May 22, 2011

Sean Bell Goes to New Heights in iS8

Remember in the movie Space Jam when the 'Monstars' took on the 'Toon Squad' - Bugs Bunny, Michael Jordan and some cartoon characters?

Do you also remember the moment in the movie when the 'Monstars' scored so many points on the 'Toons' that a sign on the scoreboard read, "Kinda one-sided, isn't it?"

Well, if you wanted someone to recount the Sean Bell All-Stars' matchup with New Heights (Art), that would be the moment used to describe the 32-minute game between the two New York teams. Although there were fans of both squads in attendance, many from both sides were in agreement about how the play of Sean Bell made New Heights look like they were totally out of their league on both ends of the floor.

Sean Bell won easily in the semifinal round of the playoffs, 73-56.

What was most surprising to spectators was that it was the semifinals and the second game of the day - usually reserved for the marquee matchup. But, despite the high expectation of seeing, at least, a struggle for the desired spot in the championship, it just did not happen.

"No disrespect, not to toot our own horn, I came in this game feeling that we should have blew them out," said Sean Bell All-Stars head coach Raheem "Rah" Wiggins. "If we didn't blow them out, I [would have] felt we underachieved. With the pieces we have - Ricardo Ledo, Josiah Turner - I just feel like their skill level and their skill-set is that superior over the other guys, whatever the case may be, and it should have turned out the way it turned out."

Although a real scuffle between players on both teams occurred early in the first quarter, the 'fighting' started and ended there. New Heights seemed to quickly fizzle as Sean Bell All-Stars ran through them with longer, stronger and more athletic players. In comparison with Sean Bell, New Heights' regular rotation was a noticeably smaller team - outside of 6-foot-7 Chris Ortiz (four points) and 6-foot-8 Arizona-bound Sidiki Johnson (game-high 16 points).

Sean Bell led 25-16 before New Heights' Darrel Lucky (11 points) nailed a long jumper to close the gap to 25-18 before the end of the period. Still, because Sean Bell All-Stars did not let go of the rope or get complacent during the game, Sean Bell would use the second quarter to excite the crowd with some of its finest work.

What made the deficit so difficult to overcome for a team that usually has chemistry and good communication was that, even without the assistance of leading scorer Louisville-bound Angel Nunez, who was ruled ineligible to continue to play in the tournament because of rules and logistics, Sean Bell was clicking on all cylinders.

"Angel is a big miss," said Wiggins. "Angel stretches the defense, he does a lot of things for us, whatever the case may be, but I always felt we had a great shot at winning and that we were going to win."

The squad strung together a highlight reel of plays - power dunks, 3-pointers, fade-away jumpers and awe-provoking blocks and deflections. New additions 6-foot-5 Ricardo Ledo (15 points) and 6-foot-3 Josiah Turner (nine points) made their presence felt alongside regulars 6-foot-9 Pittsburgh-commit Khem Birch (14 points) and 6-foot-7 Grandy Glaze (12 points).

Although Sean Bell increased its point differential in the second phase, earning a 43-29 halftime lead, it would be back-to-back baskets by Damion Lee (six points) and Ledo that would give their squad as much as a 22-point lead, 58-36, in the third quarter.

New Heights' Johnson seemed to be the only player playing as if he could win the game on the next possession. At one point, despite the deepening deficit and Sean Bell showing no signs of releasing the hold they had on the game, he tried to give his team the same relentless attitude by yelling, "C'mon, the game isn't over yet." But the rest of the New Heights team did not seem to get the memo.

Outside of Johnson, Sean Bell was not strongly contested on shot attempts or greatly challenged for rebounds by any other opponent on New Heights. As a result, Sean Bell All-Stars kept its comfortable, blowout position over New Heights well into the fourth quarter.

Going into the championship game with a blowout this deep into the playoffs may provide an added boost to the Sean Bell All-Stars' winning mentality. Sean Bell and Real Scout, the overall No. 1 and No. 2 seeds of the tournament, respectively, will pose a major challenge and threat to each other's brimming desire of obtaining the prestigious tournament title and maintaining a perfect record.

"Real Scout is a great team," said Wiggins. "They have great point guards. Tavon Sledge - he's a proven winner at iS8 . . . Jakarr Sampson . . . I think it's going to be a great game."


No. 1 Sean Bell All-Stars will meet No. 2 Real Scout in the Championship game on Sunday, May 21, at Intermediate School 8 in Jamaica , N.Y. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m.















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