BRONX, NY - The King of New York Classic continued play on Saturday. Friday's games consisted of comebacks and down-to-the-wire finishes.
Saturday's games seemed to be dominated by the officials, rather than the players. Questionable calls caused a few tempers flaring both on the team benches as well as in the stands. Nonetheless, Gauchos Gymnasium in Bronx, NY was still the place to be for great AAU basketball.
Long Island Lightning (White) vs. Juice All-Stars
All eyes were on St. John's commit Jevon Thomas, a junior guard from Our Savior New American - including the referees'. Thomas picked up 3 ticky tack fouls early in the first half which saw him on the bench for the majority of the game. And after picking up his fourth foul early in the 2nd half, Thomas was done for the evening. Luckily, the Juice All-Stars were loaded with talent. Wings Academy sophomore Justin Jenkins seemed to find his way to the basket with ease. "Justin Jenkins is the biggest sleeper in the city. Print that", exclaimed Juice All-Stars' coach. He along with Ethan Telfair provided the All-Stars with a strong backcourt tandem and a 10-point lead at halftime.
Juice All-Stars would build a lead as large as 15 in the second half. Then, the referees got involved. A missed call made the Juice All-Stars' coach furious. Surprisingly, he was thrown out of the game after just one technical foul. "I went a little overboard", admits the Juice All-Stars coach Casey Smith. "[But] The Juice All-Stars and Lightning Dingle are the two best teams in the city. You have to compensate that with good officials." That seemed to be a turning point in the game as the Lightning would chop their deficit to 5. The technical fouls would continue after the Long Island Lightning Dingle layup trimmed the lead to 3. He too would be T'd up for growling after the bucket.
Juice All-Stars would not lose the lead though. "They had the momentum at the time", admitted Jenkins. "All we had to do is slow them down and keep them where we wanted them." Jenkins was big for them down the stretch, scoring 6 big buckets in the second half. "Key to this victory was just playing basketball and slowing down the tempo." They did just that and pulled away with a 72-63 victory. Jenkins finished the game with 11 points.
Tafari Whittingham was the game's leading scorer with 15 points for the Juice All-Stars.
New Jersey Gym Ratz vs. Long Island Lightning (Nick)
The New Jersey Gym Ratz had something to prove - to their selves. After getting blown out by the Brooklyn Ballers in their first game of the tournament, the Gym Ratz would not allow another loss against their record.
Sharp shooting guard Tommy Rivera played as if this game was personal. He drained his first 2 3's of the game, and scored the first 8 points for the Gym Ratz. However, despite a strong first half from Rivera, The Lightning would close the half on a 6-0 run including a buzzer beater to put them up 37-28.
Rivera would continue his domination in the 2nd half though. The Lightning would see their lead diminish as they failed to find an answer for Rivera. Whether nailing it from downtown or penetrating the middle, Rivera showed a variety of ways to score. "He has the ability to [take over games]", stated Donald Osman. "I said today we need somebody to be a consistent leader. It doesn't have to be scoring. It can be everything and he did everything." After a baseline jumper from Wesley Dickinson, The Gym Ratz had taken their first lead of the 2nd half. In the first 5 minutes of the half, the Gym Ratz had outscored the Lightning 21-10. A see-saw battle would ensue soon after as both teams traded basket for basket down the stretch. Trailing by 1 with 2 minutes to play, Rivera came up big again, nailing his 4th 3 of the game, putting the Gym Ratz up for good. "We weren't trying to lose this game", stated Rivera, who finished with 22 points in the Gym Ratz 80-72 win. "I'm just here to win and have fun with my team."
Coach Osman stated that the difference between the game against the B.C. Eagles and this one was a pride. "Tonight was about playing a whole game and playing with effort the whole time", stated coach Osman. "No matter how upset I was [about losing earlier], they came out and showed that they can play."
In the championship round:
The Gauchos 17U and 16U team won the championship. The 16U squad defeated the NY Panthers, 56-48, while the 17U team topped the Juice All-Stars, 83-72. Dayshon Smith was 16U MVP with Dakari Johnson voted Most Outstanding Player. In the 17U, Muhammad Ahmed (JFK) won the game MVP and Melvin Johnson won series MVP.