In a Jordan Brand Classic City vs. Suburbs clash that was rife with runs, counter-runs and a knotted score at halftime, a photo finish looked to be a likely outcome.
However, a 21 point second half from 6-foot combo guard Russ Smith -with major contributions from fellow CHSAA guard Sean Johnson and inside-out threats Omari Lawrence and James Stukes- lifted the City squad over the Suburbs in a 129-120 victory.
The excitement of playing on the big stage at MSG showed early, as both teams struggled with turnovers, frigid shooting and blown dunks. Things would eventually get going in the paint, as Lawrence would provide early offense for the City and Brandon Triche would reciprocate for the Burbs, but outside shots continued to clank off the back iron. 6:40 into the first half, Smith would get the first trey of the game to fall and tie the affair at 15. The first of many first half runs would go to the Burbs, as a 6-0 charge was capped by a lay-up from PG Karon Abraham in transition. The City would retaliate, and Johnson's difficult scoop lay-up knotted the game at 21. Tamir Jackson would step up for the Burbs, while Lawrence remained in the driver's seat for the City, keeping the game close for the next four minutes. Stukes would give the City a four point lead, 33-29, but the Syracuse bound Triche kept the game honest with an NBA range three pointer. The Burbs would then ignite another mini-run, as Austin Johnson's follow up gave them a 44-35 lead, the largest of either team thus far. The fact that the City failed to convert on numerous put back attempts only worsened their plight. However, Lawrence and Stukes would again make a push for the City, and again, Johnson would be the one to cap a 10-1 run and tie it at 45 with a fast break lay-up. Lance Brown -who poured in 10 first half points for the Burbs- would send home a hard dunk and Austin Johnson would copy cat to see-saw a 5 point lead back to their team, but the City would again answer and a pair of free throws from PG Chaz Williams would give us a tie ball game at the half, 53-53.
The back and forth action of the first half, however, would prove to be short lived in the second. Burbs' Tevin Baskin would open up the half with an impressive display of athleticism, as the 6-foot-3 capped a pretty spin move with an emphatic throw down to jumpstart the crowd. The flush, however, was quickly forgotten as the Russ Smith highlight reel took center stage. The South Kent prep bound pure scorer did just what he was known for all season long, piling points on the MSG scoreboard in a plethora of ways. Smith would also play facilitator, and when he hit the St. John's bound Lawrence with an off the glass pass for an assist, the City was up 67-59, and this time slowly pulling away.
A pair of 5-0 runs gave them a momentum that the Burbs failed to match in the second half. All cylinders began to click for the City, as Stukes began to move out of the paint and show his outside touch and Williams began to attack the defense and find his teammates (despite a cold shooting performance). Once Johnson got in on the act with one of his offensive outbursts, he gave the city their largest lead of the game at 112-92, with a transition bucket.
Despite a 10-0 run from the Burbs during the half and solid play from Triche, Jackson and Abraham down the stretch, the game was already out of reach.
Russ Smith led the City Team with 27 points (with 21 coming in the second half) on a 10-17 shooting performance, while his future teammate at South Kent Prep, James Stukes, added 24 points and 5 rebounds (on 9-13 shooting). Omari Lawrence also put forth a solid effort with 25 points and 5 rebounds and Chaz Williams contributed 8 points and a game high 8 assists. Brandon Triche led the Suburbs and all scorers with 33 points (on 11-16 shooting), while Tamir Jackson added 18. Lance Brown and Karon Abraham contributed 17and 15 points for the Suburbs, respectively.
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