Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hoop Group Showcase Day Two- The Month of the Celtics

First the Boston Celtics, and now the St. Patrick's (NJ) Celtics. The men from Beantown wrapped up the NBA Championship just several days ago, while today the kids from Elizabeth took home the title at the Hoop Group Showcase. Maybe St. Patrick's Day should be moved to mid-June because it seems that the luck of the Irish is quite far-reaching around then. Today was, for the most part, about St. Pat's, though a few other teams did make some nice impressions.

In the first game I saw, St. Patrick's manhandled Seton Hall Prep (NJ) and won by 13, 54-41. The game was not nearly as close as the score would indicate. Seton Hall's class of 2011 stud Sterling Gibbs, a 6'1 guard, struggled mightily in the loss. He had just eight points, half of which came from the free throw line, where he shot 4/6. Jimmy Burke '09, a 5'11 guard, showed off his nice shooting touch, scoring nine points, all of which came one threes. Markus Kennedy and Kyrie Irving, both class of 2010 stars, led the way for the Celtics. Kennedy, a 6'8 power forward, scored 22 points, 16 of which were first half, when he team had 30 total, giving him over half their points through the first 16 minutes. The big man was 4/5 at the line. Irving, a 6'1 guard, hit his only two free throws and knocked down two treys, finishing with 14 points in the win. After the Celtics' win, I caught the end of the final game played by Linden (NJ). The Tigers, a quality public school squad, lost the game, and finished 0-3 on the weekend.

After the Linden game came a match-up that many people were excited for: St. Patrick's against St. Benedict's (NJ). Although most of the star players on each team were not playing (Michael Gilchrist '11, Paris Bennett '09, and Dexter Strickland '09 for St. Pat's and Lamar Patterson '09, Tamir Jackson '09, Tristan Thompson '10, and Myck Kabongo '11 for St. Ben's), the game was still a drawing card. The Gray Bees, though, were thoroughly over-matched by St. Patrick's, and took a crushing defeat, losing 61-35. Aaron Brown '10, a 6'4 forward, was the standout for St. Benedict's all tournament, and the semifinals game was no different, as he led the way with 12 points, knocking down two three-balls, and went 2/5 at the line. Tavon Sledge '11, a 5'10 guard, added seven points on 4/6 shooting at the stripe and a three pointer. The Gray Bees may well have been tired after their overtime victory over Neumann-Goretti (PA) earlier in the morning in the quarterfinals. Kyrie Irving was phenomenal again for the Celtics, scoring 18 points, hitting two threes, and making all four of his free throws. Markus Kennedy added 17 points and hit his lone shot at the stripe. Kevin Boyle, Jr. '10, a 5'9 guard, scored 12 points and was 2/3 from the free throw line.

The semifinals game between Windsor (CT) and Plainfield (NJ), two powerhouse public schools, for the right to play St. Pat's in the finals was the best game of the day, and maybe of the whole event. Windsor's players had to coach themselves, as Connecticut state rules prohibit a team's coach from being on the bench. Plainfield, a squad that features two superstars in 6'3 guard Tyrone Johnson '11 and 6'2 guard Isaiah Epps '10, as well as under-the-radar Anthony Baskerville, a 5'8 guard in the class of 2009, trailed 48-35 at the half. The game got interesting, as Epps and Johnson led the charge and the Jersey boys began to eat away at the lead. At the 3:45 mark, Plainfield had stormed all the way back and had taken the lead, 80-78. After the two teams exchanged buckets, Tyrus Weaver '10, a 5'11 guard, knocked down a three with 2:10 remaining to put his Windsor team ahead. Tyrone Johnson answered with two free throws allowing his side to re-gain the lead, 84-83 with two minutes on the clock. Johnson went to the line again with 0:53 showing on the clock, and he hit the first of two shots, stretching Plainfield's narrow lead out to two points. Windsor then took a timeout with 35 seconds left. After play resumed, Windsor wasted some clock, and then class of 2010 member, 6'6 forward Ryan Delaire got to the rim and even up the score with around 12 seconds left. Plainfield was unable to score at the other end, and a long-range shot from Windsor went way off, ending regulation with the sore knotted up at 85. Plainfield won the top to start the two minute overtime period, and Isaiah Epps quickly put the ball in the hole, before 10 seconds had even gone by. Kingsley Boothe '09, a 6'3 forward, answered for Windsor, tying the score with 1:38 left. Plainfield then hit another deuce, re-taking the lead with 1:19 left on the clock. Windsor then hit one of two at the stripe with 1:11 left, cutting the lead to 89-88. Anthony Baskerville got to the line with 51 ticks left and missed the front end of a one and one. The score stayed 89-88 until there was 20 seconds remaining, when Steven Samuels '09, a 6'5 forward, scored a bucket on a drive to the rack. Plainfield then missed a shot on its attempt to get to the hole, and the rebound bounced around, until 6'7 forward Adrian Satchell '09 grabbed hold of it and got fouled with five seconds left. The big man knocked down bot hshots, putting his squad ahead 92-89. Isaiah Epps then took the inbounds pass and drove past his man along the left side of the court and passed the rock to Anthony Baskerville. The junior's three-point attempt from the left corner, rimmed in and out, and Windsor grabbed the win by a final of 92-89. Leading the way for Plainfield was Isaiah Epps, who scored just four points in the first half, but finished with 28. He hit three threes and three free throws on his way to the team high points total. A close second in that race was Tyrone Johnson, who dropped in 27 points, including nine from the line. Baskerville, whose shot was off all game long, scored 12 points. For Windsor, Adrian Satchell poured in a whopping 34 points, scoring 18 of them in the first half. He hit two threes and two free throws. Doug Soutar, a 6'3 class of 2009 guard, added 23 points, including two three pointers and four free throws. Ryan Delaire dropped 13 in his own right, with five of them coming at the stripe. Tyrus Weaver's big three near the end of regulation accounted for his lone points in the contest, but they sure were huge in the high scoring affair.

The beatdown the St. Patrick's handed St. Benedict's doesn't even compare to the one they gave Windsor in the title game. Not only did the Celtics win by even more, they did so in much more convincing fashion. The squad jumped out to a quick 10-4 lead after 3:30 of play. Markus Kennedy injured his knee at about the 10 minute mark, iced it and had it looked at by the trainer, and was then good to go. With seven minutes left in the half, the game was still somewhat close, with Windsor trailing 19-6. Three minutes later, the difference was still 13 points, 22-9. Windsor did not hit double digits until 14:40 into the game, when they hit a deuce to give them 11. At the half, the scored favored St. Patrick's 27-13. Kyrie Irving led the way for the Celtics in the half with 11 points, including a three pointer and 4/5 shooting at the line. Ryan Delaire led Windsor in the half, scoring four points. Things started to get ugly in the second half. The St. Pat's lead was 33-15 with 12 minutes to go, then 41-17 with eight minutes left. The margin had grown to 30 points, 47-17, with about 5:30 left, and that's around when the team put in many of its rarely used/JV-only players, such as 5'10 guard Richard Dobin '1o who scored two points, and 5'7 class of 2009 guard Berdy Cadet who hit a three. At the two minute mark, the Celtics were ahead 54-17, and that was the game's final score. St. Patrick's held Windsor to just four points in the second half and kept the scoreless for the final eight minutes, the equivalent of a full quarter in regulation high school ball. For St. Patrick's, Chase Plummer '10, a 6'5 forward, scored 12 points, all in the second half, and was 2/4 at the line. Kyrie Irving finished the game with 17 points, scoring three deuces in the second half. Markus Kennedy had 11 points, and was 3/5 at the line. For Windsor, Adrian Satchell was the leading scorer, finishing with six points, including 2/2 shooting at the charity stripe. Ryan Delaire had four points, and missed his only two shots at the line. Attah Agymand '09, a 5'7 guard, scored two points, and Steve Samuels had three, hitting his only free throw.

The wonderful showing that St. Patrick's had today can be summed up by going over the box scores from their three double-digit victories. They scored 50+ in all three games, while holding opponents to no more than 41. In total, they outscored their opposition 169-93, a 76-point margin. Markus Kennedy (50 points) and Kyrie Irving (49 points) outscored Seton Hall Prep, St. Benedict's, and Windsor combined. The Celtics averaged 56.3 points per game, while their opposition averaged just 31, for a wide 24.3 average scoring differential. My tournament MVP award would go to Kyrie Irving. The 6'1 rising junior guard was unstoppable, seemingly scoring at will. He hit threes, got to the rack, made the majority of his free throws, and just dominated whoever he was matched up against. Irving, a transfer from Montclair Kimberly Academy (NJ) is the real deal.

Congratulations to St. Patrick's on their win in the 2008 Hoop Group Showcase.

Note- photo on the top left is of Markus Kennedy, photo on the bottom left is of St. Patrick's (NJ), and photo on the bottom right is of Windsor (CT)

Note- photo in the middle on the right is of Isaiah Epps, and is from

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