ZG Finals - 9th Grade Division Recap
With pool play concluding in the morning, bracket play began in all age groups on Sunday afternoon throughout southeast Massachusetts. More than 700 teams were narrowed down a handful of teams who won their pool, and the following navigated the talent-filled playoff field & earned the right to be crowned Zero Gravity National Champions on Sunday afternoon.
Two of the better point guards in the 9th grade division squared off in the quarterfinals, with Quest Harris of BABC and Bensley Joseph of NE Playaz going at it. Both went back and forth with impressive drives, showing that the future of the point guard position is bright in New England. The inside trio of Matt Cross, Qualeem Charles & Kekoa McArdle proved to be too much, as BABC earned their trip to the semis. There, they would face Mass Rivals, who behind the solid play of Jamal Fricas, defeated Expressions South. One needs to see Fricas play several times to really appreciate what a talented young prospect he is evolving into. Expressions South was lead by the steady play of Dante Law & point guard of Dominic Mello, who has impressed in every big grassroots event this spring. The opposite semifinal would feature Boston Bobcats (who defeated Lightning- Foti out of New York) vs. Expressions 2021 (who defeated RI Rivals).
BABC climbed out of an early 8-0 hole vs. Rivals, and the game was competitive from there. Fricas lead the Rivals with his ability to make shots from beyond the arc, but Harris' penetration & ability to get in the lane and Charles' scoring down low paced BABC in this one. Dallion Johnson hit clutch FTs down the stretch to preserve the win for BABC. Bobcats would defeat Expressions, despite an impressive effort from Kyrell Luc, who excels in finishing through contact & making correct decisions off ball screens. 2022 wing Alex Karaban was on fire from outside to lead the Bobcats to the finals.
There was a lot of talent on the floor for the final between BABC & Boston Bobcats. Both have individuals who have the potential to be impactful players at the high school level and beyond, but both programs get their players to buy in and play for the team. This championship was a fun game to watch. BABC emerged with a 31-21 lead at the half, but the Bobcats cut the deficit to four with 7:30 left to play in the game. However, transition layups by Matt Cross & Dallion Johnson quickly doubled the lead, and BABC's big three inside proved to be the deciding factor down the stretch. Cross really stood out in the championship game, as he was all over the court on defense and has the ability to grab a defensive rebound and push the ball up the court himself. Johnson is a prospect that everyone in New England should take note of, as he is about as smooth as they come and can make shots from all over the floor. For the Bobcats, Will Dorion is a long, smart & heady player who also has the ability to shoot from deep. Karaban played well, and Aaron Cooley is another prospect to keep an eye on moving forward. The lefty forward has a variety of dribble moves that he uses to get inside the paint & finish.
MPC White pulled away from Team Overtime (NY) late to capture the DII championship by a score of 60-51.
AFB Freedom survived a semifinal scare from Freeport Red Ravens of upstate New York, but topped Rose City Intensity by a score of 67-54 in the DIII championship game.
Most Valuable Player: Quest Harris (BABC)
Most Outstanding Player: Aaron Cooley (Boston Bobcats)
Matt Cross (BABC)
Jamal Fricas (Mass Rivals)
Dallion Johnson (BABC)
Bensley Joseph (NE Playaz)
Alex Karaban (Boston Bobcats)
Will Dorion (Boston Bobcats)
Malachi Hazelton (NE Playaz)
Kyrell Luc (Expressions)
Dominic Mello (Expressions South)
George Smith (Mass Rivals)