BOSTON -- The host Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) and the New England Playaz met in the final of the 41st annual Boston Shootout on Sunday. Through scorching 90 degree conditions at Roxbury's Shelburne Community Center, BABC captured the championship, knocking off the Playaz 60-53 in an overtime thriller.
The two teams went blow-for-blow for nearly the entire first half before BABC’s three-quarter pressure began to help them pull away a bit. Bruce Brown (Vermont Academy '16), who finished with 17 points, knocked down a three-pointer to beat the first half buzzer, giving BABC a 30-23 lead going into the break.
After being down by as much as 13 early in the second half, the Playaz went on a 15-5 run to bring the deficit down to three with still over nine minutes left to play in the game. Crew Ainge (Kimball Union '15) fueled the Playaz comeback, making tough lay-ups around the rim, knocking down a couple of three-pointers, and creating for big men Marcel Pettway (Wilbraham & Monson '15) and Jarred Reuter (Brewster Academy '15) off of the pick-and-roll. Ainge drew rave reviews from Playaz coach Joe Dicruttalo after the game.
"Crew is just a constant energy guy," Dicruttalo said. "He’s always working, he’s always hustling. He’s that guy where you never have to question his effort. It’s good to have a guy like that out on the court. The first time I saw him was last year in Vegas; he’s not the same kid you see right now. It just goes to show how much times he’s put in off the court."
Dicruttalo made the decision at halftime to go to a pressure 1-3-1 zone, forcing BABC away from their precise offensive flow that often results in lay-ups or shots in the paint. By doing so, the Playaz were able to minimize the production of BABC’s super athletic guard Tyree Robinson (Notre Dame Prep ’15) and versatile forward Brendan Hill (Mansfield '15). The lack of space inside, in turn, forced BABC to shoot more outside jumpers via Tommy Mobley (Newton North '15) and Terrance Mann (Tilton '15). Mobley knocked down three treys while Mann had two of his own on his way to 10 points.
Defensive stalemate: Following a hard-fought game with few highlight-reel plays and plenty of scrappy defense, BABC coach Leo Papile praised the quality of the defensive play.
"A lot of people have the perception that AAU basketball is a bunch of guys running up and down dunking, it was far from that today," Papile said. "That was a really hard fought, down and dirty game. It’s smash-mouth basketball on both sides with clean, hard fouls."
"With a team like [BABC], if you’re giving them the passing angles, they’re going to pick you apart," he said. "So our biggest emphasis at halftime was that even though we were in a zone, we still needed to pressure them. Our biggest thing is we wanted more pressure out of the zone. Too many times people think that when you play zone, it’s time to take a break."
In the closing minute of the overtime period, Brown stepped up with the two biggest defensive plays of the game. The first, he stripped his defender on the wing and appeared to have a breakaway dunk until a late touch foul was called on him. After the officials discussed the play, BABC was given possession of the ball -- essentially cancelling out the questionable foul call on Brown.
Ainge, down 58-53 with 30 seconds left and a chance to make one last run, dribbled through BABC’s defense and pulled up for three from the right wing. Brown was there once again, blocking Ainge’s three attempt, retrieving the ball, and knocking down two free throws after being intentionally fouled.
"I call guys NFL bodies, and that’s what Bruce is, he has the body of an NFL cornerback," Papile said. "Those are the type of plays that he’s born genetically to make, with his length and stride."
An eye on the future: Two of the most promising young prospects in the game were BABC’s Terrell Brown (St. Andrew’s '16), a 6-foot-8 center who shows a ton of promise because of his shot-blocking and rebounding, and Playaz guard Tyree Weston, the former New Bedford guard who recently announced he will be heading to Cheshire Academy in the fall and repeating his sophomore year.
“I thought Terrell, for a 14 year-old, gave us some really good minutes in the first half -- especially in terms of his awareness [defensively]," Papile said. "For us, the defensive effort got us home."
Weston was critical in the Playaz' comeback later in the game, scoring eight points and hitting two 3-pointers in the second half. Brown got minutes in the first half, giving Papile an opportunity to rest Hill and Christian Wilkins (Suffield Academy '15). The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Wilkins -- a highly-touted football prospect already seeing a slew of Division 1 FBS interest -- gave Papile great minutes defensively on Pettway and Reuter.
"We’ve got a lot of football guys. I’m a big fan of that as a coach at this age-level," Papile said. "A lot of basketball guys say football ruins you, I love football guys. I love coaching them…the ability to think and the ability to execute -— which in football is a prerequisite. Down the end of the game, there’s no surprise we’ve got Brown, Hill, and Wilkins in the game - they’re all Division 1 football prospects as well. They’ll make plays."