Columbus Day Challenge - Event Recap
By Sunday afternoon, the last four teams remaining in the Open Division were MBR, Bay State Magic, SECC All-Stars, and Metro Boston. Here’s a look at how the playoffs unfolded:
Open Division Semi Final - MBR vs. Bay State Magic: As most know, this MBR squad is stacked with guys who can make shots from the perimeter. Today they played without the best shooter in the state of Maine, Keegan Hyland. However, they would not let this slow them down. Indiana Faithful played a great floor game, taking the ball all the way to the rim and finishing himself or drawing a crowd and finding Jacob Moore looming around the arc. Bay State’s Dennis Clifford did his part to keep the game close in the first half, displaying why division I interest is starting to pile up. Clifford dominated the low block, posting hard and asking for the ball. He also showed a willingness to run the floor and ability to catch and finish in transition. Clifford’s efforts, along with the long range shooting of Jared Fay, were just not enough. MBR advanced to the finals with a 69-54 victory.
Open Division Semi Final - SECC All-Stars vs. Metro Boston: With Metro Boston missing some of the players that regularly run with them, SECC jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Robbie Burke was a tough guard for defenders all day, as his versatile skill set creates problems for both slower post players and smaller guards. SECC moved on to play MBR, with a 66-51 win.
Championship Game - MBR vs. SEC All-Stars: Indiana Faithful once again created scoring opportunities for his teammates, with his ability to breakdown his defender and draw help. Stephano Mancini picked up where Jacob Moore left off, knocking down several 3’s off the catch. Dominic Borelli did a little of everything for MBR. The Westbrook HS senior hit several short jumpers on the baseline and battled in the post, grabbing 4 offensive rebounds. However, MBR had no answer for Ellis Cooper. Cooper played a point-forward like position and out toughed everyone on the floor. He was bringing the ball up and using his body to get into the lane. He would then find a teammate or draw contact going at the rim. Several times Cooper would get his own rebound on 2 or 3 consecutive shots in the lane, outworking everyone. Dan Martin, of East Longmeadow, also made a nice contribution for SECC. They went on to win big, 64-46.
The 17U division was loaded with high profile players, and the playoff match ups did not disappoint. Expressions Elite squared off against a tough Ballou Knights team out of Washington DC. While the New England Playaz had their hands full with the Conneticut Knights:
17U Semi Final - Expressions Elite vs. Knights (DC): The Knights have plenty of athletes and it’s obvious that they win a bunch of games by using their team speed and athleticism to run. It just so happens, this immensely talented Expressions team has the personnel to run with them and can also slow it down and score in the half court . Tyler Olander scored in a variety of ways. He faced up out to about 15 ft and consistently hit jumpers, and had countless put backs. Ricardo Ledo was excellent in transition, finishing on the wing or leading the break himself and finding teammates like Jules Tavares and Chris Sherwood running lanes. Expressions advanced to Sunday afternoons final game.
17U Semi Final - NE Playaz vs. CT Select: The two teams met in unquestionably the best game of the day. CT Select led from the start and it looked like it would be them who was meeting Expressions in the finals. Jakarri McCallop finished very well around the rim with both hands and used his long frame to disrupt shots on defense. Rohan Brown battled with the Playaz posts down low and created match up problems, bringing Kaleb Tarczewski away from the rim. The Playaz, led by Shabbaz Napier came storming back in the final minutes to tie the game at 80-80 and force an overtime. Napier was in attack mode the final 4 minutes of the game, but remained in complete control. The Playaz would eventually hang on in overtime with an 85-84 victory and advance to the highly anticipated match up with Expressions Elite.
Championship Game - NE Playaz vs. Expressions Elite: Winchendon swingman Angel Nunez got things going early on for the Playaz. Nunez displayed great body control and scored several times on the baseline. The game was tight all half, as Tyler Strange did a great job slowing down Napier. Strange also possesses a high basketball IQ and does a nice job getting the ball to teammates in places where they can score. Expressions led 30-28 at halftime. Naadir Tharpe, who has every physical tool, but greatest asset may be that he doesn’t force anything and plays at his own speed, started the 2nd half with a long 3. It was answered when Ricardo Ledo was found streaking ahead and finished with a highlight reel dunk. The game went back and forth, as Kaleb Tarczewski hit two jump hooks over his left shoulder. Expressions would eventually build a small lead and withstand a late push from Alex Murphy and the Playaz. Murphy showed off his well known versatility, finishing with a powerful dunk in transition and drilling a 3 on consecutive plays. Ledo finished with 24pts in the 64-57 win for Expressions.
Jerome Harris, East Catholic: Played great on ball defense all day and showed off tight handle and vision
Jamel Fields, Cheshire Academy: Very quick with the ball and finished in traffic
Cam Shorey, Calais HS: Competes on every possession. Mixed it up under the rim and finished with both hands.
Eric Katenda, Cheshire Academy: Was unstoppable when running the floor. Used his length and athleticism to finish around the rim. Very impressive day.
Chris Sherwood, Brimmer and May: Great in the open court. Athlete that can finish with contact.
Khem Birch, Winchendon: Ran the floor great all day. Gets up very quick on 2nd jump. Grabs rebounds at the rim.
John Boyatris, Cheshire Academy: Knocked down several shots off the catch on the perimeter.
Tommy Carpenter, Northfield Mount Hermon: Skilled wing with length. Scored around the rim and on the wing.
Evan Cummins, Northfield Mount Hermon: Very active today. Scored on the block and attacked offensive glass.