For the better part of three quarters, it looked bleak for Our Savior New American. Lutheran Christian had spurted to a 16-point lead at one point during the third quarter. To make matters even worse for Our Savior Walter Murray and Konimba Diarra were both on the bench and would not see action during the second half for different reasons.
But a terrific second half by Valpo recruit Oumar Sylla helped Our Savior rally to an exciting 68-60 Rim Rocker title win held at the beautiful campus of Longwood High School in New York.
Lutheran grabbed a 16-14 lead after the first eight minutes. Murray was sent to the bench by the Our Savior staff for the rest of the game after the talented shooting guard got into a brief scuffle with a Lutheran Christian player.
Lutheran expanded the lead to 36-26 after two quarters of play, mainly on the outstanding efforts of Kevin Greene, who made some incredible shots on drives to the basket. Greene was also selected to the All tournament team. Maurice Maxwell also had a solid first half. He hit some perimeter shots to keep the Our Savior defense honest. He had 10 points in the first 16 minutes of play.
During the third, Lutheran spurted out to a 16-point lead. But in the latter part of third, Sylla and Our Savior started to chip into the lead. Our Savior got some key bench help from D.J. Fields and Cesar Chavez. They didn't score many points but each of them had some steals and rebounds to help the Our Savior effort.
Fields did hit two key throws with 1:31 left to tie the score at 58-58. Then junior sensation Juan Palacios, selected the tournament's MVP, hit a short jumper in the lane to push Our Savior ahead 60-58 with one minute left. Sylla hit two free throws after rebounding a Lutheran miss with 31 seconds left to give Our Savior a four-point lead.
Hans Stelzer stole a Lutheran pass and hit two more free throws with 23 seconds left before Greene hit a driving layup to cut the lead back to 64-60. However, Sylla hit for four more free throws in the closing seconds to ice the game for Our Savior. Sylla was also named to the All tournament team. Oumar finished with 28 points while Palacios had 16 points.
Greene scored 20 points for Lutheran while Maxwell had 14 and Zakee Boyd added 13.
This game was a difficult one for the referees, who did an outstanding job in keeping players away from each other on several occasions. It was a fierce, physical game that ignited some flareups between the players, including a verbal battle once the game was over.
Unfortunately, only one title is given out in this event. And that's a shame because both teams played hard every second and each deserved some recognition for the way they played.
*Konimba Diarra, Our Savior's center, sat out the entire game due to a minor injury. Diarra has signed a letter of intent with South Florida.