From the spirited play going down in southern California on Saturday, it was easy to tell how bad teams wanted to win, and claim a spot in the season ending tournament at the Peach Jam in July. With one last chance to qualify for the league championship, players and coaches were much more serious about winning. Session #3 of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) tipped of at the Hanger Athletic Exchange (HAX) in Hawthorne, California and once again, the play was stellar. To qualify for the Peach Jam, a must attend for Nike-sponsored programs, teams must finish in the top 24 of at least fifth in their respective divisions. With only a handful of "at large bids," conference records are most important.
All-Ohio Red, coming off a tournament win at the All-Ohio Super Sixteen last weekend in Columbus, got off to a good start against a Carlton Brundidge-led The Family squad in the opening round of games. However, despite have a double-digit lead for most of the game, The Family came roaring back to make it a close contest. Trey Burke's three pointer with 3 seconds left in the game sealed the margin of victory, as All-Ohio held on the claim a 65-63 win. Burke paced All-Ohio with 19 points, followed by Elijah Macon with 14 points, Stevie Taylor with 11 points, George Fant with 7 points and Brandon Neel and Tommie McCune, both of whom added 6 points. For the Family, Michigan commit Carlton Brundidge led with 21 points, followed by Amir Williams and Desmond Barnes who both finished with 11 points.
Unlike last weekend when they rolled into Columbus without their starting back court and key player, the King James Shooting Stars had a full roster in LA. However, in their opening game of the weekend, King James fell to Seattle Rotary 63-59. Seattle was paced by super prospect Tony Wroten and Gonzaga pledge Gary Bell Jr., both of whom finished with 18 points. Anrio Adams added 12 points. King James was led by Zach Price and Jakarr Sampson who both finished with 15 points, and Marcus Crider who contributed 10 points. Although King James took the "L," the coaching staff has to be pleased with the play of 6'9 Zach Price, who appears to be getting better offensively every time out.
Right out of the gate, session three featured a turf war with a Drew Gooden Oakland Soldier versus California Supreme match-up on the #1 court. As if the game was not already hyped up enough, rumor had it that there was some trash talk preceding this game, as Cal. Supreme was declared "soft" by the Soldiers' Jabari Brown. From the size of the crowd surrounding the court, the trash talk must have been common knowledge. The Soldiers landed early shots, as took took a 43-29 lead into half-time. However, things tighten up in the second half as the two teams went at each other with both trading body blows and head shots while claiming their own share of highlight plays. At the end of the bout, the Soldiers was the top California team still standing, with a 74-72 victory. Jabari Bwron was his spectacular self, as he led all scorers with a game-high 24 points. In support, Nick Johnson finished with 15 points, followed by Josiah Turner (14 points) and Kile Wiltjer (7 points). 6'10 Kevin Johnson was the leading scorer for California Supreme with a team-high 18 points, followed by Ryan Anderson's 12 points and Jahil Carson's 11 points.
In the afternoon session, All-Ohio Red got off to another fast start, as they jumped all over Team Texas. Despite their early success, All-Ohio let down their guard, and allowed Team Texas to close the gap and make a game of it. In the end, All-Ohio was a little too tough for Texas, as they went on to win 81-77. Despite a slow start, Stevie Taylor got hot and went on to lead All-Ohio in scoring with 19 points, followed by Trey Burke (18 points), Elijah Macon (16 points), Tommie McCune (12 points), George Fant (8 points) and Brandon Neel (7 points). In the first 2 games of the day, the post play of Elijah Macon has been impressive. The 6'9 Macon has been very active around the cup and is making some big time plays. Michigan's Tommie McCune made a few "next level" plays of his own against Team Texas Elite. Team Texas Elite was paced by Shi Fields who dropped a team-high 19 points, followed by Kyan Anderson (17 points), Thomas Gipson (14 points) Jamal Branch (7 points) and Zach Price (8 points). I was most impressed with Gipson, who was a load down low and seemed to finish everything he touched. By days end, All-Ohio Red was sitting at 7-4, and in good position to qualify for the Peach Jam. Tomorrow, Red will face two of the top guards in the class, in Marquis Teague (Spiece) and Austin Rivers (Each 1 Teach 1).
Later in the day, King James continued their skid, with a 53-46 loss to the South Carolina Ravens. 6'7 Jerell Adams was the big dog for the Ravens as he finished with a game-high 19 points. Zach Price was still impressive and finished with a team-high 12 points. Jakarr Sampson added 10 points while Darious Carter contributed 7 points. Like King James, The Family finished 0-2 on the day, with a 61-59 loss to Team Takeover. The Family appeared to be leading for most of the game, but could not hold on to the lead. In fact, down 2 points with about 3 seconds left, Carlton Brundidge had a uncontested lay-up to tie the game, but could not convert. Brundidge finished with 13 points, followed by Desmond Barnes and Dominique Pointer who both finished with 12 points. Duke-bound Michael Gbinije led all scorers with 20 points, while 6'9 Mikael Hopkins added 15 points and 6'5 John Schoof finished with 12 points.
The Oakland Soldiers finished the day 2-0, with a 70-63 win over the Alabama Challenge. Nick Johnson finished with a game-high 16 points, followed by Josiah Turner (15 points), Brandon Ashley (14 points) and Jabari Brown (8 points). Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper paced the Challenge with 15 points apiece, while Craig Sword contributed 10 points. The New Jersey Playaz remained unbeaten with 2 more wins on Saturday, the last one against the Arkansas Wings by a score of 73-65. The Southern Kings continue to struggle with two more losses on Saturday. To see the pictures I took at the event, visit the Buckeye Prep Facebook Fan Page.