NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The games are played with a win or go home attitude now at the Peach Jam. The playoff bracket is under way and four teams remain in the 17 and under division.
The Georgia Stars have never won the Peach Jam. This year's team might just be the one to bring home the championship. With a big win over Team Texas in the quarterfinals, the Stars are one step closer to that reality.
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While the majority of coaches have left the Peach Jam for other events, the fans certainly knew where to be on a Saturday night. With a packed house in the stands and no room to stand on the overhead walkway, those that found a place to watch the game had to enjoy the match-up.
The Stars started the game strong right out of the gates as the Peach State natives climbed out to a double digit lead early. Team Texas quickly called a timeout and Willie Warren got rolling on the wing with a couple of big shots.
The Stars countered with a couple of quick buckets from Wesley Witherspoon (who finished with 11 in the game). The 6-foot-8 wing did all of his work inside the paint with aggressive dribble drives to the basket.
Wake Forest commits Tony Woods and Al-Farouq Aminu did just enough inside. Woods was the most effective as he scored at will down low and finished with 13 points (6-7 FG, 2-11 FT). Aminu had a very loud eight points.
The most important player for the Stars down the stretch was Darius Morrow, wide body 6-foot-8 center from Columbia (Ga.) High School. The three-star big man came off the bench and provided an interior spark inside to the tune of 15 points and near double digits on the glass.
Morrow said he has offers from Cincinnati, Fordham, Toledo, Providence, Purdue and Penn State. West Virginia and LSU are also involved, he said.
Warren played like he usually does and finished 25 points (7-18 FG, 9-14 FT). He started slow but finished out the game firing away and making tough shots. Most of his damage came inside the paint as he went into attack mode in the second half.
Warren had a little help from Rotnei Clarke, who scored 12 points.
The Stars will play The Family on Sunday at 12:30. The Family of Michigan moved onto the semi-finals with a 52-51 win over Boo Williams in overtime.
What was thought to be the game-winner from class of 2010 guard Kendall Marshall with a three-pointer late in the game, The Family was able to send Paul Williams to the line with 1.7 seconds left in the game. The 6-foot-4 guard sunk both free throws and secured the victory.
Williams finished with 10 points for The Family. Michigan State forward Draymond Green added nine. Marshall had 18 for Boo Williams while Ed Davis scored 11 points.
Strong on size
The Metro Hawks-Athletes First game on Saturday morning had all of the storylines. The Metro Hawks frontline of Samardo Samuels and Greg Echenique matched up with Athlete First's Kyle Hardrick and Daniel Orton. A pair of 2009 five-star guards Dexter Strickland (Metro Hawks) and Xavier Henry (Athletes First) were paired against each other.
And for the first half, the game was as good as advertised. Both teams traded buckets and made it a game. However, the difference between the teams shined through in the second half.
Samuels, Echenique, Strickland and Lamont Jones did their damage. The Metro Hawks won 68-51.
With Strickland and Jones sharing the load at the point, Samuels and Echenique converted on all of the high percentage shots inside the paint. Samuels scored 17 points (7-11 FG, 5-8 FT) and was never challenged inside. Even against two of the strongest players in the class of 2009, Samuels was a load to stop down low. He also added eight rebounds.
Echenique, a class of 2009 big man, added 12 points on a perfect six of six shooting. He was the beneficiary of Strickland and Jones's speed. The guards penetrated with ease and dropped off passes to the St. Benedict's big man. Echenique added eight rebounds in the win.
On the defensive end of the floor Samuels and Echenique held Orton and Hardrick to a combined six points and seven rebounds.
Offensively, Strickland scored 14 points (6-13 FG) and dished out five assists. He was steady as always. Jones, the on again, off again Louisville commitment, was great especially in the second half of play. Both guards played within themselves and played at a different level of speed that the other guars on the floor.
Athletes First didn't have a lot of production for its big men but Henry did what he does best and that is score the ball. The five-star guard scored 22 points (10-18 FG) and did most of his damage with the dribble drive.
Odds & Ends
JaMychal Green is churning out big time game after big time game in North Augusta and he's doing it as the camp's resident enforcer. The Montgomery, Ala., native is not messing around on the hardwood. Paired against Team STAT out of Florida, the five-star forward went for 30 points and probably shot 80 percent from the floor in the process.
Green has put the power in power forward and is clearly one of those must get guys for a number of programs that continue to look for instant impact players at the four position. The more Green plays, the more coaches covet him.
His play at the NBPA Top 100 camp and here at the Peach Jam may be the difference maker for his inclusion to the post-season all-star games, too. He's had that kind of summer.
The Charlotte Royals received great play from Adam Raye all week long at the Peach Jam. The 5-foot-10 point guard has done a fine job of making himself a priority guy for the mid-majors. Against Boo Williams, the class of 2008 guard scored 21 points, including five three-pointers.
Kenny Gabriel is looking more and more like a pure wing instead of a combo forward. The long-armed 6-foot-7 forward for the Charlotte Royals scored 14 points in a tough, but competitive, loss to Boo Williams.
Anthony Walton, a 6-foot-1 guard from Little Rock (Ark.) Hall High School has been the constant for the Arkansas Wings 16 and under team. Good off the bounce and in the midrange, the class of 2009 guard has shown off a confident offensive game. He's a solid floor general, too. Baylor has been shadowing him throughout the event.
Mississippi State constantly had a pair of coaches at Shaunessy Smith's games. The 6-foot-5 forward for the Birmingham Storm has been solid in North Augusta. UAB head coach and his two assistants aren't missing any of DeMarcus Cousins's games. The top five class of 2009 will certainly see a lot of the hometown staff this summer.
Keep an eye out for Mean Streets wing Jordan Walker. The bouncy 6-foot-6, 175-pound class of 2009 prospect has some springs. He's been the most aggressive offensive player for the Illinois squad on the offensive end of the floor. Big Ten schools will be all over this kid.
Team STAT forward Kevin Foster has quietly enjoyed a good event. The 6-foot-7 forward from Florida has scored in the midrange, utilized his good hops and played well at the rim. Right now, he's a must get for a host of mid-major schools. As the power forwards quickly remove themselves from the high-major radar with commitments, Foster could be a guy that teams move on in the second half of the month.
In the Sweet 16 tournament, the Georgia Stars and New York Gauchos remain in the younger division of the tournament. The two will play for the championship at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Four teams remain in the 17 and under division. The Georgia Blazers and New York Gauchos will square off in a rematch of the Memorial Day Classic tournament championship game. The Blazers won that match-up. The two will play at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
The Georgia Stars and The Family will play in the other semi-final at 12:30. The 17 and under championship tips off at 8 p.m.