Champions crowned in DC

The Charlie Weber DC Hoop Fest concluded on Sunday afternoon with a set of four championship games played at Catholic University. The NY Panthers' Derrick Caracter and the GC Ballers' Paul Harris, two of the nation's best junior prospects, were heating up the courts in the finals, and was there with the coverage.
National Championship
NY Panthers 60 - Philly MJC 50
The NY Panthers, led by 6-foot-9 center Derrick Caracter from St. Patrick HS in Elizabeth, NJ, took care of business in the finals, scoring a 60-50 win over a scrappy Philly MJC squad that had simply run out of gas on Sunday afternoon. 6-foot-5 8th grader Lance Stephenson led the Panthers in scoring with 13 points, but it was Caracter's early work in the paint that set the tone and got the Panthers a double digit lead early in the 2nd quarter. He finished with 12 points and close to double digit rebounds in limited minutes. 6-foot-10 center Michael Davis also had 12 points, and looked more comfortable on the floor with each passing game.
Philly MJC basically played the entire tournament with no bench. They used a couple of players from their 16 and under team in pool play, but in the playoffs, they pretty much ran the starters the whole way, and by the time they made it to the finals, it showed. In the semis, they won a bitterly fought contest against DC Assault, 53-52, and a little over an hour later had little bounce in their tilt with the Panthers. 6-foot-4 Reggie Redding, MJC's tallest player, who'd been terrific throughout the event could only manage 8 points in the championship, as his perimeter stroke deserted him. 6-foot-1 guard Tyrone Lewis led all scorers with 16 points, and led a valiant 2nd half comeback to make it respectable. 5-11 guard Malik Alvin added 11 points in the loss.
Diplomat Championship
GC Ballers 68 - Playaz Black 57
6-foot-4 225 pound G/F Paul Harris from Niagara Falls HS in New York busted out the best performance of an all-world weekend in the Diplomat Division title game, with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists in the GC Ballers' 68-57 win over Playaz Black. Harris had been deadly efficient throughout the event, putting up modest scoring numbers, but dominating with his passing and rebounding in a series of blowout wins. However, he showed in the finals that he can take over the game with his scoring as well, knocking down a couple of threes and taking the ball aggressively to the cup.
Harris is quietly passing guys on the list of top players in the class of 2006 this spring. How high can he go? Several college coaches polled said he was the best player in the event, and maybe, the best in the country! While he may not claim the top spot, don't be surprised if Harris is breathing some rare air when the next round of national rankings are published.
Lazar Haywood added 13 points, and impressive guard Mike Williams added 12 in the win.
The Playaz Black used a balanced attack to keep it close until late, but the problem was that no one really stepped up for them. 6-foot-5 Kimanni Barrett is usually the guy who can get them a bucket when they need it, but he was held to a quiet 5 points in the finals. Terrell Williams, Mark Crumble, and Ralph Fernandez each had 9 points to lead the Playaz in the loss.
Patriot Championship
Long Island Lightning 78 - Richmond Squires 54
The sophomore backcourt duo of 6-foot-1 Corey Fisher and 6-foot-1 Darius Gabriel combined for 37 points to lead the Long Island Lightning to a 78-54 win over the Richmond Squires in the American Division title game. Fisher, who looked like a lightning bolt early in the second half, finshing quick drives and slicing up the squires' defense, finished with 22 points. Gabriel added 15, while juniors 6-foot-8 Justin Burrell and 6-foot-7 Tyrone Nash had 13 and 11 respectively.
The Squires got 19 points from 6-foot-4 2G Rashawn McLemore, and Jenard Fleming added 10 in the loss.
American Championship
Stamford Express 50 - Lynchburg Hoops 41
We did not see much of this game, but the Stamford Express got 21 points from impressive 6-foot-7 junior PF Leslie Simmons to claim a 50-41 victory over Lynchburg Hoops in the American Division Championship game. Tough 6-foot PG Shaudelle Guinyard from Bridgeport Central added 13 points in the win.
We'd seen the Express play a couple of games earlier in the playoffs, and Simmons was a standout performer. Rider, Wagner, and American univeristy have been recruiting Simmons, with schools like Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Fordham keeping tabs on him as well.