on Sunday with a championship.

It got started off on a great note as they blasted the NY Lightning 15u team that was playing up this weekend by 20 in the quarterfinals. Andrew Platek (Guilderland '16) was lethal from deep knocking down 4 threes, and the combination of Anthony Gaines (Kingston '16) and Quinton Rose (Bishop Kearney '16) on the wings proved too explosive for the young Lightning to stop.

In the semifinals they saw a Jersey City Boys Club team that surprised the NYC Jayhawks in the quarterfinals, and while beating a very stout Jayhawks team was impressive, they had nothing to contain the high powered City Rocks attack in the semis, with the Peach Jam bound squad getting off to a 27-6 start and doing lots of damage from the get go.

Dyaire Holt (Troy '16) pushed the tempo and got out open in transition, and the City Rocks interior threats of Anthony Lamb (Greece Athena '16) and Stafford Trueheart (Canisius '16) were able to have their way inside, as the lead got as great as 38 before they took their foot off the gas a bit to save some energy for the title tilt, comfortably winning their semi, 57-33.

In the championship the City Rocks would meet fellow 16u EYBL bound team the Playaz. The Playaz took down New Jersey archrivals Sports U in a back and forth contest that saw Pat Andree (Christian Brothers Academy, NJ '16) hit on. Couple of big perimeter shots late, and though Nate Pierre-Louis (St. Peter's Prep, NJ '16) and Aaron Walker (Archbishop Molloy '16) did all they could to attack the basket, the Playaz came up with all the big plays down the stretch to grab the 54-50 win.

The championship contest pitted two of the better 16u Nike teams in the nation against one another, and early in it looked like another blowout for City Rocks with Lamb controlling the paint scoring 10 first half points, while Platek buried 3 opening half threes, and Gaines had an way time of it getting to the basket. It was 31-14 for City Rocks and it looked like the title was theirs, but Juvaris Hayes (St. Anthony's, NJ '16) provided a spark that was needed with his electric speed, beating defenders, and showing no fear. Kaleb Bishop (St. Peter's Prep, NJ '16) scored 6 points late in the half to close the deficit for the Playaz to just 39-28 at the half.

Slowly but surely, the Playaz kept chipping away with Hayes proving to be the real offensive weapon scoring both inside and out. Andree was fouled on a long jumper, and after hitting a pair of FT's, it was just 43-42 for City Rocks with just under 12 to go.

Hart spoke of the troubles his squad had in maintaining big leads, and it looked like it was happening again, but this time, the City Rocks responded as Lamb tipped in a Platek miss, and then Rose went coast to coast for the dunk off a steal. The lead was pushed back to 54-48 for Albany, but the next 8 points went to the Playaz, and after Bishop scored in a short hook in the lane, they had their first lead of the game with 2:16 to go at 56-54.

Holt scored on a drive down the right side to tie the game back up, and after an Andree miss from the left corner, Lamb got the board, found Rose at midcourt, who then proceeded to go all the way for the finger roll around a pair of defenders to put City Rocks back up 58-56 with 57 seconds to go.

Bishop would tie it back up with a putback of his own miss with just over 30 seconds to go. Rose would get the ball off the inbounds and he drove the lane, and as defenders drew to him he found Lamb inside for the bucket to put City Rocks back up with 16 seconds to go.

Edward Emedoh (Hackensack, NJ '16) was the open man for the Playaz on the left baseline, and he put up the uncontested jumper, but it missed with 3.6 seconds left and Trueheart grabbed the rebounds. He was fouled, but the Playaz still had 5 fouls to give before the 1 and 1 came into play. Eventually time ran out, and City Rocks were crown 16u Rumble champs, 60-58 over the Playaz.

Lamb led City Rocks in the balanced effort with 15 points, while the MVP Rose added 11, and Platek had 10.

In the loss, Andree had a game high 21 including 4 threes, with Hayes chipping in with 13.

It was a great win for Albany City Rocks, and a win that shows Hart that his team has what it takes to compete and possibly take home a Peach Jam title.

"We were able to slip up again and give up a lead, but we responded, and going into Peach Jam that is huge," Hart admitted. "I also tell these guys that at Peach Jam you will never win a game by more than 10 points, so to pull this one out shows that we can win the close one. This was a big win and big tournament for us that I hope can lead us to a great showing at Peach Jam."

Juice All-Stars take 17U Silver title

While they lost their opening pool play game to the B.C. Eagles on Friday night, the Juice All-Stars players never got down on themselves, making it a priority to at the very least make a deep run in the Silver Bracket, and that's exactly what they did as Travis Atson (Christ the King '15) led Juice in scoring and paced the team to the Silver Bracket title, needing overtime in the championship game to take home the crown.

In their opening game on Sunday morning in the Silver quarterfinals, Juice was met by the NJ Roadrunners, who had a high powered line-up this weekend, but that didn't unnerve Juice, as they got out to the early lead, and while the Roadrunners fought back, Atson had 16 and Rashond Salnave (Cardozo '16) had 13 as they held off a late challenge for the 55-47 win.

They then had to face a very big and physical South Florida Elite team in the semifinals, but it ended up there perimeter play that almost did Juice in as Casey Southards (Boca Raton, FL '16) nailed 7 threes in the contest and finished with 23 points, and at one point in the 2nd half, South Florida held a 6 point lead, but Salnave, always fearless, bit four big FT's late, and Ezekiel Charles (Abraham Lincoln '15) buried a big three to give Juice back the lead late. Salnave and Atson each finish with 17 as they helped the Brooklyn based power pull away late for the 78-66 win and head into the final.

Waiting for Juice in the final were the Mobile Warriors from Alabama, and it would take overtime to decide this one, as the back and forth contest showed just now even these two sides were.

Joshua Hill (Faith Academy, AL '15) was strong in the paint to finish with contact, while Tamarco McDuffie (BC Rain, AL '15) was the long range threat, as a Juice 13 point first half lead was eliminated early in the 2nd half, and it was a slugfest from that point on.

Juice took a late lead, but a Cameron Grepke (Murphy, AL '15) bucket at the buzzer sent the game to OT. Salnave and Atson once again were carrying the scoring load, but when Juice needed a big shot late down 2 in the closing seconds, it was another star who came up with the big bucket.

Mobile was up 79-77 after Hill finished from just outside the paint with 8 seconds to go. Salnave pushed the ball up the floor and found Rakym Felder (Abraham Lincoln '16) on the left side. Felder let a long ball fly at the buzzer that was nothing but net and the Juice All-Stars finished strong, winning another title for coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, a title that may be his last before he moves on from the program.

Atson led Juice with 18 in the win, with Felder and Salnave each adding 15 for the victors.

Hill and McDuffie each showed up with big games with 19 points apiece, though they ended up falling just short.

Sports U wins 17u Gold

Sports U of New Jersey had an easier semifinal game against the Southern Kings of Georgia than their championship game opponents had with the Iowa Barnstormers having to fend off a tough The City squad, but in the end it all boiled down to one play late for Sports U to come out on top.

The stars shined for both team with Sports U big man Chris Silva (Roselle Catholic, NJ '15) and wing Markus McDuffie (St. Anthony's, NJ '15) each coming up with big performance after big performance to get them to this point, while the Iowa Barnstormers got a great weekend from guard Cortez Seales (North Scott, IA '15), while a pair of Northern Iowa commits in guard Spencer Haldeman (West Dubuque, IA '15) and forward Luke McDonnell (Dubuque Senior, IA '15) proved why they are Missouri Valley Conference recruits, with Haldeman especially shining with his deep range.

In the end though it came down to one play at the end of overtime, the Barnstormers were up 53-52 with 5 seconds to go. The ball was sent in to Silva who missed a short hook, but there was wing Donovan Wright (Blair Academy, NJ '15) in his first tournament back since an ankle injury, putting in the weak side rebound for a basket at the buzzer to give Sports U the 17u Gold crown with a 54-53 win.

Matt Zignorski (Pope John XXIII, NJ '15) led Sports U in scoring in the title game with 15 points, including 4 threes, while tournament MVP Silva added 12 and a large number of rebounds.

Haldeman led Iowa with 17, with Seales adding 13 in the loss as well.

The NY Rens grab the 15U title

The Rens came back from an improbable early 2nd half 19 point deficit to Wisconsin United in the 15u semifinals, but behind the interior play of Akeem White (South Shore '17), and the dynamic backcourt duo of Jose Alvarado (Christ the King '17) and Isaiah Washington (St. Raymond's '17), they were able to close the gap, and tie it late. They actually had a chance to win at to end of regulation, but White missed a contested lay up at the buzzer, and it would head to overtime tied at 60.

In the OT session it was all Rens as Alvarado and Marco Morency (Mt. Vernon '17) each buried long range shots, as they outscored their Wisconsin opponents 9-0 in the OT to take the 69-60 win.

The championship game against Sports U went almost the exact opposite to how the semifinal went. The Rens got out to a huge lead with Morency proving to be very difficult for Sports U to stop. They went up 26-6 and it looked all but done, but Sports U was far from done actually.

Midway through the 2nd half, Sports U would tie the game up at 36, but The Rens, showing the sign of a great team, overcame the adversity, and with Alvarado making all the right decisions, and Washington being a smooth finisher and an elite defender, The Rens pulled away again, taking the title 52-43 over Sports U.

Morency had 18 in the winning effort to lead the way for The Rens, with Alvarado and Washington each adding 10 as well for the champions.

Other Action From Sunday :

A key quarterfinal game saw House of Sports get to play in their home gym as they took on another local team, The City in a 17u matchup.

This was a gritty physical contest that was back and forth the whole way. Elijah Davis (IMG Academy, FL '15) would hit a shot for The City, and then Salim Green (Rye Country Day '15), who was hot all day long from behind the arc, would match him. It was a game that you felt like the last possession would decide it, and it did,

Tied at 66 in the closing seconds, Wolfgang Novogratz (Poly Prep '16) held the ball. He wanted isolation to go one on one at his man. He cleared out space down the right side, blew by his defender and threw up a running one hander at the buzzer down the wing that was nothing but net as The City pulled out one of the best game of the tournament, 68-66.

Davis, who was one of the elite scorers all weekend long, had 21 in the quarterfinal win, while Novogratz, who once again came up clutch, had 19 and proved why he is considers such a high level prospect at the 1 spot.

Green led House of Sports in the heartbreaking loss with 18, while big man Jonathan Nwankwo (Victory Prep, FL '15) and guard Rickey McGill (Spring Valley '15) each adding 11.

The NYC Jayhawks had a nice weekend for their up and coming program scoring quarterfinal berths in the 16u and 17u Gold tournaments, while the NY Lightning had to be pleased getting both their 15u team and 16u team in the 16 quarters.

Overall it was a great weekend, and a great championship day that showed that NY basketball is thriving right now, with any number of teams at any time able to come up with impressive showings, can the present and the future surely look very bright.


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