It all came down to two teams in the 10th grade Metropolitan AAU Regionals.
The Long Island Lightning-McNeil would face off against the New York Gauchos on Wednesday at the Island Garden. In an ugly defensive match-up, the lead would change hands multiple times but a late charge by the Choz would put them over the top, 60-52.
Scoring in transition with players leaking out after missed baskets, the Gauchos would jump out the box to a 10-2 lead as Josh James (pictured left) (7 points) drained a trey with 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Utilizing good ball movement the Lightning would inch their way back into the competition. Andre Walker (6 points) and back-to-back-to-back buckets by Linzell Vaughn from Wings Academy would cap off an 8-0 counter-run, giving the Lightning-McNeil their first lead.
The scales would be tipped once again before the half as Tyler Wilson (pictured right) from Rice HS put the Choz back in front. Solid defensive play by Jordan Fuchs and a basket by Josh James (7 points) would extend the Gauchos lead to 27-22 at the half.
In a game chock filled with runs the Lightning-McNeil started off the second half with one of their own. Sparked by buckets by Joshua Doughty (4 points), the Lightning-McNeil knotted the game at 30 with 10:30 left in regulation. A trifecta by Justin Wallace (10 points) would put the Lightning-McNeil back in front but the Gauchos seemed to always flip the script.
With 8:40 left to play Taquan Givens would swish two three pointers, giving the Choz a 40-33 lead which they would never relinquish.
Down by 13 points with 3:29 on the clock, Coach Shandue McNeil initiated a full court press on the Gauchos in an effort to mount a comeback. To some extent, the tactic worked as turnovers by the Gauchos afforded opportunities for the Lightning-McNeil to slice into the lead. A three-pointer by Wallace cut the Choz lead to 58-52 with 49.5 seconds but it would be too little too late. Forced to foul, the Lightning were at the mercy of Choz and could only hope that they would miss from the free-throw line but they didn't.
Under head coach Tommy Swinton, Wilson led the Gauchos with 18 points followed by Givens with 10 points. The L.I. Lightning-McNeil was paced by Jalen David with 11 points followed by Vaughn with 10 points.
In other action:
In the 11th grade AAU Regional game held on Sunday, the Long Island Lightning-Dingle topped Riverside, 84-69, led by Kamari Murphy's 18 points and Kedar Edwards' 15 points.