Very few high school recruits have an opportunity to play with a future collegiate teammate months before their scheduled to touch down at their school of choice.
St. John's-bound D'Angelo Harrison got that chance on Saturday, as he joined Real Scout and future Red Storm teammates Maurice Harkless and Jakarr Sampson for the iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic semifinals.
"D'Angelo actually called me, he paid for his own ticket," said Real Scout head coach Nate Blue. "He was extremely excited to come out here and have a chance to play with his future teammates."
"I was very surprised at how well he adjusted to the atmosphere," Blue added. "Growing up in Houston and playing in Houston, he got a glimpse of what its going to be like playing in New York City for the next four years. . ."
And that he did.
While Harkless' minutes were limited to rest his ankle, Harrison became the determining factor in Real Scout's 84-78 hard-fought victory over the tenacious New Jersey Playaz Club (Seniors). Although he had not played a single game with the team for Real Scout throughout the span of regular pool play and the prior two playoffs games, Harrison gelled with Sampson and company and led his team with 24 points.
Real Scout led early in the first quarter, with the Playaz (Seniors) trying to match the offensive intensity that Real Scout's Sampson (18 points) and teammate Max Hooper (11 points) were generating. New Jersey took the lead at about the 3:11 mark of the primary period, but the game was tied once by Sampson at 14 and again at 16 by Harrison before the close of the quarter.
"I love Jakarr - he's a freak athlete," said Harrison. "He blocks everything, he dunks everything, hits some mid-range jumpshots, made most of his free throws - I like that."
There started to be a widening point disparity in the second quarter, as Real Scout shot off to an early 5-0 run to lead the competition 21-16. New Jersey's Charles Oliver (14 points) brought the game within two points, 21-19, when he knocked down a 3-pointer. However, Harkless and Harrison aided in increasing the point differential to nine points, 28-19, after using the baseline to score on back-to-back possessions.
Myles Mack tried to carry the Playaz on his back with point production and facilitation, but his work was not consistently backed by his squad. His 17 first-half points en route to a game-high 25-point performance would not be enough to bring the Playaz back. In fact, on the completion of a three-point play by Sampson, Real Scout was up by 10 points, 31-21, with 3:50 remaining in the second quarter.
"Myles Mack is one of the best players," said Blue. "I don't understand why he's always rated so low and looked at as not a great player. He does a lot of great things on the basketball court besides score."
"Today, we tried to keep as much pressure on him, but he still killed us," added Blue. I've been a fan of Myles since he was at Patterson Catholic. Even if I lost, I would still say that Myles is one of the best players in this tournament."
Later, Mack was able to cut the deficit to five points, 37-32, after going on his own mini 5-0 run. But, Hooper sprang back into action, getting fouled at the 3-point line and draining all three at the stripe to push the Playaz away.
Real Scout led 42-35 at halftime.
Playaz tied the game at 44 in the third phase and even took a brief two-point lead, 46-44. Still, a silky trey by Harrison regained the advantage for Real Scout. Playaz' Jabril Trawick (15 points) would tie the game at 49 shortly thereafter.
Although Mack and company were trying to stay in the game, Real Scout's pressure and offensive heat forced many turnovers that were capitalized on by the New York squad. The bottom line was that Real Scout seemed to have an endless supply of consistent scoring options on deck while New Jersey Playaz only had Mack and Trawick putting in work.
At the 7:10 mark of the fourth quarter, the teams were knotted at 64. However, with almost two minutes left in the game, Real Scout was leading by nine points, 80-71.
Mack led the charge in the final two minutes. And, a 3-pointer by teammate Dawon Lighty (six points), Playaz was within four points, 80-76, with 57 seconds left in the game.
Fans of both teams probably held their breath in the final seconds of regulation as the game point margin narrowed and the pressure raised. Seeming to feel that pressure, on the next Real Scout possession, Harrison lost his dribble and Sampson recovered the ball as he stepped in the backcourt.
The turnover allowed Trawick to chop the deficit to a deuce, 80-78.
Real Scout's Tavon Sledge (10 points), who was relatively quiet during the game due to the defensive pressure of Mack and Oliver, missed the front-end of a one-and-one at the 33-second mark. This gave New Jersey the opportunity to tie the game and, possibly, take the lead. But, Mack lost his dribble and Real Scout took possession.
Harrison was fouled and coolly sank both to lift Real Scout to a two-possession advantage, 82-78 with 12 seconds left in the game. The points at the stripe sealed the game for Real Scout.
"I knew I was going to make them, I already knew I was going to make them," said Harrison. "After I made them I got a little hyped. So, I was ready."
Now, with the semifinal game behind them, the confidence that comes along with beating a perennial powerhouse like the Playaz and the unmatched swagger of Harrison in the mix, Real Scout seems prepared to take on the monsoon of all-star talent on Sean Bell All-Stars for the Championship game on Sunday.
"I think [Raheem "Rah" Wiggins] is a great coach and a great motivator," said Blue. "Players have to play, but the coaches have to make the right substitutions and do the right things. I think playing against [Sean Bell All-Stars] would be a tough game. They have another St. John's player - Dominique Pointer - who will try to show that he's just as good as the other St. John's guys. Even though they're all family, they're all competitive."
Real Scout will play Sean Bell All-Stars in the Championship game on Sunday, May 22, at Intermediate School 8 in Jamaica, N.Y. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m.
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