NEW YORK, NY - The Smartball Classic culminated Friday night in Harlem with the championship game between Bishop Loughlin and South Shore. Two Brooklyn programs who are expecting to do big things this year. South Shore was in control for most of the game, but Loughlin made a late charge, and the game went to overtime, with the Lions taking the title over the Vikings, 72-69.
The game looked like it might be one sided early in as Mike Williams, Loughlin's star guard who is bound for Rutgers, was late, and with Khadeen Carrington on a family vacation, the prospect of both of them being absent would've most likely been too much to overcome.
Luckily, Williams did show up early in the first quarter, and he entered with 2:19 left in the opening quarter, but the Lions were already down 11-4 with South Shore lefty shooter Devyn Wilson doing most of the damage with 9 in the 1st. While Williams was missing early on, Javian Delacruz kept Loughlin in the game with a pair of threes from the corner, but the Vikings looked more confident offensively, especially on the perimeter, as they grabbed a 14-9 less after 1.
Loughlin started to push the tempo and beat South Shore in transition in the 2nd, and behind 6 points in the quarter from Williams, they were able to cut the deficit to just one at 18-17. It seemed like the Lions were starting to grab momentum, but that was until Wilson, who at 6'2" isn't known for his aerial game, threw down a one handed lefty thunderous slam over Lions 6'8" big man A.J. Vernon. That got the crowd up out of their seats, and got all the momentum back on the side of South Shore. Donnell Clayton would step up and bang home a three, and Doudmy Saint Hilaire was ultra aggressive attacking the rim as the Vikings closing the half strong to take a 32-24 lead on Bishop Loughlin at the break.
South Shore started the 3rd just as strong as they closed the 2nd as well, going up by as many as 14 early in the 3rd quarter, but Williams willed Loughlin back into it with harassing pressure defense, and his ability to score at will going in, scoring 9 points in the last 3:50 of the quarter too cut what was once a 14 point South Shore lead, down to 49-45 after 3.
The Lions kept having chance to get it even closer, but just what you thought they might tie or take the lead, South Shore, or more specifically Hilaire, would come up with a big bucket. It was 60-55 in favor of South Shore with 3 minutes to go, and the Vikings had the ball, things were looking good, but right at that point, the press by Loughlin, which hasn't been very effective for most of the game, stared to really make a difference.
A pair of bad passes caused South Shore to turn the ball over, and Vernon, who offensively had been quiet for much of the night, came alive, hitting on back to back putbacks to tighten the game back up. His buckets started a Loughlin 10-0 run that saw the Lions take there first lead of the game, as they were up 5 with under a minute to play.
Wilson got fouled on the drive for South Shore, and he hit both to make it 65-62. South Shore applied some pressure of their own, and forced a turnover, which led to a tough Nick Simeon three ball with 18 seconds left to tie it at 65.
Loughlin held for one shot, and Delacruz took the ball inside and got fouled with 5.6 to go. The South Shore fans in the crowd, which seemed to outweigh the Loughlin fans, seemed relegated to the fact it was over, but Delacruz missed both FT's. South Shore didn't get off a good shot in the closing seconds, and a 3 minute overtime would have to decide this one with the teams knotted at 65 after regulation.
Williams would open up the scoring in the OT session with a nice drive along the right wing to give Loughlin the lead. Not to be outdone, Wilson went on to score the next 4 from the charity stripe to put South Shore back in front with 1:15 to go. Delacruz would get fouled attacking inside, but he only made 1 of 2 from the line with 35 seconds to go. South Shore had the ball and a 69-68 lead. The Lions would have to foul. They didn't foul immediately though, instead choosing to double the ball, and Williams came up with a phenomenal steal from behind. He then found a cutting Darius James at the rim for an easy bucket to give Loughlin the lead back at 70-69.
The Vikings held the ball and looked for a good shot to try and retake the lead in the closing seconds. The look they ended up taking though was a Simeon three from the wing. He missed and Williams got the rebound and was fouled immediately with 1.1 left. He calmly sank both FT's, and Hilaire missed a long heave at the buzzer to give Bishop Loughlin the 2013 Smartball Classic championship, taking down defending champion South Shore in overtime, 72-69.
Williams and Delacruz each had 20 to lead the Lions, while Wilson and Hilaire paced the Vikings with 21 a piece in defeat.
It was a great championship win for Loughlin, their 2nd as a team this August, especially since they did it without the services of Carrington, something Williams said made his game even more important.
"With Khadeen away on vacation, we all had to come together and step up our games against a really good South Shore team. I had a to take a bigger leadership role as well, so to accomplish this means a lot," Williams said after the win.
What it means going forward is up for debate, a preseason tournament doesn't necessarily reflect how good a team will be come February, but according to Williams, it sure does make a statement.
"We were a real good team last year, and we wanted to show teams that we are just as good if not better now. I hope this shows that we can give anyone a game and compete with anyone in the city."