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Sunday, July 26, 2009
Red rebound from subpar Showcase

By Chris Lawlor
ESPNRISE.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- All-Ohio Red lived up to the pretournament hype Sunday night, regaining their swagger.

Even though no title was contested, the Reds unleashed their inner frustrations of a disappointing AAU Super Showcase presented by Champion U17 Division I tournament during an 89-80 victory over CP3 All-Stars before 1,500 in the Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

The game, considered an exhibition borne out of the Super Showcase field, was televised on ESPNU as the second of two contests featuring blue-chip elite club teams.

"We came into the game with a chip on our shoulders," All-Ohio Red coach Quentin Rogers said.

All-Ohio Red, who pulled into central Florida having won eight major tournaments this summer, lost twice at the event and failed to reach the final four.

A refocused Big Red Machine, who left the nation in the dust along the summer circuit, clicked Sunday against the Chris Paul-sponsored squad from Greensboro, N.C.

"We were frustrated by the two losses yesterday," Jared Sullinger said. "Tonight set the tone for the rest of the week."

Said Rogers, "I met with the players individually, then gathered them as a team Saturday. We aired everything why we lost twice. This should catapult us for the U17 national tournament."

The Big Red Machine open the AAU U17 tournament Monday afternoon in Orlando with a pool-play game. The team looks to make history, becoming the first team to win national championships for three consecutive years (having previously won the U15 and U16 tournaments).

Sullinger of Northland (Columbus, Ohio), held to eight points in the opening half, heated up in the final 16 minutes, scoring 11 points; he also totaled 10 rebounds. The Ohio State-bound post player and No. 4-rated recruit in the ESPNU 100 led a balanced attack, punctuated by a conventional three-point play midway through the third quarter for a 57-47 advantage.

Aaron Craft, Sullinger's future college teammate with the Buckeyes, pestered CP3 all night on the perimeter, playing sticky defense and topping the Reds with 21 points.

Even Craft knows his Red wasted an opportunity to add another title over the weekend.

"We all played our worst AAU games ever," he said. "We took a step back but now gathered ourselves; we're ready for the rest of the week."

CP3 kept it close but didn't have the offensive firepower or the defense to stop Sullinger and 6-foot-9 Adreian Payne of Jefferson (Dayton, Ohio) in the low post and clearing offensive rebounds. Payne finished with 12, including four putbacks.

CP3's Reggie Bullock of Kinston (N.C.) had his moments. Bullock, who will sign with North Carolina, dropped 30 points, draining 13 of 22 shots (56.5 percent).

Both teams displayed athleticism throughout the opening half, opting for transition. After trailing for most of the first quarter, All-Ohio Red pulled away for a 47-42 lead at the break. Craft of Liberty Benton (Findlay, Ohio) scored 13 points, canning a trio of 3-pointers and Kevin Gray added eight. The Reds were 9-of-17 on 3-pointers in the half.

Melvin Tabb, a Wake Forest recruit, led CP3 with 13 points and Bullock and Jay Canty scored nine points apiece.

Tabb would total 20 points and Canty added 15.

The contest opened with a quick, clean pace as the teams combined for 26 points in the first three minutes, capped by Hairston's slam dunk off Tabb's missed shot to knot the score at 13. CP3 carried a 28-23 edge into the second quarter, mainly on hot shooting which produced 11-of-15 (73.3 percent) field goal accuracy.

"I figured their legs would [be] dead after a while," Sullinger said. "They come out quick; I knew we could wear them down."

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade national Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.