|King James-8th Grade Champions|
The final day of the Nike Grassroots Tournament featured match-ups between some of the top teams in the state in every age group. Again, I posted up at Reynoldsburg High School where I caught the semi-final games between King James and Next Level's 8th grade squads. For the record, King James ousted Next Level 49-37 to advance to the championship round. I got a chance to see Javonte Richardson (6'2 WF Maple Heights) for the first time, as he is a new addition to King James this year. Richardson has been concentrating on football and is new on the AAU scene. Coaches may want to make note of the kid’s name, because he has good length, is a good looking athlete, and could be a long term prospect going forward. On the other side of the brackets, All-Ohio Red defeated King James Williams to punch their ticket to “the show.”
In the 7th grade division, Murphy AC, considered the number 1 team in the class heading into the tournament, teed it up with Excel, one of the hottest teams in the state. The game featured a contrast in styles as Murphy AC is about athleticism, pressure and transition scoring, while Excel competes with more precision and execution in the half court. This game was a tale of two halves, as Murphy AC started the game with extreme pressure that rattled Excel's smaller guards and forced turnovers and rushed shots. The longer, more athletic Murphy AC players went at Excel in waves, as Kevin Jackson had the luxury of bringing 4-5 fresh bodies off the bench to maintain pressure. Just when you thought Excel was going to get blown out of the gym, the scrappy bunch kids refused to loose and fought their way back to make the game a close one until the final horn. Braden Norris was the impetuous to the turnaround with his perimeter shooting. Despite a great effort, Murphy AC was able to hang on and advance to the title game.
In the other semifinal game the Queen City Prophets (QCP) knuckled up with the Ohio Hoopsters for a final spot in the big dance. QCP got out of the blocks early, but the Hoopsters made a run late in the 1st half to cut the lead to 27-17 by half time. The Hoopsters would make a final run in the second period, but the combination of EJ Williams and Kane Cooper proved to be too much, as QCP grabbed a seat in the final game with a 53-46 victory.
|8th Grade All-Tournament Team|
The 8th grade championship game came down to two of the most storied programs in the state, All-Ohio and King James. Right from the opening tip King James was rocking and rolling and it appeared they were going to run away with the game. “Not so fast my friend,” as All-Ohio mounted a furious comeback, led by Logan Hill who threw down 3 dunks in the comeback. With only 2:28 left in the game, All-Ohio had cut the lead to 2 points (45-47), but that would be as close as they got as King James held on to claim the title. Tommy Schmock and Jaylen Harris led King James in scoring with 14 points apiece, while Marion Jackson added 11 points. The All-Tournament included: Jaylen Harris (MVP), Marion Jackson, Tommy Schmock, Matt Davet, Logan Hill and Ryan Peaks.
|7th Grade All-Tournament Team|
As many had anticipated, the 7th grade championship game pitted Murphy AC against the Queen City Prophets (QCP). Unlike the semi-final game between Murphy AC and Excel, where you had contrasting styles, Murphy and QCP both utilize a heavy dose of pressure to induce turnovers. After getting off to a slow start, Murphy AC found themselves down by 12 points at the half. Just when parents starting warming up their cars for the long trip home; Murphy AC woke up and eventually cut the lead to 2 points with 2:40 left in the contest. Because QCP knocked down free throws down the stretch, they were able to hold on to a 54-49 victory. Kane Cooper was great again, as he ran his team to perfection. Of course he found EJ Williams in the post on a regular basis for easy buckets. I have to say, Cooper impressed me a lot this weekend and his stock went through the roof in this evaluator’s eyes. The kid is the prototypical PG who knows how to run a team. I know he is undersized, but he is highly skilled, smart, and he understands what’s happening on the floor at all times. I’m not sure there is another point guard in state with all of the qualities this kid brings to the court, and I don’t care how big he is! QCP was paced by EJ William’s 18 points, while Xavier Peters added 13 points and Kane Cooper contributed 8 markers. Jerry Higgins led Murphy AC with 13 points, and Tyree Harris had 10 points. The All-Tournament Team included: EJ Williams (MVP), Kane Cooper, Coryon Rice and Tyree Harris.
|Queen City Prophets-7th Grade Champions|
I wish I could write about a thrilling triple overtime victory in the 6th grade championship game, but when All-Ohio Red plays in their age group in anything other than the NYBL, you can pretty much pencil in another blowout win. Well, that’s just what happened on Sunday when All-Ohio met up with Dayton Elite in the final game. Although Dayton kept it close in the opening minutes of the game, like most teams, a heavy dose of pressure pretty much stopped all of that. Story of the game; All-Ohio wins another championship (64-28) without much resistance. To their credit, they tried to play up in the 7th grade division, and actually got in 2 games before some of the 7th grade coaches started complaining (you know those guys hate losing to a younger team), and they were forced to run through an under matched 6th grade division. The All-Tournament team included: Gerard Reynolds (MVP), Chris Payne, Jeremiah Francis, Jordan Mitchell, Kendall Matthews and Mike Elmore.
|All-Ohio Red-6th Grade Champions|
For the record, All-Ohio Red finished undefeated on their way to the 9th grade Championship. In the final game, Red crushed King of Courts. 74-27. The All-Tournament Team included: Logan Brogden (MVP), Willie Jackson, Rodrick Caldwell, Jaylen Tate, Elijah Miller and Marcus Anderson. Next up is the Buckeye Prep Invitational April 5th & 7th. Look for many of the top teams back here in Columbus in a couple of weeks.