Rumble in the Bronx Championships
ARDSLEY, NY- Championship Day at the Rumble in the Bronx is always one of the more anticipated days of the AAU season around New York City as you get some of the top programs from up and down the Northeast coming together to try and take regional supremacy.
Sunday proved to be a great day of competition on each of the 17u, 16u, and 15u levels, and even though each of the three championship games featured a New York representative, only one was ultimately able to come through and pull out the win in the big game.
It was still a great day of action for the New York teams overall, and with NYCHoops.net in attendance throughout, let's now take a look at how things played out with a recap of the day's action.
EXPRESSIONS EYBL PUT EARLY RISERS TO SLEEP
If the day was to belong to any one team in the division you have to say it was all about the Early Risers. A solid team comprised of kids from the Section 9 region, head coach Bobby Rahn always has his team prepared, but they almost didn't have the chance to shock the Rumble on Sunday.
After a late loss on Saturday night in pool play, three teams were tied at 2-1 in their pool with the Early Risers ultimately advancing to the Gold Playoffs off the point differential tiebreaker by just 1 point.
They did advance through to the Quarterfinals where they played CT-PHD. It was a game where the Early Risers would grab a double-digit lead quickly, but lose nearly all of it by the half where they only led by one. The second half started poorly then as well as they would trail by as many as 5 with just over 12 minutes to play.
Not wanting to go out that way though, Marquis Johnson (Pine Bush '18) would become more aggressive defensively, and he along with Brandon Powell (Pine Bush '18) would push the Early Risers on a 14-3 run to put them back in control. The game would again get within 4 late on a pair of three balls, but the Early Risers did enough to take a 64-58 win.
That would move them onto the Semifinals where they would face off with a team that was considered the favorite coming into the weekend in the City Rocks EYBL team. Loaded with the likes of Isaiah Stewart (McQuaid Jesuit '19), Jeenathan Williams (University Prep '18), and Joe Girard (Glens Falls '18) meant that on paper this was heavily leaning the way of a City Rocks win, but that's why they play the games.
It was a low scoring opening half as the Early Risers did a good job of creating enough pressure on the ball to cause City Rocks mistakes. If the Early Risers could've taken advantage more they could've possibly held a bigger lead going into the break, but with only Anthony Iglesia (McQuaid Jesuit '18) doing much offensively for City Rocks, it was EYBL team that found themselves down 22-20 at the half.
There was still little worry among most watching thinking that when the time came to turn it on that City Rocks would do what was needed to get the win, and even with Williams pushing it up and down and finishing around the rim to the tune of 18 second half points, it was still the Early Risers that maintained control for much of the game.
Leading for nearly the entire game, the Early Risers were able to work the ball around offensively, getting good looks from Zaahir Woody (Ketchum '18) to help keep them in front, while doing a good job in doubling Stewart inside and not letting the size beat them.
City Rocks would tie the game up at 47 late, but Powell would drain a straightaway three ball to put them back in front by 3. Buddy Boeheim (Jamesville-DeWitt '18) would get fouled and connect on 2 FT's, and then after a turnover by the Early Risers it was the chance that the Nike power needed. A feed inside though slipped through Stewart's hands, and then Johnson got the loss ball, got it up the court to Chris Wright (Kingston '18) who finished with a dunk with just over 2 seconds to go.
Only time for one last shot, the ball came to Boeheim at the right wing where he got off a good look, but it wasn't good meaning that the Early Risers would shock the Rumble in the Bronx, downing the City Rocks EYBL in the semi's 52-49.
Onto the Championship Game went the Early Risers where they would take on Expressions Elite EYBL from Massachusetts. Beating one EYBL team was impressive, but beating two in one day would be too much to ask as the Early Risers fell behind early, and while they never allowed the game to get out of hand, they never got the game to within single digits in the second half.
Johnson brought his best game though and was solid all tournament long, while Powell was a shining star was well, but it was Expressions EYBL that would prove to be too much in the end, taking home the title by defeating the darlings of the Rumble in the Early Risers, 83-62.
EXPRESSIONS TAKES DOWN CITY ROCKS
While we didn't get the City Rocks vs. Expressions matchup for the title in the 17u Division, that is exactly what we got in the 16u Division as the two EYBL powers matched up with the hardware on the line.
Expressions got to the title game with a relatively easy Semifinal win over the I-10 Celtics 62-44. I-10, a California based team coached by former a New Yorker in Paul Suber, was in front for a good portion of the opening half, but didn't maintain it into the second half as they wilted late and allowed Expressions to comfortably roll down the stretch for the victory.
It wasn't that easy for City Rocks though as they took on the NY Lightning (Select). A game that was truly the definition of a dogfight, neither team led by more than 5 points at any point in the game, with the biggest lead coming when the Lightning took a 49-44 lead after a massive throw down by Justin Champagnie (Bishop Loughlin '19).
Right back though came City Rocks as Noah Hutchins (The Park School '19) began to take matters into his own hands was a couple of nice drives to the rim, and when the pressure came up to him he would find the dangerous August Mahoney (Albany Academy '19) from long range where he connected on 6 in total for the game.
Both teams would have their chances down towards the end of regulation, but both teams missed shots that could've given them the lead, meaning this one would need OT to settle things, going into the extra session tied at 58.
City Rocks would take the first lead of the OT when Symir Torrence (Syracuse Academy of Science '19) would hit on a floater in the lane, but that would soon be followed up with a Lightning bucket.
A turnover on a bad pass allowed the Lightning the chance to hold the ball for the final shot, but instead they put up a three from the left wing with 30 seconds left that went off the iron. City Rocks got the rebound, held for one shot, and Hutchins made his way into the lane where he was fouled with 3 seconds remaining. He hit both FT's and the Lightning never got off a final shot as Julian Champagnie (Bishop Loughlin '19) lost his balance near midcourt just before he was able to put up his shot, allowing City Rocks to move on with a 62-60 win.
It seemed like City Rocks had all the momentum after that hard-fought victory, and the came out extremely strong and focused against Expressions, building up a 44-37 lead at the half, and pushing it up to as big as a 54-41 lead with just over 11 minutes to go before things started to get away from them.
Credit has to go to Expressions as they really pressured and created a good number of mistakes, and with the long ball not falling for Mahoney like it was in the semi's, and Hutchins and Torrence not able to finish in the lane like they had been for the entire tournament until this point, the Massachusetts EYBL power capitalized.
Dyondre Dominguez (Tolman, RI '19) was a lanky and versatile weapon throughout, and with Aireus Raspberry (Cranston East, RI '19) able to get out in transition and finish, Expressions began to slowly chip away, and when Joe Pridgen (Winchendon School, MA '19) was able to put back a miss inside, Expression had their first lead of the second half at 69-68 with 1:24 to play.
After getting a fantastic game down low from Jake Cook (Shaker '19), and getting great play throughout on the wing from Jair Currie (Green Tech '19), it seemed as if City Rocks just ran out of gas as after pulling ahead in the final 90 seconds, Expressions pushed it from there from the FT line as they wouldn't be denied, taking down City Rocks 78-71 for the 16u Championship.
NY GAUCHOS GAVE STAMFORD PEACE NO CHANCE
It all really boiled down to a Quarterfinal game at 8am between the NY Gauchos and the NY Rens to determine a champion. Up by as many as 14 with less than 5 minutes to go, the Rens looked to be in firm control, but playing tough inside, and making timely shots in the closing minute allowed the Gauchos to fight all the way back and rally to shock the Rens, 75-74.
From there it seemed like destiny that the Gauchos were to win the Rumble in the 15u Division. The Semifinal would pit the Gauchos against another local team in the Scholar Athletes of Long Island, and while the proved to be a solid team, especially in the paint with Bryce Harris (Brentwood '20) able to do good things around the rim, and when he stretched out, the guard play for the Gauchos was too much for them to handle.
Da'Marco Watson (St. Raymond's '20) and Jalen Smith (Cardinal Hayes '20) combined to score 24 first half points for the Gauchos to see them open up a 14-point lead, and while Scholar Athletes did good things, especially when Donte Walker (Innovation Charter '20) was able to showcase his athleticism in the open floor, the Gauchos were just too much.
Jake Tavroff (Oceanside '20) was a solid weapon in the paint for the Gauchos as well as they would move on with an 82-68 win.
In the Championship, the Gauchos would square off with Stamford Peace out of Connecticut, and while the first two games on Sunday proved to be competitive challenges, this one was all Gauchos from the very start.
The Gauchos went up 10-0 quickly, and never led by less than 10 again for the rest of the game. They built up a 17-point lead at the half, and with Smith, Watson, and Chris Robinson (Westminster, CT '20) controlling the pace of play, 10 Gaucho players would score as Jaheim Young (Bishop Loughlin '19) was another major contributor along the way, helping lead the NYC team to a 69-42 victory, and the 15u Rumble in the Bronx title.