iS8 stalwart NIA Prep wanted to put their stamp on the Fall 2011 classic, so they registered two teams.
The powerhouse program saw both its National and International units make it to the playoffs, but which team would advance to the quarterfinals? One, none, or both?
Unfortunately for the New Jersey-based NIA Prep, both squads fell to their New York opponents - one by via nail biter and one via blowout. The International squad went down swinging, as they gave Slow Bucks TV / 2 the Rack some static, but ultimately fell in OT, 69-66. Their National counterparts, however, fell into a booby trap early and were in turn buried by New Heights, 55-39, in an anti-climactic cap to Friday night's action.
Slow Bucks TV / 2 The Rack Prevails in OT
When two formidable opponents get into an ebb and flow match in a packed iS8 gymnasium, it's a safe bet to assume that a game will come down to one big shot or a host of small things. This game actually came down to both, but ultimately it was defense and the small on the stat sheet but large in the game scheme free throws that made the difference.
The runs started early, as 6'8" big man Jordan Washington helped punt Slow Bucks out to a 10-0 start. Fortunately for NIA Prep, they got lucky - Darrel Lucky, that is. The former Robeson HS standout helped key a reciprocal run to knot the game at 14 after one quarter.
The pendulum swung in favor of Slow Bucks for a good while, as junior PG Jameik Riviere controlled the tempo, made well-timed passes, and provided offense (some of which came courtesy of free throws with the use of the often underutilized backboard). A Riviere free throw put the Queens team (comprised primarily of PSAL B-Division players) up by nine points late in the half, but a spurt of pressure defense from NIA rattled Slow Bucks and made it a 31-25 game at the half.
Washington kept Slow Bucks afloat in the third quarter, where they eventually took their largest lead of the game on one of his buckets, 41-29. But efforts from Lucky and Omari Gaddy (14 points) meant NIA were only a quick run away from changing the complexion of the game. That run came in the fourth quarter.
A flurry of assists from Lucky helped close the gap, and he eventually fed Gaddy with 2:25 left to tie it at 57. From that point on, the game of tug-o-war didn't see much rope given on either side. NIA's pressure defense awarded Lucky the transition bucket that finally gave them the lead, but moments later a put back by Izaha Jackson swung the two point lead the other way. Slow Bucks inched out to a 63-60 lead in the final moments of play, but a porous 6-11 free throw performance in the fourth quarter was the culprit in their failure to keep NIA out of striking distance. NIA shot an even more abysmal 3-7 from the line, but sometimes hitting big shots can rectify free throw woes. Evander Cruz' long ball with time running low knotted the game and Slow Bucks were unable to answer at the buzzer. Ultimately, the extra session came down to getting stops and making free throws. Both Washington and Tarik Raynor nailed both of their freebies to ice the game.
Riviere's ideology on free throw shooting - he shot a perfect 6-6 for the game, as did Raynor - is simple, at least when it comes to his unorthodox style.
"The glass is there," he said bluntly. "Why not use it?"
Washington's game high 21 points led Slow Bucks / 2 The Rack, while Riviere and Raynor added 8 points apiece.
Darrel Lucky's 20 points led NIA Prep International.
Slow Bucks / 2 The Rack will play the winner of the Playaz Juniors / Panthers game on Sunday at 12:45 PM.
New Heights Grounds NIA Prep National
When New Heights kicked off to a 5-0 start and NIA Prep National stormed right back, it looked like the IS8 crowd was in for a facsimile of the previous game's excitement. Unfortunately, the wheels on the NIA Prep National machine ran out of grease soon after their quick start.
The long range shooting of Joel Angus (11 points), the gritty combo guard play of Tyliek Kimbrough (13 points), and the post game of Jimmy Hall (conflated with solid defense and an overall out hustling of NIA) pulled the rug out from under the NJ squad by the middle of the second quarter. A thunderous, posterizing dunk from Angus on a coast to coast play put the exclamation point on New Heights' dominance, and by the time they opened the second half with a 7-0 run, NIA Prep were relegated to jump shooting. NIA Point guard Ibn Muhammad (team high 11 points) put forth a valiant effort, but the deal was already sealed.
Hall scored a game high 14 points.
New Heights will play the winner of the Playaz Seniors / BC Eagles game on Sunday at 2PM.