NEW YORK, NY - The semifinals of the Smartball Classic were held Wednesday evening in Harlem, with the 2nd semifinal pitting Bishop Loughlin against Thomas Jefferson in a CHSAA vs. PSAL Brooklyn duel.
The game was hotly contested, but big efforts from Mike Williams and Javian Delacruz helped push the Lions through to Thursday's championship, as they took down the Orange Wave, 67-54.
Loughlin was playing without star 6'3" guard Khadeen Carrington, who is away with family right now, but early on his loss didn't seem like a big deal as the Rutgers bound Williams carried the load offensively, and doing it in ways that you don't normally see from him. He was aggressive going to the basket, and he showed maturity in pulling up for short jumpers and floaters, knowing that going in at times could result in charges. Williams had 11 in the first quarter as the Lions opened up a 21-9 lead in the early going.
Jefferson came storming back with an impressive 16-5 run to cut it to a 1 point deficit as Curtis Smith and Shamorie Ponds were propelling the Orange Wave back into the game, with the deep ball carrying the way. Smith and Ponds each hit a pair if threes during the run, that saw Loughlin get sloppy with the ball, and they struggled to control the glass, something they had been thriving on earlier.
Williams though was not about to let his team get dragged downs he got the ball in the corner and drove baseline for the easy bucket, and he would then also close the half with a 30 foot three pointer, and he sank 18 points in the opening half, giving Loughlin a 35-27 halftime lead.
The Orange Wave looked as if they were not going to let the Loughlin strong end of the half to faze them as Ponds and Patrick Brown each scored to open the 2nd half, and cut the deficit for Jefferson back down to 4, but just as they did earlier, Loughlin answered.
Delacruz would connect on back to back buckets, and Ryan Lawrence, a 6'2" transfer from St. Benedict's (NJ) ran the floor nicely, finding Williams on cuts, and A.J. Vernon in the paint, leading the Lions on a 10-0 run, opening the Loughlin lead to 45-31 with 3:10 to go in the 3rd.
The game of runs would continue as Ponds finished the quarter on a personal 8-0 run of his own, led by a pair of made threes, one from the left wing, and the other from the right quarter to close the gap, and make the 4th quarter have some intrigue, with the Loughlin lead just at 45-39 entering the 4th.
The 4th though turned out to be the Delacruz quarter. With the Jefferson defense so focused on Williams, and marking him, Delacruz was given more of a chance to shine, and he grabbed that chance and ran with it. He was comfortable with the ball in his hands, running the break, and finishing in an array of ways. He took the ball down the left side, spun away from the defense, and finished with his off hand one time down the floor, and on another he crossed over his defender and hit on a lefty reverse along the baseline. A truly impressive output by Delacruz in the 4th, where he scored 12 of his 22 points.
Jefferson really seemed to run out of gas in the 4th as well, missing easy chances inside, and not hitting a 3 for the entire quarter. They gave a valiant effort, but Williams and Delacruz were too much as Loughlin advanced to Thursday's title game with the 67-54 victory.
Williams and Delacruz combined to score 50 of their teams 67 points, with Williams finishing with 28, and Delacruz adding 22. In defeat, Jefferson was led by the rising sophomore Ponds who had 18 points.
South Shore sends Satellite Academy into orbit, 68-41
The opening game of the night saw Devyn Wilson of South Shore hit on 3 threes in the opening quarter, and really set the tempo for the Vikings, as they jumped out to a 14-2 lead, and never looked back.
Wilson did get thrown out of the game early in the 3rd quarter because he was issued a Technical Foul, and the Smartball Classic has a 1 Tech and you are out rule, but South Shore didn't miss a beat, with Doudmy Saint Hilaire stepping up his game, taking the ball right to the basket, and finding easy lanes to penetrate and score. Nick Simeon, a young rising sophomore was also impressive with his playmaking a shooting late in the game, to make sure no late run would hurt the Vikings as they eased home for the 27 point win, and the right to come back Thursday night to play for the championship against Bishop Loughlin.
Wilson led South Shore scoring 15 points in just two and a half quarters. Hilaire added 14, and Simeon had 13 for the winner. For Satellite, they were led by Ezekial Sierra, who had a game high 17 points.