FORT MYERS, FLA. - The future ACC trio of Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson got a taste of what to expect when they get to Tobacco Road. The three of them and their respective teams went at it in the championship game of the City of Palms. With Roy Williams on the sideline, Wright delivered in a big way.
Wright's Brentwood Academy surged back against Ellington and Henderson's Episcopal Academy for a 74-68 victory.
"Christmas came fairly early for us," Wright said after being named tournament MVP. Indeed it did.
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Wright scored a team high 31 points with an array of moves that made even Williams smile from the sidelines. Wright didn't do it alone. It was, like it always is with this talented Brentwood Academy team, a team effort.
Episcopal Academy was up for the majority of the game but not by a lot. They were down by as many as 10 points until Brandon Brown, a 6-foot-6 junior connected on his biggest birthday present he's ever received.
"Today is my birthday and when my team gave me a cake this morning, my wish was to get a win today," Brown said. "I didn't think it was going to be like that."
Brown's three-pointer gave Brentwood a 61-60 lead. Then future Southern Illinois guard Joshua Bone connected on a three of his own, knocked down a couple of free throws and played solid defense on Ellington in the closing minutes of the game.
"We knew we had to fight back because they were going to keep coming," Wright said.
Bone played a large part in that. His play at the City of Palms shouldn't be lost in Wright's commanding shadow. He played consistently strong all tournament long, showing that he's more than just a very good perimeter shooter. Oftentimes, he drew the tough defensive assignment of checking Ellington, Corey Fisher or Lincoln's talented junior guard Devon Peterson.
Ellington, one of the most confident scorers you'll find in the country, responded on the offensive end after he did something he's probably never done in his high school career. Ellington whipped an open court dunk and stuck the ball right on the rim with no one around.
The future Tar Heel responded by hitting his next six shots. He finished with 29 points and hit from nearly every spot on the floor. Ellington added 10 rebounds as well.
Henderson, one of the most explosive athletes in the nation, wowed the crowd with a number of stunning moves to the basket. He has the body, work ethic and competitive spirit to come into Duke and play a major role for the Blue Devils. Had EA won the event, he and Ellington would have split the tournament MVP honors.
St. Anthony's claims another third place trophy
St. Patrick's head coach Kevin Boyle has his fare share of City of Palms trophies but not the one he and his Celtics squad wanted. St. Pat's beat Lake Oswego 59-51 for the third-place title game.
Maybe the only thing St. Patrick junior Jeff Robinson needed was a monster dunk in traffic to start the game. After a disappointing showing from the get go earlier in the week, the four-star guard finally found his voice on the hardwood. In the first quarter, Robinson came thundering down the lane in a half court set and powered home a nasty dunk. That sparked his competitive spirit and brought the Jeff Robinson of old back.
"That got the team hyped up. I wanted to do that because I knew it was going to be a good way to start for us," Robinson said.
Then in the fourth quarter with less than a minute to play, Robinson used his quick springs to elevate for a key block and stopped a surge from Lake Oswego.
"After that block, they folded," Robinson said. "There was no way they were going to be able to get back in it after that."
Robinson finished with a team high 18 points. Teammate Corey Fisher put in 11 points and six assists while unsigned senior Ruben Guillandeaux added 13 points.
Perhaps Kevin Love used up all of his magic earlier in the week. The 6-foot-8 big man wowed everyone at the City of Palms with his 27 point, 27 rebound performance against Dominguez on Tuesday but on Thursday night in the third place game, he ran out of gas and had a difficult time getting into the flow of the game.
Foul trouble mixed with an elbow to the eye took him out of his rhythm in the game. Love finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Other final day notes
Demond Carter kept up with his tournament average with his 32 points against Nacogdoches as Baylor assistant coach Jerome Tang was on hand to catch the game. When Carter is hitting, he's one of the best scorers around. When it's not dropping, he'll continue to see if can find the rhythm again.
Damion James is probably not the guy you want to sit next to on the way home to Nacogdoches. The future Oklahoma forward had his worst game of the tournament against Reserve Christian, shooting a dismal 3 of 17 from the floor en route to 12 points in a humiliating 72-41 loss.
One of the reasons why James struggled was the defensive effort put forth by Kevin Branch. The 6-foot-5 junior gave James fits with a constant hand in his face and matched the big man step for step on the wing. Branch made it happen on the offensive end as well, making crisp passes and connecting on shots from deep. Branch finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Future Florida guard Nick Calathes has a Jon Scheyer quality to his game. He had another stellar performance with 31 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and six steals in a 94-67 stomping of Glenn (N.C.) High School.
Like Scheyer, Calathes makes plays because he's always moving and always thinking about where his teammates are. Sure, Calathes scores a lot but he takes smart shots and rarely forces the issue.
Had Lake Howell won one of their tough losses, it would be hard not to give him the most valuable player award from the event. He got things done and did it in a very efficient manor.
Patrick Christopher's ability to make things happen around the rim is vastly overlooked. He has incredible reach and plays much bigger than he is inside the paint.
Brandon Jennings saved his best game of the tournament for the last go round in Fort Myers. The sophomore guard put in 24 electric points and eight rebounds in a 98-88 win over Lincoln (N.Y.). He orchestrated a high-powered offense and really did a good job of getting to the basket. When he got there, he adjusted to the defense and scored with a floater, a couple of reverse layups and even skied for a dunk or two. Jennings was 11 of 12 from the foul line as well.
Looking at the sum of the parts regarding Lance Stephenson, the freshman did an admirable job for the Lincoln Railsplitters. It's easy to forget that he's a freshman. Against Dominguez, he played fairly well but committed some silly fouls, as most freshmen do. But he has a knack for scoring the ball.
He's a good post up guard but also opens his offense up with v-cuts to the hole and always putting himself into position to score. A lot will be written about Stephenson over the next four years and it's been fun to watch him outside of the spotlight of the ABCD camp and catch him early in his career. Stephenson finished with a team high 24 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.
Chris Sims, a 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard from Piney Woods (Miss.) School, has proven to be a guy that the Southern mid-majors will want to recruit. He's a good scorer with a strength on the perimeter and proved that once again in a buzzer-beater victory against the tournament host Bishop Verot.
There were few who saw it but Pendleton (Fla.) School center James Tyler had one of the better games in the country. The 7-foot-1, 320-pound center pulled down 20 rebounds and 14 points (but on 4-15 FG shooting). He also blocked seven blocks. Keep on eye on the big man from the class of 2008. Once he gets his body in shape, he could be a guy that can do some damage at a high-major.
He'll be brought along slowly at Dominguez as a freshman but when Aaron Moore gets into the game, he's shown that he has good basketball instincts on the offensive end of the floor. At 6-foot-7, Moore has the perfect body for a rangy wing. He'll be one to watch emerge as a national prospect on the AAU circuit.
All Tournament team
MVP - Brandan Wright, Brentwood Academy (UNC)
Wayne Ellington, Episcopal Academy (UNC)
Gerald Henderson, Episcopal Academy (Duke)
Kevin Love, Lake Oswego (2007)
Nick Calathes, Lake Howell (2007, Florida)
Patrick Christopher, Dominguez (Cal)
Tony Davis, Riverview (Central Florida)
Demond Carter, Reserve Christian (Baylor)
Yves Mekongo-Mbala, St. Patrick's (LaSalle)
Lance Stephenson, Lincoln (2009)
Joshua Bone, Brentwood Academy (Southern Illinois)