LAS VEGAS - Kevin Panzer's shot bounced off the backboard, the front rim and then DeAndre Daniels seemingly came out of nowhere, grabbed the ball with only his right hand and in one fluid motion had a putback dunk.
In a relatively tame championship matchup at the Fullcourt Press Easter Classic between Belmont Shore and Stoneridge Prep, the Texas commit provided fireworks that won't soon be forgotten.
Daniels' dunk was so impressive, so athletic, that even Stoneridge players and fans smiled about it for a few minutes. Fans were talking about it during timeouts. Belmont Shore guard Cezar Guerrero said it was the best dunk he'd ever seen. It was surely a highlight-reel slam and more importantly it helped Belmont Shore win the title.
Daniels, from Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft, played his best game of the tournament and finished with 26 points and Guerrero added 20 points to lead Belmont Shore to a 72-62 win over Stoneridge Prep, which upset Compton Magic in the semifinals. In what turned out to be a rather uneventful final, Daniels' slam was certainly the biggest highlight.
"I gave the ball to Kevin and I saw him fade away and I said I think he's going to miss it so I jumped and I don't know how I caught it and I dunked it," Daniels said. "I amazed myself.
"But it wasn't the best dunk I ever had. During our season I caught it in the key and I jumped over a dude. That was the best dunk I had."
Guerrero said: "Oh my god. I'm speechless. He's just ridiculous. That putback dunk was the sickest dunk I've ever seen."
The semifinal matchups between Belmont Shore-Branch West and Compton Magic-Stoneridge Prep were both thrilling games, much more competitive that the championship game.
Belmont Shore escaped with a 53-52 victory when Daniels (nine points) hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1.5 seconds left. Guerrero had 11 points and rising junior forward Grant Jerrett scored a team-high 12.
But the best player in that game was Branch West guard Askia Booker, from Los Angeles Price, who scored 22 points in a variety of ways.
Booker showed off a competent shooting stroke but he was best when driving to the basket, hitting floaters and scoring in the lane. Montana State has offered and Baylor, Virginia, San Diego and Portland are showing interest. He said Baylor is his early favorite.
The other semifinal was even more exciting, a double-overtime thriller that had lots of twists and turns. Gabe York, an outstanding 2012 prospect from Orange (Calif.) Lutheran, had 25 points for Compton Magic but two controversial calls late didn't go his way.
With about 38 seconds left in the second overtime and the game tied, York drove the lane and ran into a Stoneridge defender. The ref up top called a block. The other had York on a charge. After consulting for a couple minutes - as York stood patiently on the free throw line for his foul shots - a charge was called.
Stoneridge hit 1 of 2 free throws seconds later and then York had the ball back in his hands, made a move to the basket but was whistled for palming the ball. Mark Jackson would hit a free throw for Stoneridge with 7.5 seconds left for an 89-87 lead and Compton's last-second shot was no good.
New Mexico commit Dominique Dunning scored 12, Jahii Carson had 11 but struggled shooting the ball and Wesley Saunders finished with 10 points but it wasn't enough for Compton Magic to advance.
Stoneridge was led by guard Kevin Kaspar with 17, Steve Thornton had 16, Trevor Wiseman scored 15 and muscular center Chili Tzazenua added 10 points.