SPRINGFIELD, Ma. – The best – at least in terms of a noisy crowd and down-to-the-wire result – was saved for last Saturday during the Spalding HoopHall Classic in Blake Arena on the Springfield College campus.
In the finale of a seven-game schedule (that tipped at 11 a.m.), local program Putnam Vocational Technical Academy came oh-so-close to stunning nationally ranked Tempe (AZ) Corona del Sol.
But sophomore guard Alex Barcello patiently probed and then penetrated the Beavers’ zone defense, fired a pass to teammate Tyrell Henderson and the junior rose and snapped in a 3-pointer that drew nothing but net and air.
PVTA was graciously given 2.8 seconds after the timeout but the Beavers couldn’t manage anything but a desperation heave – and that’s probably a redundancy – at the buzzer and the Aztecs prevailed, 60-57.
Despite having impressive prospects Barcello (one of the best 2017 “point guard” prospects, both in the west region and nationally), New Mexico-bound forward Dane Kuiper (who bagged team MVP honors for the contest with 17 points, three rebounds and four assists), Henderson and a 6-foot-9 (or so) mega-frosh Marvin Bagley on the floor, the team from Arizona never could seize control even when it seemed (behind the sharp plays made by their players) as if it had.
But the Beavers kept gnawing away (sorry; I couldn’t resist) at their bigger opponents. They went in front a couple of times in the last few minutes of regulation but had to play another four minutes when the left-handed Bagley oh-so-calmly dropped both ends of a 1 and 1 to tie the score with 21 seconds to go.
A shot clock-beating jumper from the right corner by Kuiper put CDS up in OT but junior wing Tyrone Malone tied the score at 57 on a drive with 27 seconds to go – setting the figurative table for the pass-catch-shoot tag team effort of Barcello and Henderson.
The event continues with eight Sunday contests (tipping at 9 a.m.) and five on Monday.
In other games Saturday (in reverse order of when they were played):
*Henderson (NV) Findlay Prep 84, Lincolnshire (IL) Stevenson 58: The Pilots turned in the best 32 minutes I’ve seen one of their squads play in two years, give or take, while thumping the Jalen Brunson-led defending Illinois state champions.
Stevenson was up mid-way through the first quarter, 10-7, but things quickly dissipated into a cluster of Allonzo Trier (27 points and four steals) offensive escapades and Horace Spencer (20 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots) dunks and swats.
The Villanova-bound Brunson hit some high degree of difficulty shots (including four 3s) en route to 26 points but most of those only served to offer a spoonful of promise of a comeback that never showed up.
*Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha 69, Roselle (NJ) Catholic 45: No one in either uniform or in the gym, for that matter, could have imagined the DeMatha dominance of a team rated No. 2 nationally earlier in the week.
But the Stags, as was the case with Findlay Prep 90 minutes later, were never threatened while smacking Kentucky-bound Isaiah Briscoe & Co.
Junior Markelle Fultz (25 points) and sophomore D.J. Harvey (13) could turns tattooing the Roselle defense (or what passed for it Saturday) with nifty jump shots and terrific drives and finishes.
Briscoe scored a team 20 points (eight of 20 from the field in a game when his teammates were a combined nine of 33) but it wasn’t the kind of performance that helped him to lock McDonald’s All-American status or the rep as one of the two or three best “point guard-types” in the Class of 2015.
*Radnor (PA) Archbishop Carroll 77, Chicago Simeon 68: Long (6-7ish), lean (185ish) and quick-off-the-floor Derrick Jones dominated the Simeon Big Ten-bound frontcourt to the tune of 31 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Jones signed a National Letter of Intent with UNLV two months ago and, yeah, I do believe he’ll get as much immediate playing time as he can put up with for the Rebels 10 months from now.
It was the top individual effort of the day, especially considering that those numbers were accumulated against the likes of Ed Morrow (Nebraska), Isaiah Moss (Iowa) and D.J. Williams (Illinois).
Morrow went for 16 (points) and eight (rebounds) for Simeon.
*Waterbury (CT) Sacred Heart 64, NYC Christ the King 51: CTK’s underclassmen standouts (junior Rawle Alkins and sophomore Jose Alvarado) missed a combined 21 of 29 shot attempts while Sacred Heart’s Mustapha Heron and Malik Petteway teamed for 33 points and 18 rebounds for the winners.
Alkins (zip for nine) and Alvarado (one of four) were particularly icy from behind the arc.
*Kinston (NC) 56, Trenton (NJ) Catholic 54: The largest (6-9ish) “guard” (at least he plays as if he believes he is a “guard”, per se; he never posted once) in the Class of 2015, Brandon Ingram, went for 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists to help the alma mater of Jerry Stackhouse eke out the victory.
I love using “eke” as a verb.
Ingram mad a boatload of big plays down the stretch and his team needed everyone of them to hold off a team led by another probable (from my perspective) 2015 McDonald’s All-American in Syracuse-bound Malachi Richardson (25 points, five rebounds and a couple of steals).
Ingram didn’t sign a letter of intent in November but a lot of folks anticipate his signing with Duke, North Carolina or North Carolina State a few months hence.
*Brooklyn Bishop Loughlin 58, Newton (MA) 51: Loughlin’s remarkable sophomore class did loads to help the Lions bag this one as 2017’s Keith Williams, Marques Watson and Jordan Thomas combined to rack up 40 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, four steals and three blocked shots.
The 6-4ish Williams was the best of that bunch with 20 points (nine of 13 shooting), four rebounds and two each in the steals and blocked shots categories.
The Sunday action – eight games’ worth – took about 13 ½ hours to complete during the “prep school” competition of the Spalding HoopHall Classic in Blake Arena at Springfield College.
Not that I was counting the minutes down the stretch at all, or anything like it (wink) . . .
And things weren’t a wrap until sophomore Malik Pouncy’s jump shot was just off the rim at the buzzer enabling the MacDuffie School to hold off Commonwealth Academy, 66-65.
Pouncy and his teammates had trailed most of the way until before going ahead by a point on a steal and layup by another sophomore, Derrick Ellis, with 34 seconds to go.
But junior forward Kashaun Hicks scored on a 12-footer leaner in the lane 18 seconds later for MacDuffie and than mega-jumper Unique (yep, that’s his first name) McClean blocked Pouncy’s deep jumper and the ball went out of bounds, setting the stage for that final possession with eight-tenths of a second on the clock.
Monday’s final day of the event gets underway at 9 in the morning with Jersey City St. Anthony taking on Philadelphia Constitution.
A whole boatload of “likely” and “possible” 2015 McDonald’s All-American selections will also be featured in the four other games on tap.
Here are rundowns on the other seven games played on Sunday:
*St. Thomas More 83, Vermont Academy 76: University of Connecticut signee Steven Enoch and teammate Sean Hoehn scored 18 points for the winners while junior – at least for the time being – Bruce Brown scored a game-high 23 points for Vermont Academy.
There is speculation – which he has confirmed – that the 6-foot-3 (or so) Brown may “reclassify” and magically become a “senior” shortly. And there are, without question, plenty of high-profile college programs – supposedly Connecticut and Louisville are among him – that would have a letter of intent with his name on it if he does so.
*Northfield Mount Hermon School 80, Tilton School 72: Northwestern signee Aaron Falzon scored 16 points and future University of Pennsylvania center Collin McManus grabbed 14 rebounds for the winners.
Combination guard Terance Mann (who signed with Florida State in November) went for 21 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals for Tilton School.
*New Hampton School 64, St. Andrew’s School 48: Forward Tyler Lydon, with one of his future college assistants (Mike Hopkins of Syracuse) looking on from a baseline seat, scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds for New Hampton School.
*Huntington St. Joseph Prep 75, Our Savior New American 57: Junior guard Curtis Jones, with 27 points (21 of those coming from behind the arc), was one of four players to score in double figures for the winners.
Cheick Diallo, another lock McDonald’s All-American selection when the team is unveiled on Jan. 28, had 24 points and nine rebounds in a losing cause.
*Life Center Academy 64, Orangeville Prep 50: Malik Ellison – whose dad, former Louisville and NBA post Pervis Ellison is the team’s head coach – went for 28 points and four steals for Life Center Academy.
Heavily touted 7-footer Thon Maker had 23 points and 11 rebounds but really didn’t become a forceful presence until late in the action with his team all but out of reach of Life Center.
*Brewster Academy 100, Montverde Academy Prep 69: Jalen Adams (who signed with Connecticut in November) scored 23 points with six rebounds and five assists as Brewster rolled in a game offered little suspense other in trying to keep track of all of the transition scoring opportunities Brewster was going to capitalize on against a hopelessly overmatched foe.
*Wilbraham & Monson Academy 62, Suffield Academy 57: Guard Ryan Murphy – who is originally from Southern California – scored a team-high 17 points for W&M Academy.
If you were inside Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College Monday for the better part of 10 hours, you got a nifty on-court primer for future McDonald’s All-American teams – 2015 and beyond.
The final day of the High School Invitational of the Spalding HoopHall Invitational featured five games – and at least twice that many players likely to be chosen McDonald’s AAs before they graduate.
And several of those, no doubt, will see their names and faces on their television monitors when the 2015 squad is unveiled on ESPN on Jan. 28.
Three of those gentlemen (Jaylen Brown of Marietta, GA, Wheeler/Dwayne Bacon of Mouth of Wilson, VA, Oak Hill Academy and Ben Simmons of Montverde, FL, Academy) scored 30 or more points.
Several others didn’t exceed that threshold but did impact the proceedings – in a positive fashion – in multiple other ways.
And no player better illustrated that point than did Ivan Rabb (Oakland, CA, Bishop O’Dowd).
The Dragons trailed Brown’s Wheeler club at intermission (38-37) when they struggled to get the ball cleanly into Rabb in or around the lane on offense.
That wasn’t the case over the final 16 minutes, though, during which Rabb often powered his way over or around multiple defenders to hit eight of nine shots, grab nine rebounds, block three shots and trigger numerous transition opportunities with outlet passes to help his club pull away from a team that came into the contest with a single loss.
Rabb, in helping push his team’s record to 10-3 with the 79-70 victory, finished with 24 points (11 of 15 from the field), 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
He got plenty of help from his teammates, most notably Boise State-bound Paris Austin – among the more overtly underrated point guards in the national Class of 2015) – who scored 18 points to go with nine assists and mostly got the ball where his teammates needed it, by dribble or pass.
Foul issues may have chipped into his productivity – if not his aggressiveness –before he went to the bench with his fifth and disqualifying foul late in the contest.
But Brown muscled – literally, often – to 31 points (13 of 22 from the field) and snatched eight of his 12 rebounds when his team was in possession of the ball.
And the Dragons also a nice effort, especially during those dominating final 16 minutes, from the bench from a freshman left hander who is already on the path toward becoming “the next really good one” from the Lou Richie-coached program.
Elijah Hardy, who has scoring, handling and passing skill in abundance, was perfect from the field (on three attempts) and knocked in three of four free throws.
Another senior guard, Jeevin Sandhu, added 14 points, five rebounds and three assists for Richie’s crew.
The 6-foot-8 and left-handed Simmons – originally from Australia and bound for LSU – is the most multi-skilled player in this class, especially when in the context of “relative to his size”.
That was never more evident than in what were mostly sloppy and harried 32 minutes in his team’s much-tighter-than-the-score-implies 76-57 victory over Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.
The teams combined for 55 – yep, five-five – turnovers with Gorman accounting for 33 of those.
And Gorman’s two expected 2015 McDonald’s All-Americans – posts Stephan Zimmerman and Chase Jeter – never got unwound and in-sync while combining for 11 of those 33 miscues and just 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Both were almost immediately saddled with foul issues – both relegated to the bench for stretches and Zimmerman eventually fouling out while Jeter still had a fifth in his pocket when the buzzer sounded.
Simmons was credited with seven turnovers but hit 15 of 24 shots from the field – mostly via either-hand finishes in transition or after short bursts into the lane – and would have cracked the 40 barrier with a tad more accuracy from the free-throw line, where he barely batted .500 (six of 11).
The stat crew credited him with nine rebounds and three steals but I’ve a hunch they shorted him in the assists category where he was given just one.
Fine but if the stat “passes that led to passes that led directly to scores” was kept, he would have been credited with a half-dozen or so of those.
And the son of a 1993 McDonald’s All-American alumnus and Bishop Gorman sophomore is an early candidate for the 2017 MDAA squad.
Charles O’Bannon Jr. did his best to keep things close before the proverbial dam burst on the Gaels in the late going, scoring 11 points in each half via nifty drives and finishes and jump shots of both mid-range and deep variety.
Oak Hill has a roster that includes guys heading to Ohio State (center Daniel Giddens), Missouri (point guard Terrence Phillips), Iowa (wing Andrew Fleming) and Penn State (wing Josh Reaves).
But the Warriors were firmly in the hole by as many as 14 points in the first half before finally pulling their way out in time for a 76-72 win over Cleveland Villa Angela St. Joseph.
Thirty-three of those points came from Florida State-bound Bacon, who saved his team’s figurative bacon (sorry; I couldn’t resist) with 19 of them coming in the second half.
It did take a lot of attempts – he was credited with 28 shots from the field, hitting 10 of those including five from behind the arc – but St. Joseph should have done a better job of making sure Bacon didn’t get the ball in his hands enough down the stretch to remain a “volume” shooter.
He wasn’t totally in the tunnel-vision mode – he was credited with three assists, after all – and grabbed eight rebounds with two steals.
Giddens had 12 points and seven rebounds and blocked four shots while Phillips had seven points, five assists and seven rebounds.
Carlton Bragg (who recently committed to Kansas) didn’t shoot well from the field, missing 11 of 17 attempts.
But he did just about everything else very well for St. Joseph with 23 points (11 of 12 from the free-throw line), seven rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and two steals.
I’ll go into convulsions if his mug shot doesn’t appear on the screen with the 2015 MDAA squad is unveiled via all of that ESPN fanfare.
In the final game played on Monday night, two early favorites to be 2016 MDAAs only enhanced that perception with their efforts.
Jayson Tatum got off to a chilly shooting start – he missed all five of his field-goal attempts in the first quarter – and finished just seven of 20 for the field but had 25 points (in large part via 11 of 12 free throws) to go with 14 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and five turnovers in St. Louis Chaminade Prep’s 88-78 defeat of Fairfax, VA, Paul VI.
And his defense was mostly ineffectual when it came to checking V.J. King – although the same was true of Tatum’s teammates, as well.
King finished with 38 points – according to HoopHall veteran observer Tom Konchalski, it is likely an event record.
King, who spent his first two years in high school at the alma mater of LeBron James (Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s), knocked in 14 of 24 shots from the field – including two of five 3s – and eight of 11 free throws.
Tatum had much more help than did King as classmates Mike Lewis (23 points, 18 coming on six of eight shooting on 3s) and Tyler Cook (15 points and 10 rebounds) turning in impressive performances, as well.
In the first game played Monday morning, Jersey City St. Anthony held off Philadelphia Constitution, 57-56.
The left-handed, George Mason-bound Ahmad Gilbert barely missed on a right-handed, transition layup attempt at the buzzer that would have pulled off the upset for the Philly lads.
Gilbert had 27 points for his team while junior Jagan Mosely had 15 points and four assists for St. Anthony, coached by the well-beyond-legendary Bob Hurley.