BRONX, NY - Saturday's all-star packed Big Strick Classic took onlookers on a historic ride through the variations of basketball. While the game that had touches of the high school and collegiate level, Team NYC (comprised of Tri-State players) would manage to pull out a 137-135 win over Team USA while paying homage to the game of street ball towards the end.
"My mindset was just to play basketball, play my game and have fun," said Co-MVP Rawle Alkins (18 points/31 points in the scrimmage). "I mean, nobody really takes all-star games seriously. They just use it to showcase their isolation abilities and their game."
Alkins said when he could he would attack his opponent to score but admitted, "Most of my points were garbage points. Off the rebound, putting it back up and alley-opp dunks."
Team USA jumped out in front, 26-13 as 7'0" Stephen Zimmerman (20 points) leaked out in transition and scored a three-ball over Jessie Govan. Point guard Tremont Waters (10 points) would enter the game for Team NYC with 5:26, drained a trey that finally sparked the offense.
NYC closed the gap to seven with buckets from Prince Ali (14 points) but St. John's target's Mario Kegler (4 points) and Malik Beasley (22 points) would help put Team USA back on track. Alkins came alive, late in the warm-up quarter and he along with Horace Spencer (8 points) closed the gap to 34-31. LaDarius Chester (8 points) , the Big Strick Classic's defending champ, got to the rim to re-extend USA's lead to seven to start the second quarter.
Zimmerman displayed his nimbleness on offense and his shot blocking on defense but early in the second quarter Omari Spellman (2 points) and Mustapha Heron (12 points) were able to counter and soon tied the game at 40. Team USA regained a slight advantage as they showed a bit more team cohesiveness and received a constant offensive flow from Dwayne Bacon (33 points).
Beasley, who might be taking an unofficial visit to St. John's on Sunday, scored a stop n' pop that kept Team USA up 51-46 with 7:30 left in the half but Antonio Blakeney (29 points) spearheaded another NYC comeback that gave them their first lead. The host team would briefly lead by four until Beasley helped Team USA rebound.
The lead changed hands and with 4 minutes, Team NYC led by one. Alkins and sharpshooter Rashond Salnave (14 points) would increase that lead to 67-61 with 2:30 left in the quarter. A Salnave shake n' bake would end the half with Team NYC leading, 75-71.
Alkins sets off the second half with a mid-range jumper but Team USA came with a bit more firepower and took back the lead. Govan (6 points) who struggled offensively but began to find his rhythm and did a good job cleaning the boards. With 5:54, Salnave warmed up from the perimeter and Team NYC led 94-93.
In the final minutes of the third quarter, the Gauchos Gym suddenly morphed into Rucker Park as factions from Team NYC and Team USA went at it mano y mano. Egged on by teammates and fans, Waters first attempted to go at Pittsburgh bound Damon Wilson (10 points). While, the CT pointguard was somewhat effective offensively, Waters had his hands full defensively against the bigger guard. Next up, it would be Wilson versus Alkins, then Blakeney going at Zimmerman. Team NYC was winning the one-on-one battle overall and led 111-107 to start the 4th
Blakeney stepped up and helped give NYC a 122-115 lead with 5:06 as yet another one-on-one confrontation broke out. This time it was Alkins vs Bacon who dropped 58 points during Friday's scrimmage game.
3:17 remained in regulation. A jumper by Beasley and Team NYC's lead was reduced to four points. Team USA closed the gap to within a bucket but a clutch trey by Waters trey gave NYC some breathing room. Alkins and Unique McLean (4 points) began to assert themselves. Ten seconds until the finish line and Team NYC was clinging to a two point advantage and had possession. Team USA got a turnover but was unable to convert and time ran out.
While Alkins said nobody takes All-Star game seriously, it was clear that the rising junior from Christ the King HS put forth more of a concerted effort to perform better than he did at last year's event. "Last year, I was the youngest guy in the tournament," he said. "The second time I felt more experienced and felt like I should be one of the guys they should look at."
Alkins would receive game Co-MVP honors with Blakeney with Bacon receiving the overall event MVP. Waters picked up the Players Choice Award. Team NYC holds a 3-1 edge over Team USA in the Big Strick Classic.