SOUTH JAMAICA, N.Y. -- The iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic, characterized by its ability to bring out the toughness in players, was back in action this weekend as seven matchups took place on the hardwood of the Intermediate School 8 gymnasium on Saturday.
On the first day of the tournament, both New York and out-of-state squads took center stage.
Despite the apparent sparing presence of widely known AAU programs and ball clubs in the tourney, there were great displays of talent and skill coming from high Division-I commits, as well as uncommitted individuals both on the radar and off.
Because it was not just the usual suspects that had major impacts on their respective squad's on-court success, each game did not lack standout performances.
Here are some recaps of the matchups that took place.
TEAM UNDERRATED TARGETS TEAM MARKSMEN, 66-51
A combination of Team Underrated's collective strong defense, a bruising effort by Paul Nosworthy (Baldwin H.S. (N.Y.) '15) on the interior and a flurry of 3-pointers from Tavon Ginyard (St. John the Baptist (N.Y.) '15) catapulted the Long Island team ahead by 13 points, 22-9, midway through the second quarter.
Although Team Marksmen's Shane Herrity (St. Francis Prep (N.Y.) '15) tried to keep his team in the game, the squad could not collectively establish an offensive momentum as players like Nosworthy and Payton Johnson (Academy of the New Church (Pa.) '14) covered a lot of floor and prevented points in transition.
This resulted in a 24-12 advantage for Team Underrated at halftime.
In the third quarter, Team Underrated increased its lead over Team Marksmen to as much as 19 points, 39-20. However, Team Marksmen, led by Hamed Shamseldin (Lawrence H.S. (N.Y.) '14) and Iona-bound Dwayne Daniel (Lawrence H.S. (N.Y.) '14) tried to reverse roles with Team Underrated to stage a comeback.
Team Marksmen stepped up the ball pressure, forcing Team Underrated into turning the ball over. Team Marksmen capitalized on the opportunities gained through its defense and went on a 16-6 run, punctuated by a tough lay-up by Daniel.
Team Marksmen cut its deficit to nine points, 45-36, before Team Underrated surged ahead again, as Isiah Giles (Upper Room (N.Y.) '15), Nosworthy and Ginyard went back to work on offense and clearing the defensive glass.
This time, Team Underrated earned a 20-point advantage, 64-44, midway through the fourth quarter, sealed by a seven-point performance from Isaiah Jackson (Westside High (N.J.) '14), who scored all of his points in the final stanza.
Team Underrated's Ginyard finished with a game-high 16 points. Nosworthy, Giles and Johnson posted 14, 11 and eight points, respectively. Meanwhile, Team Marksmen's Shamseldin had 11 points in the loss. Teammates Herrity and Daniel each netted eight points.
2GZ ENTERTAINMENT-WILL PULLS AWAY FROM A TOUGH HIGH RISE TEAM UP, 74-53
Sometimes people say that the score of a game is not indicative of the kind of matchup it was. This is a perfect example of such a game as the final blowout score does not mean it was a lopsided effort. In fact, the massive winning margin did not happen until the fourth quarter.
High Rise Team Up (Conn.) created difficult conditions for 2GZ Entertainment to go on a run. In fact, High Rise led by as much as five points, 10-5, in the first quarter. However, the advantage did not last long, as 2GZ -- paced by Darnell Holmes ('14), Nosike Obanya (Believe Prep (N.C.) '14) and Marzuq Jimoh (Benjamin Cardozo H.S. (N.Y.) '14) -- would go on to hold its own six-point advantage, 22-16.
Later in the second phase, High Rise regained its lead on a basket by Ian Gardener (Kolbe Cathedral (Conn.) '14). And, on the team's next possession, Gardener torched the nets with a 3-point dagger. What became a four-point lead turned into a six-point lead, 31-25, when teammate Jeremy Bonofacio (Dwight School (N.Y.) '15) scored on a hard-fought bucket.
Still, even despite the offensive contributions of High Rise's EJ Crawford (Simsbury High (Conn.) '15), 2GZ managed to claw ahead by three points, 36-33, at halftime.
The contest became knotted at 43 as late as the midway mark of the third quarter, but as the game clock ticked on 2GZ' Obanya made his presence increasingly felt.
Obanya's hot hand -- from jumpshot to inside penetration -- even closed out the tertiary period executing a 5-0 run of his own, helping to elevate his team above the competition by nine points, 56-47.
In the fourth phase, with some point guard ball movement from Travis Flagg (Coastal Academy (N.J.) '14), 2GZ rapidly built on its lead to form a 20-plus cushion with little defensive resistance.
Ultimately, 2GZ Entertainment-Will were led in scoring by the game-high 23-point performance of Obanya. Holmes, who scored 11 points in the first half, finished with 15. Teammate Jimoh netted 14 points. High Rise Team Up's Crawford recorded a team-high 14 points, while teammates Bonofacio and Gardener had 10 and eight points, respectively.
Seemingly dominating the game on both ends of the floor, 2GZ coasted to a 12-point advantage, 35-23, by halftime. The team had balanced effort coming from four players and were being strung together by a fearless point guard in William Valdez (Patterson East Side (N.J.) '14).
In the second half, Stamford Peace saw itself fall behind by as much as 17 points, 46-29, after a hard-to-guard offensive showing by 2GZ' Daquaise Andrews (Thomas Jefferson (N.Y.) '14) a desperation push to avoid its second loss of the day drove the Connecticut team to go on a run.
Stamford Peace's counterpunch from Jeremiah Livingston (Westhill High (Conn.) '15) and Tyrell St. John (Trinity Catholic (Conn.) '15) was strong enough to slice the team's deficit to as low as four points, 60-56. Stamford Peace's head coach used his last timeout of the contest to draw up a play that would narrow the margin to a one-possession game.
Instead, 2GZ was able to tilt Stamford Peace out of the play, forcing Stamford Peace to foul 2GZ players in order to slow down the game clock. Since 2GZ secured its free throw opportunities on the offensive end, as well as pressuring the ball and causing bad shots and turnovers, it rendered Stamford Peace's plan moot while the point differential widened to nine points, 67-58.
2GZ Entertainment-Steph's Andrews posted a game-high 21 points after scoring 13 in the second half. Valdez and teammate Charles Wingate (Hoosac (N.Y.) '15) aided in the point production as each recorded 12 points in the win. Stamford Peace's Livingston and St. John netted 14 and 12 points, respectively.
JERSEY CITY BOYS CLUB ROLL THROUGH FRAZIER SPORTS ACADEMY, 93-63
It didn't take long for Frazier Sports Academy (FSA) to figure out that Jersey City Boys Club (JCBC) was packing more firepower that it could handle. Although the teams remained relatively close in the first quarter, by halftime, JCBC was leading the competition by 16 points, 48-32.
Jersey City Boys Club was raining 3-pointers all over the hardwood through the mild-mannered marksman Ryan Gaynor (Whippany Park H.S. (N.J.) '16), who coolly stroked his way to 14 first-half points en route to 16 points.
In addition to Gaynor, JCBC's Donald Stewart (Paramus Catholic (N.J.) cleaned the glass and capitalized on second-chance opportunities like clockwork. Teammate Zack Keller (Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) '16) also added a nice jumper to the mix, while Shaq McFarlan (St. Anthony's (N.J.)) tacked on a physical dimension in the paint.
FSA did not seem to have an answer for JCBC's four offensive threats. The weight of the team fell on the shoulders of Malik Thomas (St. Raymond H.S. (N.Y.) '15) and Jaquan McKennon (National Christian Academy (Md.) '15). Though Thomas and McKennon were able to secure more than two-thirds of the team's total points, the pair became the target of JCBC's defense which forced the duo to turn the ball over.
JCBC earned an advantage of as much as the final score.
Jersey City Boys Club's Stewart finished with a team-high 19 points. Teammates Keller and McFarlan recorded 15 and 12 points, respectively. Meanwhile, Frazier Sports Academy's Thomas had a game-high 25 points as his teammate McKennon netted 21 points.
THE MAINE ATTRACTION RAILROADS NEWBURGH PANTHERS, 104-56
It seemed as the games continued, the blowout differential grew worse.
What was scheduled to be a matchup between two teams looked more like a practice session for The Maine Attraction... or, at times, even worse, a lay-up line.
The Newburgh Panthers were glaringly no match for The Maine Attraction, which is coached by Dwayne "Tiny" Morton and comprises some of Brooklyn's best ballers. There was little correction needed as The Maine Attraction went to work on its opponent. And, though none of the athletes were displaying the fullness of their potential, there were five players that scored in double-figures -- a sixth was one point shy.
By the close of the warm-up period, the score was 26-9. And, by halftime, the score was an incredible 60-18.
It appeared by the third quarter, The Maine Attraction lowered the heat and, instead, began attempting throw-downs one would see in a dunk contest.
Only one player on the Newburgh Panthers, Maiave Vavai Paris, refused to give up, doing everything he could to get his team into contender status. Still, despite all his activity, he could not do it alone.
The Maine Attraction's Rutgers-bound Mike Williams (Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) '14) had a game-high 19 points. Elijah Boone[ (Abraham Lincoln H.S. (N.Y.) '14) and Khadeen Carrington (Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) '14) netted 18 and 14 points, respectively. Teammates Seton Hall-commit Ismael Sanogo (Newark East Side (N.J.) '14) and Angel Delgado (St. Patrick (N.J.) '14) added 12 points apiece. A.J. Williams (Abraham Lincoln H.S. (N.Y.) '14) chipped in nine points.
IN OTHER NEWS . . .
Compete to Achieve defeated NYC Jazz, 60-53. Compete to Achieve's William Wilson had a game-high 21 points. NYC Jazz' Romano Clarke finished with 16 points. Teammate Isaiah Simpson added 14 points in the loss.
Ben Gordon All-Stars (aka Mt. Vernon HS) defeated Stamford Peace, 57-40. Ben Gordon's Keeme Krubally posted 14 points, while teammate Brandon Martin recorded 13 points. Stamford Peace's Aaron Wheeler and Tyrell St. John had 14 and 12 points, respectively.