May 18, 2008

Playaz Srs. Skin Panthers Jrs.

While the first iS8/Nike semifinal on Saturday afternoon was expected to be a blowout, the second was considered to be the more evenly matched contest.

And for a while, it looked to be just that. Then, in the blink of an eye, the Playaz Club Seniors exploded with a monstrous third quarter en route to a 99-74 annihilation of the Panthers Juniors.

The two teams traded baskets early, with the Playaz' Jiovanny Fontan and Alberto Estwick tearing up the Panthers' perimeter defense and the Panthers' Omari Lawrence knifing through the Playaz' interior.

With the score tied at 9-9, the Playaz struck the first blow of momentum, finishing the first quarter on a 10-4 run to take a six-point lead by the end of one.

The Playaz Club carried that momentum into the second period, scoring the first seven points of that stanza to take a 26-13 lead on an Estwick three-pointer. Buoyed by Lawrence though, the Panthers weathered the storm and responded with an 11-5 run to cut the Playaz' advantage to seven.

Rashawn Stores hit a three for the Panthers to make it 35-29 Playaz Club, but Fontan answered with a trey of his own to stretch the lead back to nine. Playaz Club led 39-31 at half.

Then came the jaw-dropping third quarter.

Mike Rosario, who almost single-handedly carried the Playaz to an impossibly narrow quarterfinal win over New Heights, would put his team on his back again. The Rutgers-bound guard scored 15 points in the period, as the Playaz outscored the Panthers 33-10 to go up 72-41 after three, salting the game away in the span of eight minutes.

The Panthers never got close after that.

Though Rosario helped the Playaz get separation, it was Eastwick who led in scoring for the tournament's #2 seed. The sharpshooter rang up 30 points, while Rosario chipped in 25 and Fontan dropped 21. Lawrence, one of the few players who didn't quit late for the Panthers, racked up 28 points.

With the win, the Playaz Club Seniors advance to the iS8 final on Sunday, where they will take on the tourney favorite Shooting Stars, in a rematch of last year's title game, won by the Shooting Stars.

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