BRONX, NY - It was only fitting that the two Uptown teams would face off in the championship round of Nike's Battle of the Boroughs tournament.
After all, the game was taking place in Gauchos Gym in The Bronx.
Both Harlem and The Bronx were coming off hard fought come-from-behind victories in the previous round. Both teams were stocked with the best players, not only from their respective boroughs, but from the city period. The stands, if possible, were even more packed than they were during the 1st round. The stage was set for an Uptown clash of the titans in which Harlem would prevail 84-70.
Despite overcoming a 19-point deficit to beat the defending champs from Queens, The Bronx squad showed no signs of fatigue in the first. In fact, The Bronx thrived in transition against Harlem in the first, forcing turnovers and pushing the tempo. While Harlem's star player Kyle Anderson got off to another slow start, The Bronx capitalized and ended the 1st quarter up 18-13.
"I think fatigue kicked in", admitted Anderson about Harlem's lackluster start. "These are long games on [an official size] court so I think it played a little part in it."
Much of the same took place in the second quarter, as The Bronx continued to score on fastbreaks. Chris McCullough, who led The Bronx with 11 points against Brooklyn earlier, had 8 points in the first half, all of which came in the 2nd quarter. The lead stretched to 8 for the Bronx but that was short lived, as Anderson started to sizzle.
After only hitting a 3 in the 1st quarter, Anderson started to look to score more, dropping 7 points in the 2nd quarter. "I wasn't really thinking about it", admitted Anderson about his stepping it up after a slow start. "I felt like I needed to score more to overcome the deficit."
The Harlem squad went into the half only down 4 but would close the 3rd quarter up 12 and never look back. Anderson took over in the 3rd quarter. Inside, outside, getting to the line, and finding his teammates, Anderson did it all and The Bronx had absolutely no answer for him. "Kyle just took us to another level [in the second half]", exclaimed Harlem's coach, Kimani Young. "He's awesome. That's the only word I can use to describe him."
Suddenly, The Bronx couldn't score in transition like they were in the 1st half. Harlem started controlling the ball better while their 6'7" big man Chris Hooper took care of the offensive glass.
The combination prevented The Bronx from getting out in the open floor and allowed Harlem to build that double-digit lead. "Coming off that emotional victory in the first game, I knew it'd be tough to match that intensity in the beginning", explained Young. "We just had to keep it close." But they did more than keep it close. They turned the game right around.
Anderson led all scorers with 27 points and took the MVP trophy home. Hooper chipped in with 16 points and provided the interior presence needed offensively for Harlem. "We have a couple of guys that know what to do", said Anderson after the game. "We always play in packed crowds so we knew what to do and that's why we got the win." McCullough led the way for The Bronx with 17 points.
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