Day two of the Gym Rats Presidents Day Tournament offered a few more competitive games as pool play concluded and the first 2 rounds of bracket play tipped off. In the morning, I had the opportunity to catch the second half of the Oakland Soldiers vs Hoops Dreams Black game (6th Grade). Unfortunately, due to a schedule change, I arrived at the game at halftime. As you would expect in a pool game for an Oakland Soldiers team that had recently added the number 1 player in the country in Ohio’s Shamar Morrow, the game was already out of hand by the break (34-15). There was little intrigue in this game, as the Soldiers steamed rolled Hoops Dreams Black by a final score of 53-27. Morrow was as dominate as expected while scoring and rebounding with little resistance. In addition to Morrow, the Soldiers have picked up additional hired guns for the weekend. Devin Hightower (George Hill), Devin Askew (916) Jay Taylor (916) and Fred Burton (Inland Force) have all recently suited up for different teams.
In the first round of bracket play, the Soldiers fought though a slow start against Sugar Bush Hoops. Despite the significant talent gap between these two teams, a scrappy Sugar Bush squad went toe-to-toe with the Soldiers for much of the game. Although the Soldiers jumped to a 6-0 start, Sugar Bush fought their way back to cut the lead to 5-7. By the 7:22 mark, Sugar Bush was as close as 12-13, and was only down by 4 points (23-19) with only 3:10 left in the half. By halftime, the score was only 24-33 in favor of the Soldiers. Morrow again showed why he is so highly regarded, as he dropped an impressive 19 points by the break. For the record, with all of the talent on this team, Sugar Bush should not have kept this game as close as they did. A lack of chemistry and poor defense were evident in the game. Of course the Soldiers would later blow the game open, but it was a lot harder than it should have been. In fact, in the second half, Sugar Bush was as close as 9 points with 6:30 left, but very quickly, the lead ballooned to 20 points (60-40) before the Soldiers called off the dogs. Oakland would eventually cruise to a 72-41 victory before advancing to the second round. Morrow finished with a game-high 26 points followed by Jay Taylor who finished with 10 points. With their second round win over Seattle Future Black, the Oakland Soldiers are 5-0 and are headed to the semi-finals where they will match-up with a tough San Diego Rebels at 9:05am. This should be one of the best games of the tournament!
Although I have concentrated on the 6th & 7th grade divisions this weekend, I could not resist checking out the 8th grade Oakland Soldiers take on their Bay Area rivals Flight Elite. The game was close early in the first half, but the more talented Soldiers would take a 36-20 lead into halftime. The Flight would make a run in the second period and get the score as close 7 points before the Soldiers would step on the gas and go on to claim victory 66-45. I was really impressed with the play of Oakland’s Kyriee Brown (5’9 PG Berkley), who showed a lot of skill, toughness and a high basketball IQ as he lead his team to the win. Brown knows what he’s doing at the point and is an excellent floor general that handles the ball well, communicates effectively with his teammates and is a willing and able passer. LJ Anderson (5’8 SG Oakland) is a player to watch as is Christopher Wiedt (6’6 C Sacramento). Wiedt has great size at this age and was he gets more aggressive in the post he could be a good looking prospect going forward. Later in the day, the Soldiers lost in overtime 68-66 to a local Maeko team.
The I10 Celtics Green found themselves in a serious battle with the I10 Celtics Black. Although Green raced to a 6-0 lead, the score was as close as 7-8 by the 9:52 mark. Celtics Black was still hanging tough with 5:56 left in the half and was only down by 2 points (16-18). The more talented Black squad relied too heavily on deep jump shots and struggled to rebound consistently. Consequently, the Black squad, based mostly out of LA, was still in the game by halftime (34-27). An opening trey by Black cut the lead to 30-34. Thanks to the hot shooting from Celtics Green’s Jovon Blacksheer, the Arizona-based Green team would hold on to get a 10 point victory (47-57) to advance to the third round where they will face Lynden Tractor at 7:55pm on Sunday. Blackshear was big for Green with a game-high 19 points, Blacksheer had his full game on display as he drained deep jumpers, knocked down floaters, scored easily in transition and defended aggressively. Jalen House came off the bench and was hot from beyond the ark, converting on 3 treys. Keion Brooks and Dexter Shouse both had solid games, with each player finishing with 8 points. Brooks did an effective job defending the rim while Shouse was more of a facilitator from the high post.