Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hoop Group Showcase Day One- "Pandemonium in Piscataway"

It seems that Chris Carlin's call of "Pandemonium in Piscataway" does not only relate to Rutgers football. Today at the Hoop Group Showcase, there was pandemonium abound from start to finish. The madness began during the very first set of games in a match-up between The Nia School (NJ) Blue and Lakewood (NJ). The Eagles of TheNia School were coasting along, stretching their lead to 18 at one point, but Lakewood would not go away. Nia had no subs, and that may well have hurt them. Regardless of the reasoning, Lakewood stormed back to pick up a 70-69 win. Mike Spence, a senior for Nia, was one player who caught my eye during the game. I'll have a scouting report on the 6'10 senior up on the site sometime within the next few days.

At 12:30, the craziness continued on as a tournament heavyweight lost in its first game. The Linden Tigers (NJ) fell to the "other" St. Joseph's (Montevale, NJ) by 14 points. Linden's 6'10 big man--and star player--David Bruce struggled throughout. Also at 12:30, Monmouth (NJ) knocked off basketball powerhouse Bloomfield Tech (NJ) in a surprising upset. At 1:45, the first big game of the day turned into an interesting one. St. Benedict's (NJ) sans Tristan Thompson '10, Myck Kabongo '11, Lamar Patterson '09, and Tamir Jackson '10, narrowly beat PCTI (NJ). The Gray Bees led 36-22 at halftime, and seemed to be in full control of the game. PCTI, though, wouldn't die easy and made it into a game. The boys from the Passaic County evened up the score in the final 1:30 of play. Then, with less than a minute, PCTI elected to run the clock down, but not hold for the last shot, as a shot was put up with about 14 seconds to go. Tavon Sledge '11 of St. Benedict's drove the ball downcourt and missed a layup, but Aaron Brown '10 grabbed the rebound and put it back up and in with only two seconds to go, giving the Gray Bees the victory by a final score of 63-61. Brown was the superstar for his team, finishing with 24 points. The 6'4 forward was 6/9 at the charity stripe. Sledge, a 5'10 guard added 12 points and was 1/2 from the line. In an upset, Don Bosco (NJ) was defeated by Freehold Boro (NJ) during the 1:45 games. At 3:00, St. Peter's Prep (NJ) lost a tight one to Newburgh Free Academy (NY) in a contest that came down the wire.

In one of the day's two craziest games, St. Patrick's (NJ) and New Rochelle (NY) met at 4:10 in a game that was changed to the main court, allowing more people to see the Celtics showcase what they had. In the first half, it was all about Kevin Boyle's squad, as the Celtics took a commanding 43-13 lead into the half, despite 6'8 power forward Markus Kennedy '10 not playing for much of the half. Chase Plummer '10, a 6'5 forward , filled the void left by Kennedy, and scored 12 points. Kyrie Irving '10, a transfer from Montclair Kimberly Academy (NJ) scored 15 points in with first 16 minutes of play, as the 6'1 guard was easily the best player on the court. Superstars Michael Gilchrist '11 and Dexter Strickland '09 were not in attendance for St. Pat's, nor were Paris Bennett '09, Derrick Gordon '11, and Shaq Stokes '11. The Celtics' 30-point lead did not stay all that big for long, as New Rochelle (NY) hit shot after shot to cut the lead all the way down to seven, 54-47, with nine minutes left in the game. Leading the way for squad from the Empire State were John Calarco '09, a 6'3 guard, and Antoine Mason '10, also a 6'3 guard, both of who were deadly shooters from beyond the arc. With the clock showing 6:50, the lead was six, 59-52. About two minutes later, with only 4:40 to go, New Rochelle had fought all the way back to within one point, and trailed 62-61. The teams then began to exchange buckets and after two more minutes had gone by, St. Patrick's led 66-64. The Celtics then began to take over, leading 73-64 with a minute left. At this point, the game seemed all but over. With the clock reading 0:10, the Celtics were ahead 75-69, and a three-ball with a few ticks left cut the lead to three. Josh Daniell '10, a 6'6 forward, used some heads-up thinking and did not inbound the ball, sealing the win for his St. Patrick's squad. Daniell also had a big block and a key bucket in the final minutes.

At 7:45, the undefeated "national champion" St. Anthony's Friars (NJ) took the floor against The Nia School (NJ) White. Bob Hurley's squad did not have its three best players: Dominic Cheek '09, Ashton Pankey '10, and Devon Collier '10. The only member of the team's core players for next season that was there was Jamee Jackson '09, a 6'7 forward. The rest of the squad was quite inexperienced. It was evident how thin the team will be next season depth-wise, as Nia knocked them off in a close, low scoring affair.

On paper, the Paterson Catholic (NJ) and Susquehanna Township (PA) contest did not look like it would be a good game at all. For the first half, that was completely true, but not in the way one would expect. The Keystone State team was ahead 41-23 at the half, despite PC jumping out to a quick 8-0 lead. The team pushed its lead up to as much as 30 points during the second 16 minutes of play before Paterson Catholic started to fight back. The game stayed in the twenties for a while, yet as time progressed, PC slowly chipped away at the lead. Fuquan Edwin '10, Shaquille Thomas '10, Jayon James '10, and Myles Mack '11 were the main members in the comeback. Before you knew it, Susquehanna's lead was in single digits. It grew back up to 10+ in the final two minutes and it seemed that PC was as good as done, but they did not give up, chopping the lead all the way down to three. With four seconds left, Susquehanna hit one of two at the stripe, making it a four point game. Myles Mack shot far to early and from from way to far away, and the shot missed, giving Susquehanna Township a huge upset win.

The day's games at the Hoop Group Showcase were crazy, and tomorrow will hopefully be just as good. Both St. Patrick's and St. Benedict's will have tough games in the quarterfinals. The Celtics will meet Seton Hall Prep (NJ) and the Gray Bees will face Neumann-Goretti (PA). If both Jersey teams do win, though, they will meet in the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, a spot in the title game is up for grabs as both of the favorites have been eliminated. Windsor (CT) and The NIA School White will meet in one quarterfinal game, while Susquehanna Township will face the winner of tonight's Plainfield (NJ)/Christian Brothers Academy (NJ) game in the round of eight. This tournament may well have a surprise champion, it's just as matter of who that champ will be.
Note- photo on the top left is of David Bruce and the photo on the top right is of Aaron Brown; both are from
Note- photo in the mid-right is of Jamee Jackson and is from
Note- photo on the bottom left is of Myles Mack and is from

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