SOUTH JAMAICA, N.Y. -- On Saturday, the final day of the iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic, both the semifinal matchups, as well as the championship game, were crammed into the schedule at the main tournament venue, Intermediate School 8, in Queens, N.Y.
The semifinal contests, which attracted a standing-room-only crowd, were on two different ends of the basketball spectrum: one resulting in a blowout of mass proportions and the other culminating to a nail-biting, photo finish. The championship matchup revealed the tried-and-true "kings" of the Classic.
Regardless of the games' outcomes, there was no lack of sweat and scrappiness during these hardwood clashes.
Let's take a look at the semifinal and championship contests.
THE "MAINE" ATTRACTION TROUNCES, BOUNCES TEAM PRICE, 81-54
The way both teams played during the pool play portion of the Classic, it seemed as if the contest between The "Maine" Attraction and Team Price, was going to be a great, suspenseful, evenly matched meeting. However, although Team Price did put up a fight, it did not seem to stand a chance by the third quarter.
The "Maine" Attraction took a substantial, 12-point lead, 19-7, by the 3:45 mark of the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Seton Hall-bound Isaiah Whitehead (Abraham Lincoln High School (N.Y.) '14). Coached by Dwayne 'Tiny' Morton, The "Maine" Attraction was able to maintain that advantage of 12 points, 23-11.
Because of The "Maine" Attraction's ability to crowd the paint, Team Price, behind the floor leadership of Jerry Mejia (H.S. for Language and Diplomacy/Washington Irving Campus (N.Y.) '14), had to quickly execute plays to the basket. Team Price, coached by J.R. Rodriquez, did this by either quickly attacking the basket in transition or sharp feeds to Farfield-decommit, 6-foot-9, 250-pound big man Ami Lakoju (The Luke School (N.Y.) '14).
On defense, Team Price's Mejia was good for quite a few steals, deflections and disruptions that were capitalized on by either Mejia or his teammates.
This all seemed to be the right answer to the problem that The "Maine" Attraction posed. With about four minutes left in the second quarter, Team Price cut its deficit to just six points, 29-23, after the completion of the conventional three-point play by Cesar Ramirez (Bread and Roses (N.Y.) '15) and a bucket by Tarik Allicock (Grand Street Campus (N.Y.) '14).
Still, The "Maine" Attraction rapidly changed the momentum of the game back in its favor. The Brooklyn-based squad, led by the range of Rutgers-bound Mike Williams (Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) '14) and the toughness baskets of Whitehead, tightened up on defense, its ball-handling and became a formidable force on the glass.
As a result, in the final three minutes before halftime, The "Maine" Attraction was able to amass a 16-point lead, 44-28, by the break.
Although the third quarter was the perfect opportunity to stage a comeback run, Team Price made certain changes in its point guard assignments that were not effective and led to an abundance of turnovers at halfcourt and three-quarter court before any plays could be run.
Consequently, The "Maine" Attraction's advantage wildly grew. Despite Team Price making a switch back to its original point guard assignments, it was too late in the period to climb out of the deepening sinkhole.
The "Maine" Attraction held as much as a 23-point lead, 70-47, early in the fourth quarter.
The "Maine" Attraction's sharpshooting Williams posted a game-high 24 points (13 in the first half). Teammate Whitehead and Niagara-commit Matt Scott (Brooklyn Law (N.Y.) '14) netted 18 and 10 points. Meanwhile, Team Price's Lakoju finished with 13 points as Allicock recorded 12 points eight in the third quarter). Teammate Mejia had 11 points.
JYO CLIPS 2GZ ENT.-WILL DOWN THE STRETCH, 74-72
In a semifinal matchup that had the look and feel of a championship game, two Queens-based ball clubs -- Jamaica Youth Organization (JYO) and 2GZ Entertainment-Will battled for the full 32 minutes as the winner was not decided until the final buzzer.
Tough and scrappy play characterized the meeting since neither squad left much room for error. The teams had more than style in common -- JYO is composed of current players from PSAL 'AA' championship team Benjamin Cardozo High School (N.Y.), while 2GZ Entertainment featured some former Cardozo athletes, who have since moved on to prep school.
Propelled by the dynamic play of Nosike Obanya (Believe Prep (N.C.) '14), the 2GZ squad shot off to an early seven-point lead, 11-4. Though JYO narrowed the deficit to only four points with much assistance from Armando Dunn ('15) and Tareq Coburn ('16), 2GZ was able to earn an eight-point advantage, 23-15, at the close of the first quarter.
Having more age and experience over JYO, 2GZ stifled the competition and extended its lead to 11 points, 41-30, on a basket by Darnell Holmes ('14) just before halftime.
A 1-of-2 performance from the charity stripe by Drexel-bound Tyshawn Myles (Washington Irving (N.Y.) '14), as well as an up-and-under and jumper by Holmes, at the start of the third period, catapulted 2GZ Entertainment ahead by 14 points 46-32.
A bucket by JYO's Dunn followed up by a 3-pointer from teammate Elijah McNeely ('16) snipped 2GZ' lead to seven points, 46-39. With under 3:25 left in the quarter, JYO came together and utilized its team chemistry. A reverse lay-in by Amir Tutt ('16) and a tough shot cleared by McNeely after zigging and zagging through the defense brought JYO within an ace, 54-53.
Tutt continued his hot-handed streak into the fourth quarter, scoring on back-to-back baskets -- the last of which was secured while drawing a foul. After Tutt completed the conventional three-point play, JYO held a four-point advantage, 58-54. Though 2GZ tried to re-establish the momentum in its favor, a stop-and-pop jumper by McNeely prevented 2GZ from getting too far.
In fact, each time it seemed as if 2GZ was pushing its will on the competition, JYO would do just enough to stay ahead. JYO held as much as an eight-point margin over 2GZ before the long, Iowa-bound Dominique Uhl (Point Pleasant Beach (N.J.) '14) netted a basket over his defenders.
The 2GZ' Omar Williams (Believe Prep (N.C.) '14) and Obanya gave their squad a one-point advantage, 70-69. With pressure turned all the way up as time winded down, JYO and 2GZ traded buckets and leads.
The 2GZ Entertainment appeared to be the winners to advance to the championship game when, after much contesting, Uhl and his teamnates grabbed about four offensive boards right under the rim and cashed in with only 11 seconds left in the matchup.
Yet, JYO refused to give up. Having to run the full length of the court against 2GZ' frisky defense and get a decent shot off seemed like an extremely difficult task. Dunn inbounded the ball to McNeely, who pushed it rapidly up the court and passed it to teammate Coburn waiting on the wings.
Colburn nailed an off-balanced 3-pointer as time expired.
JYO's Coburn and Dunn each finished with 17 points, while Wes Nelson added 11 points. McNeely chipped in nine points. Meanwhile, 2GZ' Obanya recorded a game-high 27 points (19 in the first half). Teammates Holmes and Uhl finished with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
THE "MAINE" ATTRACTION WINS iS8 CHIP
Sometimes when you do something for the right reasons, it really does pay off.
The "Maine" Attraction was composed of some of the best high school talent coming out of Brooklyn, N.Y. The purpose of the squad's presence in the iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic this year was to serve as a tribute to head coach Dwayne 'Tiny' Morton's former assistant coach at Abraham Lincoln High School (N.Y.), the late Jermaine 'Maine' Brown.
"It's wonderful to get a win for 'Maine," said Morton, "and especially for all those guys going to college... Jermaine always wanted to win one of these."
"I got his (Brown's) brother to take one of the trophies home," added Morton.
Throughout the Classic's pool play and the playoffs, The "Maine" Attraction played with a purpose, rarely struggling with hardwood contenders. Composed of primarily Lincoln seniors heading to Seton Hall along with Morton, who will be a Pirates assistant this upcoming season, The "Maine" Attraction barrelled through its championship opponent for an easy win on Saturday.
Though The "Maine" Attraction tipped-off against Jamaica Youth Organization (JYO), which is made up of players from PSAL 'AA' championship squad Benjamin Cardozo High School (Queens, N.Y.), the Brooklyn-based ball club met very little resistance.
The "Maine" Attraction staged a large-scale blowout, 81-58.
JYO's Tareq Coburn ('16) carried some of his outside firepower from his team's buzzer-beating win in the semifinal round and opened the matchup with a confident 3-pointer. Though Coburn received much help from teammate Elijah McNeely ('16), The "Maine" Attraction's Rutgers-bound Mike Williams (Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) '14) started to make his presence felt.
The "Maine" Attraction inched ahead by eight points, 15-7. JYO climbed back, coming within two points, 15-13, with 55 seconds left in the first period. However, from the final seconds of the warm-up phase and into the second quarter, The "Maine" Attraction surged.
Williams, along with future Seton Hall teammates Isaiah Whitehead (Abraham Lincoln (N.Y.) '14) and Desi Rodriguez (Abraham Lincoln (N.Y.) '14), punctuated the massive run with a 30-point advantage, 54-24, by halftime.
JYO appeared to be a shadow of its earlier self, visibly winded and not clicking on the same cylinders it was in its semifinal contest.
The third quarter was more of the same. There was no major dent made in the hefty deficit created in the first half. Ultimately, The "Maine" Attraction extended its lead to as much as 32 points in the fourth and final phase.
Williams, who won the championship MVP, finished with a game-high 26 points (16 in the first half), while teammate Rodriguez recorded 17 points (12 in the first stanza). Whitehead posted 15 points.
JYO's McNeely, who secured the championship sportsmanship award, had a team-high 15 points in the loss, while Wes Nelson and Coburn each added 10 points apiece.