Tuesday, June 10, 2014

All-Ohio Red Claims Back to Back NYBL National Championships

All-Ohio Red-2014 NYBL National Champions
Since season two of the NYBL tipped off in Washington D.C back in March, 2 teams have continued to separate themselves from the pack. This weekend at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, the same 2 teams met in the NYBL National Championship game for the second straight year. As was the case last year, All-Ohio Red faced off against Team CP3 (formally Carolina Preps) for all the marbles. Again, All-Ohio had to erase a double digit deficit before eventually going ahead to claim the title. This time around, All-Ohio was down on one knee with some in their camp ready to pack it in.  However, the guys on the court would have none of that, as they used an early 4th quarter run to seize a lead that they never relinquished.

Although up by about 4 points with four minutes left in the game, CP3 was dealt a significant blow when starting guard, Kobe Langley fouled out of the game. With Kobe Langley out and Wendell Moore on the bench in street clothes due to an earlier knee injury, All-Ohio’s patented press began to take its toll on CP3, resulting in uncharacteristic turnovers and easy transition buckets. Later, with Keyshan Langley left to shoulder most of the ball handling duties, the handwriting was on the wall for CP3. Truth be told, the fact that Team CP3 got by George Hill in the semi-finals, made it to the championship game, and actually had a great chance of winning the thing was a true testament to their talent and will to win.

Chris'Sean Sringer-Championship Game MVP
The big names for All-Ohio are Jeremiah Frances and Jordan Mitchell, but the star in this game was Cincinnati’s Chris’Sean Stringer, who took control of the situation and powered his team to a 73-61 victory on the strength of a 22-point performance. Stringer kept things simple as he relentlessly attacked the basket and either finished near the rim or drew fouls and converted. He also defended well and grabbed a ton of rebounds. At the end of the day, Stringer was a serious match-up problem for CP3 as they had no one who could stop his drives to the basket.  All-Ohio’s trek to the championship included wins over D. Wade (75-33), 6th Man Warriors, Team Rio (39-43) and Team Takeover (44-39). Team CP3 made the final game with wins over The Truth (75-36), Team Texas (63-45), TNBC (78-32) and George Hill (72-57).

The Final 4 teams included All-Ohio, Team CP3, George Hill and Team Takeover. Elite 8 match-ups included Team CP3 vs TNBC, George Hill vs Team Florida, All-Ohio vs Team Rio and Team Takeover vs Memphis War Eagles. Unlike most events, there were very few cupcake games in bracket play. Case in point, the first game in the Sweet 16 featured a rematch of the 2013 AAU National Championship game. Although that game required overtime to crown a championship, Team CP3 easily got by an injury-plagued Team Texas Express (63-45) to advance. Exhibit # 2; Memphis War Eagles vs the Brampton Warriors and George Hill vs Butler (74-63).  Elite match-ups in the second round of tournaments are extremely rare, but they are almost common place in the NYBL!

There are several things that are clear since the last horn sounded Sunday afternoon. Scottie Lewis reestablished himself as a top 5 player in his class. Lewis was back to his highflying self as he thrilled the crowd with dunks and athletic plays. Also, Lewis’ teammate, Bryan Antonie, is the real deal, and he has raised his stock considerably since the start of the NYBL season. From what we have seen since March, Antonie was at times, the best player on a stacked Team Rio team, and has high major potential written all over him with continued development. Team CP3’s Wendell Moore threw down what might possibly have been his first dunk in NYBL play this weekend.  Moore’s upside has never been questioned, but his production is among the best in the country right now. He did not get the poster he dissevered, but his place among the top tier of NYBL’s elite is firmly established.

Even without the services of Moore in the last 2 games, Team CP3 was a force to be reckoned with. They are not the tallest team in the league, nor do they possess a roster chucked full of strong and athletic slashers or post players, but what they do have is great coaching, a high basketball IQ, patience, discipline, and role players who know how to execute their jobs. Moore gets the ink, but that team does not win without the guard play of the Langley twins; the perimeter threat from Michael Green and the big time scoring spurts from Chaz Gywn.  Finally, a shout out goes to Max Farthing who held down the post with Moore out.  Farthing is an important piece of the puzzle, and although he rarely gets the credit he deserves, his role is an example of why this team wins.

C. Stringer, S. Lewis, K. Rode, J. Moore, K. Langley, D. McKenny & B. Sanders
The Brampton Warriors arrived in Columbus with the intentions of pulling an upset and taking the championship trophy and rings back across the border. That obviously did not happen, and the team’s leader, Rowan Barrett Jr. was off his game against the more athletic Memphis War Eagles. However, Barrett’s status as one of the 2-3 top players in the league remains intact.  All-Ohio Red is loaded with talent, but Chris’sean Stringer, Jeremiah Frances and Jordan Mitchell all took turns pacing their squad. Some are speculating that All-Ohio will have to re-tool and overhaul their rosters to repeat next year, but that may just be wishful thinking for those who would seek to unseat them from the throne.

George Hill toyed with joining the NYBL in its inaugural season before opting to sit it out; however, their presence in the league this year raised the level of competition. It’s clear from their performance this past weekend (Final 4 appearance) that they will be a force to be reckoned with going forward. Kyle Rode, Dexter Shouse Jr, Sidney Curry and Keion Brooks make up a formidable core! Team Florida, with workhouse Bryan Sanders and future high major Balsa Koprovica, were one of the surprise teams of the season, and were only a 3 points shy (74-71) of punching their ticket to the Final 4. Look for Team Florida to make a run at the other national championship later this month.

Team Takeover had a more than respectful NYBL season this year, but I’m not sure many NYBL fans saw them making a Final 4 run. Undoubtedly, the addition Justin Moore and Anthony Harris was a big reason for their success this past weekend, as both players excelled and made a significant impact on the final results. In addition, the Memphis War Eagles rolled into town with a legitimate chance at the crown. Despite having Chandler Lawson in tow, DJ Jefferies adding depth, solid point guard play from Joe Cooper, and standout performances by Kyle Sturdivant and Dashaun McKinney, the War Eagles were bounced from contention by Takeover (76-62) in one of the best 7th grade games of the session. In addition, much like the addition of George Hill, Memphis’ participation in the league bought an edge and increased competition to the table.

Team United’s NYBL campaign started off with a bang in the opening weekend, but their success was more limited in subsequent sessions. With that said, a top 10 finish for a newly formed and first year team is still impressive. With Brian “BJ” Mack and Niclas Evtimov holding down the post, and JC Tharrington providing both solid backcourt support and scoring, Team United is a piece or 2 away from being right there. I’m not sure they get much respect closer to home, but the NYBL has much love for them!

J. Francis, T. Williams, B. Antonie, R. Barrett, DJ Jefferies, M. Jones, B. Koprovica  & J. Mitchell
We’re not quite sure what happened to the SC Hornets this past weekend. One of the elite teams last year who was smoking hot after Session # 1; the Hornets were no more than a footnote in Columbus. A 16th place finish might be good for some teams, but we’re sure the Hornets aren’t satisfied with their finish in the championship session. To regain their national respect and status, the Hornets may need a roster upgrade and an infusion of talent.

Speaking of under achieving, after a second place finish at the other national championship last year, a 4-1 start in Washington DC, and an impressive win over the defending National Champion Team CP3, Texas Express was expected to do big things in the NYBL this year.  That simply did not happen, and Josh Woodson’s team limped out of Columbus with an 11th place finish. When I say “limped,” it was just that. Slowed by injuries to De’vion Harmon since the opening weekend, Texas could not recover, even with big time performances by Chris Harris Jr. and Tyrese Maxey. I don’t want to make excuses for them, but Texas Express has not been the same squad that teams once feared. With that said, don’t count Woodson’s team out just yet, as Harmon’s recovery is progressing well!

The 2019 final order of finish is as follows: (1) All-Ohio Red; (2) Team CP3; (3) George Hill; 
(4) Team Takeover; (5) Team Rio; (6) Team Florida; (7) Memphis War Eagles; (8) TNBC; (9) Brampton Warriors; (10) Team United; (11) Texas Express; (12) 6th Man Warriors; (13) Northern Kings; (14); Reach Higher Kings; (15) Butler Elite; (16) SC Hornets; (17) Carolina Chaos; (18) Arkansas Soldierz; (19) Upstate Warriors; (20) Arkansas Wings; (21) Charlotte Rivals; (22) DC United; (23) Lexington Hustle; (24) Academy Prep Hawks; (25) Ohio Hoopsters; (26) Riverside Flyers; (27) OBC; (28) DWade; (29) Enplay Elite; (30) The Truth; (31) DC Assault; and (32) Future Phenoms.     

Although some in the business counted the NYBL out this past summer, by most accounts, season #2 of the league was an outstanding success! In fact, the league doubled the number of teams, added a 6th grade division, upgraded the talent by adding several very competitive teams, added a 4th session, upgraded their facilities, upgraded their awards package, and really pumped up the exposure for the players and teams. Moreover, others have tried to duplicate the success of the NYBL, but have fallen well short of what the league has achieved. The NYBL has been a game changer that is challenging the status quo, while changing the face of middle school basketball! The NYBL is only one big sponsor away from blowing the game wide open! For those teams and players that were on the sidelines this year with their faces pressed against the window looking in at what was happening in the NYBL, get in the game next season!