ST. ALBANS, NY - The 'More Than A Game' Invitational, which features returning high school student-athletes, held its opening day of the tournament Monday night, as three games took place on the asphalt of St. Albans Park, located at the corner of Merrick Blvd. and Sayres Ave.
Although the last contest was stopped in the second half, the matchups did not disappoint with players exhibiting strong skill sets and relentless fire.
Let's take a look at the recaps.
CARDOZO OUTLAST REDHAWKS, 61-46
The game took a while to get off the ground, as both squads played very tight defense. The Redhawks were able to keep the matchup close, only trailing Cardozo by three points, 9-6, two minutes into the first half. A steal and a lay-in in transition by Tareq Coburn ('16) pushed the Judges ahead by six points, 12-6. But, Matt Newton (Queens H.S. of Teaching (N.Y.) '15) sank 2-of-2 from the charity stripe to cut the deficit to four.
The contest kept dancing along a four-point margin until a deflection by floor general Elijah McNeely ('15), a steal by Rashond Salnave and a 1-of-2 performance at the free throw line by Salnave sparked a small run by Cardozo. The sequence that put the Judges up by five points, 17-12, at the 2:52 mark of the stanza extended into a 7-2 mini surge that gave Cardozo a 10-point advantage, 24-14, by halftime.
Not looking to go away that easily, Redhawks' Malachi Jamison (Holy Cross (N.Y.) '16) drained a deep 3-pointer to abruptly help narrow the differential to six points, 24-18, at the 14:50 mark of the second half. Cardozo's Amir Tutt ('16) immediately answered with a deuce, but the Redhawks cut it again to six points, 26-20.
With the contributions of Tutt, the Judges were ahead by 11 points, 31-20, by the 11:30 mark. Still, Redhawks' Travis Raynor (Springfield (N.Y.) '15) helped his team to come within five points, 33-28, at the 9:32 mark of the period.
After making it a two-possession game, the Redhawks inflicted a nice pressure defense, oftentimes doubling the Cardozo ball-handler. However, the Judges were able to break the press with quick passes and by moving well without the ball. Paced by Coburn, Cardozo was able to climb to a 14-point advantage, 42-28, with about five minutes left in the matchup.
With time not on their side, initiated by Jeremy Thompson (Campus Magnet (N.Y.) '15 ), the Redhawks began to show off an impressive perimeter game, draining consecutive 3-pointers to pull the contest within eight points, 42-34. However, Salnave mirrored the deep jumpers, sinking his own trey with ease and putting the Judges back up by double digits, 45-34, at the 4:36 mark of the half.
Despite the hard work in the paint by Armando Dunn ('15) in the ensuing minutes, Thompson, Raynor and the rest of the Redhawks sawed down the substantial deficit to just four points, 50-46, with only 2:31 left in the game.
In the final two minutes, McNeely and Salnave staged an aggressive 11-0 run, which included McNeely completing the conventional three-point play after securing an acrobatic bucket and Salnave draining two 3-pointers.
Cardozo's Salnave led all scorers with 18 points, while Dunn posted 14 points. Teammate Tutt netted eight points. Redhawks' Raynor had a team-high 13 points, while Jamison added eight points in the loss. Teammate Eduardo Morgan ('15) had seven and Thompson and Newton each recorded six.
ALMIGHTY FORCE REBELS BLOW OUT POSITIVE DIRECTION, 63-47
Almighty Force Rebels did not give the competition time to warm up, as the feisty bunch placed its collective foot on the gas and jumped ahead of Positive Direction (Gold), leading by 14 points after nine minutes of game time. The 2-of-2 performance from the charity stripe by Almighty Force's Matt Berry made the score 22-8.
Almighty Force held a 17-point advantage, 33-16, by halftime. Berry already recorded 15 points in the stanza en route to a game-high 21 points.
A dunk by Berry increased Almighty Force's lead to 20 points, 40-20, by the 13:03 mark of the second stanza. Ultimately, Almighty Force led by as much as 23 points, 52-29, five minutes later.
Almighty Force Rebels' Ian Howard and June Lord netted seven points each. Positive Direction's Joel Boyce (Springfield Gardens (N.Y.) '16) had 16 points in the loss.
BELLO v. CARDOZO
Bello seemed to have the solution to the riddle Benjamin Cardozo posed for much of the first half. 'Bello led by as much as eight points, 14-6, with 8:21 left in the first half. A sharp, net-cutting lay-in by Elijah McNeely and a lay-up by Rashond Salnave tied the matchup at 14.
A trick shot by Salnave gave Cardozo the advantage, 16-14. Later, after a crossover and successful buttery floater by Salnave drew the foul, the completion of the play at the stripe extended the Judges' lead to seven points, 23-16.
Bello trailed Cardozo, 27-17, at halftime. At the break, Salnave had 14 points, while teammate Tareq Coburn posted six points. Bello's Tracey Cleckley had seven points, while Yashawn Bright added six points.
In the second stanza, the Judges were leading by 16 points, 35-19, at the 12:48 mark. Bello's Bright had chipped down the deficit to 13 points, 36-23, with about 11 minutes left in the game. However, due to the tournament director's decision, the matchup was cut short.