SOUTH JAMAICA, N.Y. While the iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic is in its final week of pool play, there is much anticipation in the air.
As regular league play comes to a close, the stage is being set for the one-and-done playoffs: at which time, squads are sealing their places in the tournament's final stretch, while other teams are seeing their chances of receiving a berth snatched away.
On Saturday, after two forfeits by Team Philli (2-2), there were six contests remaining on the schedule with playoff implications. As a result of the day's activities, the New York-based Rens (Juniors) wrapped up pool play at the top of the West division with a 4-0 standing. Meanwhile, the other Rens squad was X-ed out by the competition, going 1-1 during the day, and finished 2-2 in the South division.
Raising Champions (N.Y.) won its only contest of the day to earn a 3-1 standing, finishing right behind the Rens (Juniors) in the West division. On the flip-side, in West division contests, there were two New York squads that were withheld from getting out of pool play: Bunky Reid Allstars (2-2), which went .500 for the day, and B'Ballers, which remained winless in league play and fell to 0-4.
In out-of-state action, Team Delaware earned a playoff bid when they ran through the Rens in the South division and, as a result, now, hold a 3-1 standing. Meanwhile, New Jersey's NIA Prep (American) and NIA Prep (National) each finished pool play 1-3 when they were outmatched by New York squads during the day.
Let's take a look at some of the action.
The Rens (Juniors) Hold Off NIA Prep (American), 63-52
The squads stayed evenly matched from jump-ball through to the second quarter, with both the Rens (Juniors) and NIA Prep (American) holding early leads. NIA Prep led by as much as four points, when a long-range jumper by Morgan State-commit Patrick Cole made the score 24-20. However, by the end of the second phase, the Rens jumped into a mini 6-0 run, sparked by South Carolina-commit Thaddeus Hall (Thomas Jefferson (N.Y.) '12), and tied the game at 26 with 1:55 left before halftime.
The Rens went on to take the lead, as NIA Prep trailed by a deuce, 30-28, at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Rens increased their point margin to as much as nine points. However, NIA's Keith Foster and Ramon Johnson attempted to prevent the Rens from taking flight. Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound, Coastal Carolina commit, was especially instrumental deflecting lane penetration down low. The duo led their team into a small surge that allowed the New Jersey squad to come within striking distance. However, mishaps down the stretch and continued work by Hall and teammate big man Kentan Facey (Long Island Lutheran High School (N.Y.) '13) prevented the squad from officially overcoming the deficit in the fourth quarter.
The Rens' Facey finished with 15 points, while Hall netted 14 points in the win. Meanwhile, NIA Prep's Johnson and Foster, paced their squad with 18 and 15 points, respectively.
*** The Rens (Juniors) went on to defeat B'Ballers in the 11:30 a.m. matchup.
Bunky Reid Allstars Down NIA Prep (American), 81-75
In the first half, Bunky Reid seemed to be able to push back NIA Prep (American) with its high energy and quickness up and down the floor. Bunky Reid moved around well without the ball and the squad's facilitators found teammates in great spots for scoring. Despite solid attempts by NIA Prep, Bunky Reid led by as much as 11 points in the first half, 23-12.
During this time, Bunky Reid's Sheldon Hagigal (West Oaks Academy (Fla.) '12; formerly of Westbury High School (N.Y.) '12) found an impressive groove. Whatever he wanted to do with the ball he could, scoring in a number of ways: over opponents in the paint, jump-shooting from different points on the floor and making his time at the line count.
As a result, despite NIA Prep being able to cut the deficit to a two-possession game, by the heart of the third quarter, Bunky Reid elevated to a 12-point advantage, twice, in the period. The last time being with about a minute remaining when the score was, 57-45.
Springing into action in the fourth and final phase, NIA Prep, led by Keith Taylor and Gary Brun, cut Bunky Reid's advantage to only an ace, 64-63.
Still, unable to slow the drive and offensive grind of Hagigal, NIA Prep (American) slowly faded into the backdrop, as Bunky Reid led by as much as 10 points, 80-70, with about 25 seconds remaining in the contest.
Bunky Reid's Hagigal finished with an outstanding, game-high 41 points, 20 in the second half. NIA Prep's Taylor and Brun netted 19 points a piece in the squad's second loss of the day.
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