When teams earned the top seed in their respective divisions during the pool play portion of the iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic, it was not just for bragging rights.
These squads also received a one-game bye, making them immune until the second round of playoffs. Although there was one "upset" during the Saturday playoff games, the remaining number one seeds advanced to Quarterfinal Sunday.
Let's take a closer look at some of the iS8 top teams' winning action.
New Heights (K) Survives Juice-r, 68-61
Juice, which consists of some players from Abraham Lincoln High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.) sprang into action early, leading New Heights (K) by as much as 13 points, 23-10, in the first quarter. In fact, the situation did not get any better for New Heights in the second quarter when the Brooklyn, N.Y. based squad extended its advantage to 15 points, 27-12.
With the long arms of 7-footer Jordan Dickerson and the muscular and dominating frame of Justin Jenkins in the paint, Juice was stronger off the glass and more intense defensively as it shut down the offensive flow of New Heights (K). Meanwhile, Juice's Isaiah Whitehead (13 points) helped fuel the offensive fire of Juice.
Although New Heights tried to get something sparked when it cut its deficit to nine points, 29-20, with about a minute remaining in the first half, Juice still led 33-20 at halftime.
Catapulted ahead by the consistent effort of Emmanuel Andujar (game-high 26 points), New Heights was within five points by the close of the third quarter and within one point, 50-49, early in the fourth after Jermaine Sanders (12 points) put a deuce on the board.
New Heights (K) switched up the momentum and pushed up the tempo of the game, finding gaps in the middle more easily. Soon, a bucket by New Height's Brian Smith (nine points) gave the Bronx, N.Y. team a one-point advantage midway through the fourth and final phase.
Still, Juice's Jevon Thomas (team-high 25 points) refused to give up, netting 17 points in the second half altogether. Thomas and Whitehead stole the lead back from New Heights, 57-55. But, Smith, who scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter, regained New Heights' lead with the completion of a conventional three-point play on the next possession, 58-57.
One more tie would occur before Smith and Andujar would lift New Heights by seven points, 65-58 with about 1:02 left on the clock.
Thomas would later attack the rack and draw the foul, but only cash in 1-of-2 from the foul line. The points from the line brought Juice within four points, 65-61, with nearly 35 seconds on the clock. Andujar would draw a foul and inch New Heights ahead a bit more, 66-61, with 22 seconds remaining in the game. Now a two-possession game, Juice's Ricardo Gathers (13 points) tried to get a shot off, but was blocked by a heavy-handed Conroy Baltimore.
Edson Avila (six points) later sank 2-of-2 from the stripe to preserve the 68-61 victory for Midwest top seed, New Heights (K).
New Heights (Art) Edge N.J. Playaz Club (Juniors) to Advance, 57-55
The New Jersey Playaz Club (Juniors) made the game interesting in the first quarter, tying the quickly surging New Heights (Art) at 17 - this just before New Heights closed the period with a 19-17 advantage.
New Heights continued to man the game, increasing its point differential to as much as 15 points, 35-20, on a two-of-two performance from the line by Dennis Green (four points). Playaz' Kyle Anderson (14 points) tried to keep his team above water, recording 10 of his points in the first half.
Anderson used a bucket of his own to narrow the margin a bit to 13 points, 35-22, before halftime.
New Heights maintained a 13-point advantage, 37-24, early in the third quarter, but back-to-back 3-pointers drained by Playaz' Chris Jones (11 points) and Sekou Harris (11 points) drastically and quickly narrowed the deficit down to seven points. And, with the addition of another basket by Harris, New Jersey was within five points, 37-32.
Scrambling to find an answer to the surge from the Playaz, New Heights used a timeout to talk over strategy.
With some work from Chris Ortiz (10 points), New Heights was able to stave off Playaz a little longer, doing just enough to maintain a two-possession game.
Still, New Jersey was not only able to knot the contest, but also take a two-point advantage, 47-45, on a bucket by Jones with 5:55 left in the fourth quarter.
New Heights (Art)'s Sidiki Johnson (15 points) tied it at 47, but there was one more tie and lead change before both teams felt the squeeze in the final minute of the game.
Harris alone gave his New Jersey squad a four-point advantage, 53-49. Keeping focused on the task at hand, New Heights tied the game at 53. Then, the matchup was knotted again - this time at 55.
New Heights' Corey Edwards (eight points) would have the play of the game when he drove the ball to the paint in traffic and banked it in at the buzzer while falling to the ground to win the contest for the Southwest top seed and advance to the iS8/Nike quarterfinals 57-55.
Real Scout Trounces & Bounces Raising Champions, 80-60
Raising Champions looked as if it was going to be named to the short list of teams able to "upset" number-one seeds in the Classic. It kept up with Real Scout for two quarters before Real Scout took over the game.
Both squads were evenly matched in the game's early goings, as evident by the one and two possession leads that were being constantly narrowed by the dynamic Raising Champions. Amdy Fall (14 points) and Osamuede 'Ede' Egharevba (14 points) kept things interesting in the first half, only trailing one of the league's overall top seeds by only six points, 36-30, at halftime.
However, strung together by its dynamic point guard Tavon Sledge (13 points), Real Scout turned up the heat in the second half. Although it was without the aid of major contributor Maurice Harkless (seven points) - because of an apparent tweak to the ankle that kept him sidelined - Real Scout had other talented players. Tavon Allen (10 points) helped with defense and scoring, while Terry Brutus (13 points) used his intensity inside and out to keep the team percolating.
Real Scout used a strong third quarter surge to hold a 13-point advantage, 60-47, over the competition. As Real Scout continued to barrel forward with the skill-set of Max Hopper (14 points) and Jakarr Sampson (10 points), Raising Champions fizzled and faded into the backdrop.
Despite the loss, Raising Champions' Cavon Baker added 10 points.
IN OTHER NEWS
* NIA Prep trounced Panthers (2) in the second round of the playoffs. The New Jersey team, which spread the points evenly among three players in double-digits, did a nice job of not slacking off in the second half after a 42-18 halftime advantage. NIA Prep advanced to the quarterfinal on a 73-50 victory. NIA Prep's Darrick Woods (game-high 17 points), Shaquille Thomas (15 points) and Kelvin Amayo (12 points) each contributed quality minutes in the win. Travis Flagg led the Panthers with a team-high 12 points.
* Long Island Lightning also defeated its opponent by way of a substantial advantage on Saturday. The Lightning advanced to the to the tournament's quarterfinal after a 73-60 victory over SportsFest.org. Torin Childs-Harris had a team-high 16 points to lead the Lightning, while teammate Wayne Martin added 14 points in the win. Despite the loss, SportsFest's Jalen Cannon had a game-high 17 points.
* After the disappointing defeat for the Juniors team, New Jersey Playaz (Seniors) was the program's only team left with the opportunity to advance in the playoffs. The Seniors would do just that as Myles Mack (24 points), with some substantial help from teammate Jabril Trawick (16 points), piloted the team to a 81-65 win over the Ben Gordon All-Stars. Ben Gordon contains players from the New York State Federation Champion, Mount Vernon High School (Mount Vernon, N.Y.). Like NIA Prep, Playaz (Seniors) kept up the intensity it had after leading 50-35 at halftime. Jabarie Hinds (12 points), Isaiah Cousins (11 points) and Khalid Samuels (11 points) led the Ben Gordon All-Stars in the loss.