Without star guard Paul Harris, the GC Ballers received outstanding performances from rapidly improving 6-foot-6 forward Lazar Hayward and 6-foot-3 guard Robert Garrison to claim the 17 and under Gold Division championship at the 2005 Rumble in the Bronx this past weekend at Fordham University. Rivals.com was there with the coverage.
While Rose Hill Gym on the campus of Fordham University is one of the few remaining hallowed halls of college basketball, the non-airconditioned facility is a harsh environment to watch a game in June, much less play one. Therefore, the team that usually wins the Rumble in the Bronx is the one with the perfect combination of quality talent and depth. The GC Ballers had both this past weekend, and thus it was no surprise to see them lace it up against the Juice All Stars in the finals of the Gold division..
While the Juice All Stars did not have a big name star on the roster, the scrapping team defense and the sweet shooting of unheralded 6-foot combo-guard Malcolm Grant propelled them into the finals. Grant, a rising senior from Robeson HS in Brooklyn, NY, had a huge weekend, and did little to diminish his reputation as one of the best pure shooters in New York.
In the finals, the GC Ballers jumped out to a 14 point lead early in the first half, as Garrison showed his versatility by knocking down shots from the perimeter and penetrating the lane for tough layups in traffic. However, the Juice turned up the defensive pressure and closed the gap to within two, 38-36 at the break.
In the second half, GC again jumped out on top, but the Juice made another big run to take a brief lead late in the contest. But it was Garrison again down the stretch who came up with all the key buckets as the crew from upstate scored a 74-63 win over the Brooklynites,
Garrison finished with a game high 27 points. Hayward added 16 and 6-1 guard Mike Williams had 10.
Lazar Hayward was named the tournament MVP.
For the Juice All Stars, 6-foot-9 rising junior center Brandon Walters led the way with 17 points. Malcolm Grant added 16, but struggled a bit from beyond the arc in the final, possibly due to the draining heat in the gym.
In the 15 and under championship it was an all New York affair as Team Next faced off against the NY Panthers. The talent on the floor in this game was superb for a 15 and under contest, with excellent rising freshman sensation Lance Stephenson leading the Panthers, and diminutive rising sophomore Erving Walker leading Team Next.
Walker began the game on fire, as he nailed jumper after jumper off the dribble tallying 17 points. Team Next built a 10 point lead mid-way through the first half, but Stephenson answered with a three pointer, several drives into the lane, and great passing to pull the Panthers right back into it. It was a tie game at the half.
In the second half the teams played pretty evenly, and the intensity, especially on defense really picked up. The Panthers got a huge scoring contribution from 6-foot-7 rising junior forward Devan Ebanks from Bishop Loughlin and excellent guard play from 5-foot-11 rising sophomore Terrell Holloway from St. Benedict's. However, 6-foot-1 rising sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs from Seton Hall Prep put Team Next on his back, and we had a one point game with 9 seconds left.
The stage was set for Walker to come up big as he brought the ball up the floor. But, he was double-teamed at the three point line, and lost the ball out of bounds with just a couple of ticks left. The Panthers ran out the clock after a couple of inbounds plays and held on for a 69-68 win.
Ebanks finished with 25 points to lead all scorers. Stephenson added 19 points in the win.
Gibbs led Team Next with 24 points. Walker added 22, but had just 5 after the break. 6-foot-5 Marquis Grant from Christ the King had 9 points in the loss.
7-foot 310 pound rising sophomore center James Tyler from IMG Academy was named MVP of the 15 and under division. While the big fella didn't score a lot of points in the final, he played an amazing number of minutes for a youngster with his bulk and intimidated just about every shot that was launched in the paint.
We didn't see the game, but the Albany City Rocks took the 16 and under crown with a 72-68 win over the Utah Swoosh. Jimmer Fredette and Mike Culpo each scored 22 points in the win. Utah was led by 6-foot-9 245 pound center Benjamin Aird with 12 points.