BRONX, NY - The quarterfinals of the Tru-Ballaz Pre-High School Classic tournament took place on Saturday in the Bronx, and four great games broke out, with each game being tight, hard fought contests, with a semifinal berth at stake for the winners. Here are recaps of the four games.
Wings Academy Topples Thurgood Marshall Academy, 61-56
If you just watched the first 14 minutes of this game, you would've seen a dominant TMA performance that saw them execute everything they did perfectly to take a commanding lead. Unfortunately for the Panthers though, it was a 32 minute game, and Wings stormed back through a stingy defense, and the play of Desure Buie, to take the 5 point victory.
TMA was sticking jump shot after jump shot in the early going. Daaquan Washington nailed a pair of long threes to open the game, and powerful wing Dimencio Vaughn was able to show off his versatility by slashing his way into the lane for a running floater, and he followed that up with a step back three ball from the left wing. The Panthers jumped out to a 15-2 lead, but they weren't done.
Drissa Camara was able to finish in the paint off of beautiful entry passes, and Vaughn continued on his hot start, and with 5:05 to go in the 2nd quarter, all was going the Panthers way. They were breaking down the Wings defense, and doing anything they wanted in transition to take a 30-11 lead.
Slowly but surely, from this point on, Wings started to claw back. Ray Pender was aggressive on the glass, not finishing all the time, but getting to the FT line, and connecting from there. Foday Sankaray was starting to show his ability to get to the basket, attacking the lanes, and showing no fear in transition. They still had a ways to go, but Wings had cut the deficit at the half to 32-20.
The one Wings player who needed to get it going if they wanted to truly get back over the top in this one was Buie. He struggled with just 2 points in the first half, but in the 3rd quarter he started to feel his jumper coming back to him. He connected on a runner in the lane, and stuck a long three from the right side. There wasn't a ton of offense in the quarter though, and Wings was still down 8 going to the 4th.
Sankaray opened the 4th with a nice up and under lay in, and Randy Corporan stole a cross court pass and went in for the easy driving layup. TMA called a quick timeout as their lead was now down to 4 with 6:45 to go.
The timeout worked it seemed as Vaughn, who had been quiet in the 3rd, scored backing in with a short hook, and then Bryan Assie scored in transition to push the lead back to 8. Corporan hit on a 3 though coming back, and the intense defense pressure by Wings saw they go on a 7-0 run, and with 2:05 to go, Wings was with 50-49, the closest they had been all game.
Buie took control at this point, and he read a bad pass off the press well and stole it, he attacked the basket and got fouled with 1:37 to go. He hit both FT's, and Wings had their first lead of the game at 51-50.
Wings didn't allow TMA to get any good looks at the rim, no matter a jumper, or a drive inside, and they struggled to find scoring chances. The Panthers went over 4 minutes without scoring, and FT's by Wings late eventually put the game away, but make no mistake, they were tested in a major way, but they grabbed the tough 61-56 win.
Buie, who had just 2 points in the first half, finished with 18 points in the game, including 5 big FT's down the stretch to put the game away. Along with Buie, Sankaray had 14, and Corporan added 12 in the win.
It was a tough loss for TMA, but they got solid efforts from Vaughn and Washington who had 18 and 13 respectively in defeat.
Deer Park Edges Brooklyn Law & Tech, 69-68
Both teams got out to sloppy starts, and even though Law and Tech star Matt Scott got out to a quick start, he missed a pair of easy opportunities inside in the early going that let Deer Park stay within striking distance. The Falcons took the lead early in the 3rd quarter, and even though they never quite pulled away, they were able to hold on late for the 1 point win.
It truly was a slow start for both teams, with neither getting much going offensively in the early going. Scott had 8 of Law and Tech's 14 points in the first quartet, and Deer Park was very sloppy, especially in moving the ball around. They tried to get into tight spaces, and the ball was either picked or stolen on multiple occasions by a swarming Jets defense. The fact they were only down 5 after the first proved big later on as well.
While Falcons star point guard Aaren Edmead was slow to get started! primarily because of the pressure defense Law and Tech applied on him, his teammates started to get it going in the 2nd. Karon Blackwell was the primary scorer as he was able to knock down the first Deer Park three of the game with 3:40 to go in the half. He put in 7 in the quarter, and Angelo Riley, a versatile forward stepped up his game inside, and outside, as he was able to help with the offensive load as well.
No one outside of Scott could get much going offensively though fort hr Jets, Brandon House did connect on a nice baseline jumper, but usual scoring threat Juan Ramos struggled mightily. Scott's ability to attack, and use his strength to muscle his way inside though helped Law and Tech maintain a 29-28 lead going into the half.
Early in the 3rd it looked like the Falcons were going to take control, as Edmead found more room to shoot, freeing himself up and connecting on a pair of long jumpers, and Riley burying threes off broken defensive assignments by the Jets.
Law and Tech stayed fairly close, down just 6 after three, but the Deer Park lead quickly expanded to 66-56 in the 4th quarter, and with 3 minutes to go, and the Jets struggling to get an offensive rhythm going, all did look lost.
But Law and Tech didn't quit. Scott singlehandedly did all he could to will his team back into the game. He hit on a long two point jumper, then stole a pass and got himself to the FT line where he made a pair, and then a wing three ball by Scott, and it was once again a 2 point game at 66-64 with 1:27 to play.
Blackwell broke the Law and Tech run on a nice cutting lay up going in off a feed from Edmead. Ramos on the other end missed a there that could've gotten it to a 1 point game, but he missed and Edmead got fouled on the rebound. The guard made 1 of 2 FT's, and House stuck a midrange jumper off a long rebound to make it 69-66 with 18.6 seconds to go.
The Jets didn't foul, instead trying to create a steal or turnover, and they got a steal in the closing seconds, Ramos got the ball, and he had a chance to tie, but instead of pulling up for the tying 3 at the buzzer, he clearly didn't realize the score and went in for a layup at the buzzer. It was his only FG of the game, and it didn't help Law and Tech in the end, as they fell by 1, 69-68 to Deer Park in a heartbreaker.
Blackwell paced Deer Park in the win with 17 points, with Edmead adding a solid 13 as well for the victors.
Scott, who continues to impress each time out, had a game high 31 for Law and Tech in the defeat.
St. Raymond Bankrupts Fannie Lou Hamer, 72-49
This game saw Ravens big man Luis Santos make his first Tru-Ballaz appearance of the season, and he was dominant for large stretches in this one as the Ravens ran away in the 2nd half to easily advance to the semifinals.
Santos, who looks much more toned, and more agile, was able to post up and do pretty much whatever wanted when he touched the ball in the paint. Big time freshman Sidney Wilson looked like a future star, as at 6'5" his ability to pass and finish driving to the rim were extremely impressive.
The backcourt duo of Tory Ferguson and Brandon Adams were tough to stop on the perimeter as well, with both dpi an excellent job defensively, and as perimeter playmakers, who could break down defenders with ease.
One bright spot for Fannie Lou was the play of guard Isaiah Thomas. He was the leading scorer on last year's PSAL "B" Fannie Lou championship squad, and while he loses a few key scorers, Thomas looked extremely confident with his handle, and his ability to create going down the lane. He didn't have a ton of offensive help from teammates, but in the "B" this year, expect Thomas to be an absolute beast at about 6'2".
Fannie Lou kept the game within 15 for much of the first half, but St. Ray's really got it going in the 3rd quarter and pulled away from there for the comfortable win.
Wilson led the Ravens with 13, while Santos and Ferguson had 11 a piece in the victory.
Thomas did all he could in this one to show he can compete with the very best, and he proved that from start to finish, ending with a game high 27 points for Fannie Lou in the loss.
FDA III Eliminates Monsignor Scanlon, 63-53
The host school of Tru-Ballaz, FDA got out to a quick start and led for most of the game, but Scanlon came back and dominated the play in the 3rd, to take a 45-42 lead going to the 4th.
In the 4th though, behind the home crowd that really came out to support their team, FDA, and more specifically the duo of Anthony Cawthon and Tamir Rivers came up big.
FDA was down 50-49 with 4:46 to go when Cawthon hit a huge three to give his team the lead back. That shot helped spark FDA on a 10-0, with Cawthon and Rivers combining for all 10 of the points.
George Pena was on top of his game for Scanlon in this one, and he had to be, as they were missing the services of big men Jonathan Nwankwo and Emmanuel Chukwu, which really hurt their cause.
The interior play of Scanlon, especially defensively, was just not there, Cawthon did a lot of damage driving to the rim, which may have been tougher against a full Scanlon squad,
Take nothing away from FDA though. They closed this game out incredibly strong, going on a 14-3 run in the closing minutes to win by 10.
Cawthon had a team high 20 points for FDA, with Rivers adding in 16 of his own in the win.
In defeat, Pena, a sophomore, proved to be one of the better young players in the city, in scoring a game high 25 points.
Mondays Tru-Ballaz semifinals are now set and look like this: