SOUTH JAMAICA, NY - The Playaz Seniors faced off against the Panthers in the finals of the 2011 iS8/Nike Fall Tip-off Classic. They didn't have a deep bench, but they didn't need one as Kyle Anderson led the charge to the coveted tournament championship as the Playaz held off a late rally to win 81-75.
The game started off hot, with both teams making plays and putting the ball through the basket. Melvin Johnson of the Panthers was one of those players, scorching the net from behind the arc with four long distance baskets in the first half, three in the first period alone.
On the other side, the 6-7 Anderson did what he usually does, play the game at his speed and put on a show. He did a little bit of everything, including setting up his teammates at just the right moment for easy baskets. One of those things was getting the ball inside to Tony Parker, one of the top big man recruits in the country.
Parker was a man amongst boys in the first half, using an array of low post moves to score at will. It seemed as if every time he got the ball it was going in. Parker's play was categorized by announcer Hassan Jennings as "child abuse". He is being recruited by the likes of UCLA, Duke and Ohio State. There wasn't really anyone able to hold the 6-9 Parker because the player who matched up with him physically, Laimonas Chatkevicius, was on the bench with 2 fouls. Parker led the Playaz with 11 points in the first half. He finished with 20 points in the game.
The halftime score was 37-34 with Playaz on top. During the intermission, it was announced that Anderson was the Player of the Year for the tournament. It was the second time the senior has earned the honor. The only other player who won that honor twice was Ron Artest. Does that mean that Anderson is going to follow in his footsteps and play in the NBA? Time will tell, but in the second half Anderson showed just how good he is.
Early in the third quarter, with the Playaz holding a slim 40-39 lead over the Panthers. Anderson showed off his scoring ability with two midrange jumpers, hitting the second one while getting fouled, and ignited a scoring burst that eventually stretched the lead to 14. It appeared that the Playaz had taken control of the game and were prepared to coast the rest of the way.
However, the Panthers finally got their game together in the fourth quarter behind the efforts of Johnson and Malik Nichols. After a layup by Myles Davis put the Playaz up 65-51, the Panthers went on a 13-5 run to cut the lead to six. With about 3 minutes left in the game, Nichols blocked a layup attempt and started a possession that ended with Johnson scoring a layup of his own and giving the Panthers hope that they could come all the way back.
That enthusiasm was short-lived when the UCLA bound Anderson made a beautiful one-handed pass to Parker for a score. He followed that up when he found Davis (17 points), the sharpshooter who will be playing for Xavier next season, all by himself in the right corner for an easy three. After splitting a pair of free throws, the Playaz six point lead ballooned to 12. That was the nail in the coffin for the Panthers because there was too much to overcome and not enough time to do it.
Anderson finished with 22 points, which was the high total for his team, but did most of his damage handling the ball and finding his teammates for assists.
Johnson, who will be playing college ball at the University of Miami, had a game high 23 points. He didn't hit another three-pointer in the second half, most likely because Playaz immediately ran two people at him when he caught the ball. Nichols finished with 15, while St. Johns recruit Amir Garrett added 12.
Anderson can come back and win an unprecedented 3rd Player of the Year award in the spring. I wouldn't bet against him because it seems like he can do whatever he wants to do on the court. That's one of the reasons why the Playaz seniors were able to take home those one of those gaudy 6-foot trophies that all IS8 champions get.