|Isaiah Gaston & Malik Oneali-Chicago, IL|
The 2012 King James Shooting Stars Classic tipped off on Friday night in the Akron, Ohio area, and as in years past, the tournament featured some of the top teams from around the country in multiple age groups. The first game I was able to catch was my 6th grade Buckeye Prep team versus Chicago Select. Prior to the game a parent informed me that the Chi Town team had already secured a spot in the final four of the Illinois AAU State Tournament. Based on that bit of information, I had a suspicion that it might be a long night for Buckeye Prep.
My fears were realized early, as a clearly bigger and more athletic Chicago Select team came out in a 2-2-1 full court press. Unfortunately for my guys, they were unable to handle the pressure, and Chicago raced out to an early 18-0 lead to end the first quarter. I wish I could say Buckeye Prep fought back to close the lead, but that was not the case, as Chicago kept their foot on the pedal and cruised to an easy 42-9 victory. Although Select was talented at multiple positions, they were led in scoring by 2 players. Isaiah Gaston, a 5’10 PF, and Malik Onyeali, a 5’8 combo guard, both led their team in scoring with 9 points each.
The second game of the night was much more competitive, as Maryland’s 6th Man Warriors matched up with the Cleveland area Murphy AC. This was the second chance I had to watch Murphy, as they were runner-ups at my Buckeye Prep Invitational Tournament earlier in the month. From the onset of the game, Murphy AC appeared to be the most athletic and deepest of the two teams. In fact, they drew first blood, and used an effective zone trap to force turn overs and cash in on easy buckets. By the end of the first quarter, Murphy AC appeared to be in control of the game with a 12-7 lead. Despite the 11 point first half effort from Steve Cannady, a 5’1 PG from Bowie, Maryland, it was much of the same in the 2nd quarter, and Murphy AC finished the half up 27-17.
The start of the second half was in stark contrast to the first, as the Warriors went right to work and got on the boards first. Although he spent much of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, Silver Springs’ Tyler Baylor was effective once he returned to the game. By the end of the third quarter, the Warriors had clawed their way back in to the game, and had cut the lead to only 1 point (33-34). As he had done in the first half, Cannady heated up from beyond the arch, and propelled his team to a lead that they would never relinquish. The Warriors went on the win the contest 51-49.
Cannady led all scorers with 18 points, followed by Temple Hills’ Deonte Hill with 7 and Tyler Baylor with 6 points. Jerry Higgens, a 5’5 floor general from Wickcliff, OH, paced Murphy AC with 15 points, followed by Cleveland’s Corey Rice, a 5’8 SG, with 9 points. Keep any eye on Rice; this kid is a superior athlete who has just enough skill at this point to be potential force down the road. Rice flashed a few advanced one-on-one moves and really looked like he knew what he was doing out there. I also really liked Higgens’ grittiness and determination. Although his team was down towards the end, Higgens refused to loose and kept making plays until the horn sounded. Although they let this one get away, this Murphy AC squad is talented, and will win their fair share of games. Check back latter because I will be adding some pictures i took from the above games.