|Indy Hoosiers-8th Grade Champions|
The final day of the King James Classic saw 3 Ohio-based middle school teams competing for silver and gold championships. In the 8th grade division, All-Ohio Red was the last Ohio team standing as they faced off against an undefeated Indy Hoosiers. Although the game was relatively close from the tip, with about 5 minute left in the first half, Indy turned up the heat, forced about 5 turnovers in a row which led to an 11-0 run. By half time, it was already 33-20, All-Ohio would score to open the second half, but the Hoosiers had already tasted blood and would eventually collect a 58-36 blowout win and the 8th grade title. Paul Scruggs (6’3 PG/SG Indianapolis) was a beast, finishing with a game-high 22 points. Scruggs is a big guard who excels at beating his defender off the bounce and finishing with contact. He’s just too strong and skilled for most defenders! Right behind him in scoring was Christopher Wilkes (6’5 WF Indianapolis) who added 13 points. Paris Ford’s team-high 12 points made him the top man for All-Ohio.
|Paul Scruggs-6'3 PG/SG Indianapolis|
The 7th grade silver division championship pitted King James against New York’s Eastside Hoops. This game lacked much intrigue as King James took control early; so much so, I left the game early to go watch the 7th gold bracket championship. When I left, King James was already up 20-6 and was cruising. I later learned that King James got the win. Earlier in the day it was not as easy for King James, as they had to battle a very scrappy Michigan Titans team to advance to the title game. The game was close until about midway through the second half when King James mounted a 7-0 run which eventually led to a 35-45 win. Sincere Carry was the catalyst as his play making ability is what powers this team. Whenever things get close for King James, Carry seems to make a big play, whether it’s knocking down a trey or breaking down the defense and dropping off a sweet pass for a layup. I also saw some good things from Greyson Green (5’10 WF Cleveland Heights). He is nowhere near as flashy as Carry, but he’s just as important to this team, as he is the work horse who gets the kind of tough buckets every team needs to get the win.
|Xavier Castaneda-5'5 PG Chicago|
One of the best games I saw all day was in the semi-finals of the 7th grade gold bracket, as Gene Reddy’s SMAC U team hooked up with Chicago Select. This game was contested from the tip, with neither team being able to go up much more than 5 points. As soon as you thought a team had seized momentum and was about to run away with the game, the other team responded with a run to close the gap or take the lead. With that said, Chicago Select played with a slight lead for most of the first half, but SMAC U would always seem to cut into the lead, tie the game, or go up a few points. Credit several big treys from Jaret Pallotta and another solid performance from Cooper Crawford for keeping the game within reach. Chicago Select made a late run in the first half to extend their lead to 28-22. SMAC got out of the gates quickly with a 4-0 run to start the second half and cut the lead to 26-28. Despite SMAC’s grittiness and refusal to loose, Chicago Select would continue to make big plays every time SMAC closed the gap. In the end, Chicago Select was the better team and made bigger plays down the stretch on their way to a 45-35 victory. They did not keep individual scores, but Chicago’s Xavier Castaneda (5’5 PG) was the difference in this game. Not only did he knock down several timely treys, he consistently got into the teeth of the defense, drew contact and finished with an athletic shot. I have to mention the 32-point performance Cooper Crawford logged in against the Shining Stars early on Sunday. The Shining Stars is a good team, so 32 points is BIG! I also understand that Chaz Hardin played an important role in the win as well. With SMAC’s final 4 finish, including a 48-32 win over Murphy AC in the elite 8, there will be some changes in the team rankings when I update them later in the week.
|New Rens-7th Grade Champions|
I stuck around to catch the 7th grade championship between Chicago Select and New York’s New Rens. This one was another close one with New Rens controlling most of the game. However, late in the second half New Rens seemed to be on cruise control until a late run by Chicago trimed the lead to 42-43 with 1:02 left in the contest. With 50.4 seconds remaining, Chicago was down 42-45 with the ball. However, they could not convert, and New Rens won it 47-42. Nayshon Kane (6’4 PF Brooklyn) was a horse in the paint and led his team with 10 points. Chicago Select’s Drake Raekwon (6’4 PF/C Huntsville Alabama) got it done in the post for his team, finishing with a game-high 12 points. Keep an eye out for Jalen Cary (5’9 BG Harlem) and Walter Talley (6’6 C Brooklyn), both of whom showed potential. Finally, you might want to track Markavis Nowell (5’6 PG Kentucky) as well.
|All-Ohio Red-6th Grade Champions|
As predicted, All-Ohio’s 6th grade team ran the table in their division all the way to the championship. In the final game, although All-Ohio jumped out to a 6-0 lead, Kentucky’s Derby State Racers fought back and actually had All-Ohio tied at 7-7 at about the 4 minute mark. From there, Chris’Seon Stringer, DeMarco Bradley Jr. and Omari Davis came off the bench and added a spark. There was no turning back, as All-Ohio dominated the rest of the game. According to Coach Bradley, Gahanna’s Jordan Mitchell “played his best game of their year and showed everybody why he’s the #1 player in the country. Jordan put on a clinic, and every facet of his game was clicking,” added Bradley. All-Ohio would later win the championship by a final score of 70-31. All-Ohio’s attention now turns to session #2 of the NYBL set to tip off this weekend in North Augusta, South Carolina. After running through the competition this weekend, and having to play with a running clock every game [the clock runs when a team is up 20 in the 2nd half], Bradley is very appreciative of the level of competition his teams get in the NYBL.
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