Commentary

Favors stars in high-flying game

Updated: April 2, 2009, 9:48 AM ET
By Chris Lawlor | ESPNRISE.com

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The most dangerous combination on the floor for the East squad seemed like an unlikely pair, at least to the untrained eye at the McDonald's All-American High School Boys Basketball Game.

Derrick Favors
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesDerrick Favors took home McDonald's All-American MVP honors Wednesday.

Lance Stephenson and Derrick Favors have developed chemistry while competing on the summer circuit the last four years. They hooked up at various summer elite camps and all-star games, taking mental notes on each other's game.

Stephenson, a 6-foot-6 guard from Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y., is known for his scoring, but Favors raved about his deft passing.

"He drives and dishes to the open man; he's unselfish," said Favors, a Georgia Tech-bound post player from South Atlanta (Atlanta, Ga.). "Lance is misunderstood sometimes; he's very intense and wants to always win."

It was a pair of Stephenson-to-Favors alley-oop dunks in the final 41.7 seconds which propelled the East over the West 113-110 on Wednesday at the University of Miami's BankUnited Center.

The East leads the all-time series 18-14, having won five of the last seven contests.

Trailing by one point in the final minute, Stephenson beat a double-team and caught the West defense sloughing off the 6-foot-9 Favors along the baseline.

Favors, the game's Most Valuable Player, threw down the pass for a 111-110 lead. The tandem teamed again with 8.2 seconds left on a similar sequence for two points, and the East's defense buckled down when Duke-bound forward Mason Plumlee misfired on a potential game-tying 3-pointer as time expired.

Tommy Mason-Griffin could have given the West a lead with 17 seconds left but drew iron from the top of the key.

"What a tremendous group of guys," said winning coach Darryl Burrows of nearby Dillard High School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). "I told them at halftime to expend some energy on defense; it worked."

Favors netted 12 of his team-high 19 points (on 9-of-13 shooting) after the break and had eight rebounds. Stephenson stepped up his effort in the second half, finishing with 12 points, six assists and three steals.

"I always look for the open man; that's my game," said Stephenson, who is still undecided on college but is considering Maryland, St. John's and Kansas.

[+] EnlargeLance Stephenson
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesLance Stephenson showed why he's in high demand by top college programs.

The game capped a memorable week for Favors, who took home the MVP (John R. Wooden Award) and McDonald's National Player of the Year honors (Morgan Wootten Award). Favors closes out his prep career at Madison Square Garden in New York at the Jordan Brand Game on April 18.

Stephenson is done playing competitively this season. He'll continue his workouts and sift through college offers. "I need a little [time] off," he said.

The pregame blather focused on sharing the basketball and winning the transition game. Both came to fruition as a dunkathon ensued. Several lob passes above the rim were converted into slam dunks, punctuating the breakneck pace.

Kenny Boynton Jr. of American Heritage School (Plantation, Fla.) scored 10 points for the East but knew Favors was a star among stars Wednesday night.

"I enjoyed watching Derrick Favors dominate and throw down those dunks; they were some crazy ones," Boynton said.

Ryan Kelly (six points), a Duke recruit from Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, N.C., gave the East a 90-83 lead with 12½ minutes left on back-to-back two-handed slams.

The prettiest play of the night was Peyton Siva's spinning layup with 7:20 left, giving the East a 100-98 lead. Siva, who guided Franklin High in Seattle to the Washington Class 4A state title in March, avoided two defenders en route to the basket, pleasing the crowd of 5,981. Siva, a point guard who has signed with Louisville, scored six points and handed off nine assists.

"At first I wanted to dunk," Siva said. "I was aware Avery [Bradley] was over my shoulder, so I went 360 for the layup."

The second half opened with a flurry of points, mostly in transition. In 4½ minutes, the teams combined for 33 points, with the East taking a 78-73 lead on Favors' layup.

"Our defense helped our offense get going," Burrows said. "We came out with more energy in the second half, and it was stressed that we needed to stop giving up so many easy baskets."

After trailing early in the game, the West took a 23-18 lead thanks to a 10-5 run that included dunks by Keith "Tiny" Gallon and Plumlee.

Gallon, a 6-foot-9, 293-pound forward from Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), scored a game-high 20 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) and grabbed seven rebounds. Bradley added 15 points, and Xavier Henry and John Henson scored 14 apiece for the West.

"We knew defense might be the difference," said Gallon, a Houston-area native who is headed to Oklahoma.

The East reduced its deficit to 46-42 when DeMarcus Cousins (LeFlore, Ala.) sank a free throw with 5:43 in the first half, but 6-5 guard Michael Snaer of Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley, Calif.) scored four of his 13 points, including a thunderous dunk, for a 57-50 West lead with 3:10 left.

The East then scored five straight; with 1:13 left, guard Dexter Strickland's two free throws cut the West lead to 57-55. But the West scored the final six points of the half -- on Travis Wear's tip-in, Abdul Gaddy's driving layup and Bradley's one-handed dunk -- for a 63-55 edge at intermission.

At halftime, Gallon had 11 points and three rebounds for the West, while Dominic Cheek, a 6-5 guard from St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), topped the East with eight points, including two 3-pointers from the left wing.

During halftime, two notable ceremonies were held.

Bradley of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) was presented the Naismith Sportsmanship Award. The award is given annually to the player who exhibits the best sportsmanship during the week of the McDonald's game and is voted on by the players and coaches. Bradley, a 6-3 guard, has signed with Texas.

Additionally, Alonzo Mourning became the first McDonald's player to have his jersey (No. 33) retired. Mourning earned the John R. Wooden MVP Award following the 1988 game. On Monday, the Miami Heat also retired Mourning's jersey.

Next year, the 33rd McDonald's All-American High School Games return to Ohio for the first time since 2003, with Columbus as the host city. The games will be played at the Value City Arena; the date has yet to be announced.

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, where 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.

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