Commentary

Irving leads USA East to crown

Updated: August 10, 2009, 2:10 PM ET
By Chris Lawlor | ESPNRISE.com

[+] EnlargeIrving
Andrew Shurtleff for ESPN.comKyrie Irving scored 26 points in the championship game against Team Canada.

Kyrie Irving outdid himself this weekend at the Nike Global Challenge, but don't expect him to admit it.

Instead here's winning USA East coach Steve Turner.

"He played great all weekend; he bought into our team concept," Turner said.

Irving, one of the nation's elite senior guards in the ESPNU 100, was named the most outstanding player of the international tournament following a 105-104 victory over the upstart Canadians Sunday night at Liberty High in Hillsboro, Ore.

When the American squad needed him, Irving, of St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.), stepped up by scoring seven of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to help USA East erase a nine-point deficit.

"I brought toughness and played hard all the time," Irving said. "In events like this where you play with guys from all over, someone needs to be the leader. I felt we had a great supporting cast but needed that leader."

USA East's victory wrapped up the third annual international tournament, which features eight teams and FIBA rules.

The Americans, who have won three straight NGC titles since 2007, didn't secure the gold medal until Canadian Myck Kabongo's 3-pointer clanged off the front rim as time expired.

After four ties in the final 3 minutes, 20 seconds, it came down clutch free throw shooting by Okara White (11 points) of Clearwater, Fla.

White's free throw with seven seconds remaining snapped a 104-104 tie. Following a timeout, Kabongo, a native of Toronto, dribbled to the right wing with the clock nearly dry and pulled up in an attempt to draw a foul, but misfired.

Irving executed the defense diagrammed in the huddle, forcing his neighboring New Jersey high school rival to the wings.

"I was lucky no foul was called; there was some contact but apparently not enough," Irving said.

His pre-tournament prediction sounded brash but Kabongo, a rising junior point guard at St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.), honestly thought the Canadians were primed for victory.

"I'd like to see Canada back on top," he said. "We have an experienced team."

[+] EnlargeTristan Thompson
Kelly Kline/Nike Tristan Thompson played tough for Team Canada, but it was not enough.

After a pair of easy wins, it appeared the Canadians indeed were the team to beat. They built a 15-point lead in the third quarter and maintained control with a balanced attack.

Roscoe Smith's tip-in with one minute left completed the Americans' comeback but the Canadians tied it twice at 102 and 104 on baskets by Texas-bound forward Tristan Thompson.

"Any time you play a foreign team, they want to beat the Americans," said Irving, who was playing in his first international competition.

Irving was superb shooting the ball, scoring 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor and making all four free throws, while dishing out four assists. He scored 64 points in the tournament, fueling his MOP honors, but wasn't the only star for the gold medalists.

Memphis-bound Will Barton of Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) added 20, while Josh Selby had 18 points and five assists in the title game.

Five Canadians struck for double figures as their team made 42 of 77 shots for 54.2 percent. Thompson of Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) had 29 points and 12 rebounds, Mangisto Arop had 18 points and Kabongo added 13. Junior Cadougan, who enters his freshman year at Marquette later this month, scored 13 points.

"For three days they played with team pride," Turner said of USA East's mantra. "We needed to play defense and feed the hot hand; and we did. They put egos aside and didn't play as individuals."

Tournament Summary

BRAZIL 82, SENEGAL 50 (third place): The Brazilians cruised to the bronze medal Sunday night. Brazil rolled to a 20-0 lead in the opening 6:11 in its second blowout win in three days.

The Brazilians featured nine players from the under-16 national team, which took fifth at the 2009 FIBA Americas Championships at Mendoza, Argentina, in June.

Vitor Alves Benite topped the Brazilian scorers for the second time in the tournament with 15 points and Jordan Burger had 14.

The Senegal team, comprised mainly of players from the Nike SEEDS Academy in the African nation, received 13 points from Gorgui Sy Dieng. Dieng, a 6-foot-10, 190-pound center from Kebemer, Senegal, scored 50 points in three contests.

USA WEST/SOUTH 116, USA MIDWEST 104: After dropping its opening game Friday night, the South/West squad, coached by Michael Peck of defending national champion Findlay Prep, cruised to the consolation bracket title.

The West/South built a 91-68 lead after three quarters before the Midwest (1-2 in tournament play) made it respectable. J.T. Terrell of West Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.) struck for 27 points and C.J. Leslie contributed 20 points and eight boards. Quincy Miller, a 6-8 forward out of Quality Education (Winston-Salem, N.C.), had a double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Midwest was paced by Harrison Barnes of Ames (Iowa) High, who had 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting. For the tournament, the ESPNU 100 top-ranked senior totaled 94 points, averaging 31.3 points, with a high of 46 in the consolation round Saturday.

FMP SERBIA 77, ALL-ASIA 75: FMP Zeleznik Beograd, a Serbian club team, withstood a furious fourth-quarter rally to finish in seventh place.

FMP won the Euroleague junior tournament to qualify for the tournament.

Svetozar Stamenkovic scored 23 of his team-best 38 points in the opening half as the Serbs led 38-37. Stamenkovic's output was the second-best in 12 tournament games.

The All-Asia squad, coached by Aussie Rob Beveridge, was comprised of select players from Nike's All-Asia Camp this spring. Seven of the players were from China.

Jie Zahao poured in 30 points, making 6 of 11 3-point field goals.

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.