LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The New York Ravens staved off a furious second half comeback by the Florida Hoopsters and emerged with a 71-69 victory on Friday night to win the 2002 adidas Big Time Tournament here at Green Valley H.S.
The Ravens' Tariq Atkins canned a pair of free throws with :13 remaining to break a 69-69 deadlock, but the New Yorkers couldn't breathe a sigh of relief until Florida's Brandon Johnson narrowly missed a running three pointer at the buzzer.
After Atkins' free throws, the Ravens appeared to have the game locked up when Florida's Darius Washington took the ensuing inbound pass and was whistled for palming the ball with :09 remaining as he attempted to maneuver around the New York defense. On the play, Washington's foot actually came out of his right sneaker.
The Hoopsters immediately fouled the Ravens' Brian Laing with :08 to play, and the rising junior from St. Raymond's H.S. in the Bronx clanked a pair to give the Floridians some life. But New York's Curtis Stinson (above right) muscled in for the offensive rebound under the basket.
Trapped under the basket and surrounded by defenders, Stinson tried to go up for a lay-in that would have clinched the game for the Ravens, but he was blocked. Florida worked the ball down to the other end, and Johnson pulled up just to the right of the top of the circle for what amounted to a running three point basket attempt.
"We got a good look, but I would have wished that he would have kicked it to my man in the corner right here who had even a better look," Florida Head Coach Dexter Williams said. "But it hit the rim and came out."
Johnson's shot glanced off the glass, then bounced off the front of the rim, as time expired to preserve the Raven victory.
"They are a good team, and we knew that they were going to make a run soon, and Washington got on fire," Ravens Head Coach Artie Green said. "He's a great player -- he can shoot the ball well, and he wanted to win the same way we wanted to win."
Ironically enough, as exciting as the game ended, it started on a dour note. The Ravens opened the game on an 8-0 run, and took a commanding 41-30 halftime lead.
Florida also suffered a key injury when quick rising junior point guard Taurean Green fell and hit his tail bone after colliding with the Ravens' Daon Merritt on a drive to the hole where no foul was whistled on either player.
That's when Washington, a 5-11 rising junior combo guard from Edgewater H.S. in Orlando, Fla., began to take over the contest and electrify the crowd. The Hoopsters slapped a 28-11 surge on the Ravens to open the second half, capped by an absolute three point bomb by Washington, to take a commanding 58-52 lead with 8:03 left to play.
Washington scored 21 of his game high 37 points in the second half to buoy the Hoopster comeback, but the Ravens countered with a quick 6-0 spurt (ended by a Gavin Grant three pointer) to knot the game back up at 58 with 6:15 to play.
New York went up by four points with 1:33 to play after Stinson hit one of three free throws, but Washington hit a pair of free throws and scored on a drive to the basket that resulted from a Ravens' turnover to tie the game back up at 69 with 47 seconds left.
That set the stage for Atkins' game winning pair moments later, although the rising senior forward first missed a pair of freebies with :39 remaining the give Florida a chance to win it in regulation.
Brandon Streeter's ill-advised three pointer turned into a fast break chance on the other end for the Ravens, with Stinson finding Atkins (who finished with 10 points) on the break. He nailed the pair with :13 to play to provide the New Yorkers with their margin of victory.
Curtis Stinson led the Ravens with a sound all-around performance, netting 16 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out two assists to earn Big Time Tournament Most Valuable Player honors. The Bronx native will be a senior at the Winchendon School in Massachusetts this fall. Justin Marshall (13 points, nine rebounds) and Brian Laing (13 points, seven rebounds) also made significant contributions for the Ravens.
In addition to his great offensive outburst, Washington also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out two assists. The only other Florida player to hit double figures was Johnson, who finished with 11 points in defeat. Forward Derrick Simmons, who struggled quite a bit offensively, did a nice job of wiping the glass for the Hoopsters with 12 rebounds.
The victory marked the first open division title for the Ravens in the eight-year history of the event. Back in 1995, when the tournament featured just 64 teams, the New York based program claimed the "A" consolation bracket. At this year's 344 field tournament, the Ravens finally made good after making the tournament quarters for three consecutive years.
"This is good for the kids," Green said. "The kids worked so hard to get here, and we had been in the final eight three years in a row, and we had never won it. They busted their butts all year and to come down here and lose it in the championship game would have been tough. We deserve one, and will bring it back to New York."
Two years ago at the 2000 adidas Big Time Tournament, the Ravens dropped a 77-76 heartbreaker to the Atlanta Celtics in the championship game.
Stinson has probably catapulted himself onto the wish lists of many high majors programs with his strong performances at the ABCD camp and not as the MVP of the Bg Time Tournament Open Division.
Stinson told us earlier that he was being recruited by Memphis, Seton Hall, Drexel, Iowa State, Rutgers, Northeastern, and East Carolina.
-- Brian Towey contributed to this report