LAS VEGAS -- We started the five-day trek through Sin City at the Reebok Summer Championship's Create N Finish Cup Challenge at Foothill High School in Henderson, Nev. The mini tournament features the top eight seeded teams in the open division and ensures that many of the top players and teams in the Summer Championships face one another.
Team Breakdown (Fla.) 87, Northwest Panthers (Wash.) 73
This game featured the backcourt match up everyone wanted to see in Vegas as the Panthers' Abdul Gaddy and Avery Bradley squared off against Breakdown's Brandon Knight and Kenny Boynton. The game started off with both teams feeling each other out and committing careless turnovers.
The Northwest Panthers were the ones to settle down first, in particular Bradley. He started off the game with a jumper in the lane over Boynton and then hit a 3-pointer to give his team a quick 5-0 lead. Bradley also made the highlight play of the game when he dunked over a startled Guillaume Sabour-Pina to make the score 11-6. Bradley's defensive rebound on the next play was nearly as impressive as his dunk and his quick outlet pass led to a bucket by Gaddy and a quick 13-6 lead.
The Panthers were making a higher percentage of shots in the first half than their opponents and also benefited from Knight and Boynton getting somewhat caught up in the moment. Both players took low percentage outside shots and did a poor job of getting the post players involved. The Panthers built a double-digit lead (24-14) on a jumper by Gaddy and took a 44-30 halftime lead.
Team Breakdown made only 10 of 29 field goal attempts in the first half while the Northwest Panthers shot a sizzling 60 percent (19-32). According to Knight, it wasn't a case of trying to match what Bradley and Gaddy were doing.
"It looked bad but those shots (we took) usually go in," Knight remarked. "It wasn't the matchups."
It was a completely different story in the second half as Boynton and Knight picked up the defensive intensity and took the Northwest Panthers' duo out of its game. Boynton started it off with a bucket and a 3 off a turnover by the American Heritage star cut the Panthers' lead to 45-37. On the next possession, a steal that led to a dunk by Knight ignited Breakdown's outside shooting, and the Northwest Panthers never recovered.
A 27-footer by Boynton finally gave the Floridians a 57-55 lead they would not relinquish. Boynton made three 3s from beyond 25 feet and his team made six of eight after intermission. Breakdown shot 69 percent from the field after the break and outscored the Northwest Panthers 55-29 as Boynton scored 24 points in the second 16 minutes. He finished with 33 points on 12 of 19 shooting with five rebounds. Knight made eight of 20 shots but added nine free throws for 26 points, 23 in the second half.
Gaddy scored a team-high 24 points on 10 of 23 shooting with five rebounds, eight assists and five turnovers. Bradley made eight of 17 shots good for 20 points. Breakdown also got a solid performance from 6-foot-8 Keith Clanton with 15 rebounds, while 6-foot-2 Pe'shon Howard (four rebounds, two assists) provided a spark off the bench during the second half blitz.
"Our coach (Brionne Gillion) gave us a pep talk at halftime," Knight said. "We needed to get in the flow of the game more."
Team Breakdown did that and then some.
D-One Sports (N.C.) 87, Worldwide Orange (Ga.) 80
John Wall, one of the nation's top guard prospects, was on display and didn't disappoint, leading his team to victory down the stretch to set up a Wednesday morning matchup with Team Breakdown and its star guards.
It was a fast-paced game that remained close in the first half until Worldwide Sports' Richard Howell nailed a 3 and then came up with a steal that led to a lay-up by Mfon Udofia that gave his team a 27-17 lead with just over nine minutes remaining. In the first half, Wall was trying to do too much by himself while his opponents had more balanced scoring.
Howell, Udofia and Ari Stewart all went over 20 points in the game for Worldwide Orange, which led 39-35 at halftime.
In the second half, Wall started to assert himself offensively and did a good job of hitting the open man instead of over-penetrating as he did on a few occasions in the first half. D-One made it a four-point game (60-56) after Wall blew past a defender and finished with a two-handed flush. D-One eventually tied the game at 60 on a foul and bucket underneath by Tyrone Williams with six minutes to go. Williams didn't make the foul shot, but it didn't matter as the North Carolina team took control down the stretch.
Wall hit 6-foot-11 post Ryan Kelly on a pretty feed and made an elbow jumper on back-to-back possessions to make the score 69-64 with four minutes to go. D-One was in control the rest of the way as Wall finished with a game-high 30 points, 11 assists and eight turnovers. Kelly was the main beneficiary of Wall's dishes as he finished with 20 points, four blocked shots and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Stewart finished with 22 points, Udofia 20 and Howell 21 in a losing effort. Both teams shot over 50 percent for the game, but it was the quickness and playmaking ability of Wall that was the difference.
Franchize All-Stars (Texas) 73, L.A. Dream Team (Calif.) 69
It was a battle of big men in the third quarterfinal. The L.A. Dream Team's big man, 6-foot-10 Renardo Sidney, came into the contest with the franchise tag as he's long been considered one of the best big men in the Class of 2009. It was the Franchize's big man, however, who came away with the victory and more impressive performance.
John Henson, a 6-foot-10 string bean from Roundrock (Texas) High School, led his team to victory with game-highs of 25 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. Sidney finished tied with guard Antonio Biglow for a team high 15 points. The Los Angeles-Fairfax product also finished with five rebounds and two blocked shots.
The L.A. Dream Team took a 40-34 lead late in the first half on a basket by Biglow, but the Franchize All-Stars stole the momentum going into the half when forward Kelly Lawson (eight points) tipped in a basket at the buzzer to make the score 41-29 in favor of the Californians.
Henson tied the game at 41 on a dunk and the Franchize All-Stars went on a run from there, outscoring the Dream Team 13-3 to start the second half. The Dream Team could never get over the hump although they stayed within striking distance. Sidney asserted himself only in spurts but definitely not often enough for his team to pull out the win.
D.C. Triple Threat (Washington, D.C.) 85, Belmont Shore (Calif.) 77, OT
The defending open division champions dug themselves a big hole to start this game and nearly got out of it. They were able to force overtime after trailing by as much as 19 points in the second half but ran out of gas and were called for a critical intentional foul while trailing by two baskets in the extra period. The only solace Belmont Shore can take from the loss is the fact the team did not win the Create N Finish Cup last year during its run to the open division title.
D.C. Triple Threat was the team that won the cup last year and Wednesday they will be gunning for their second straight mini title.
The game's leading scorer, 6-foot-5 Maurice Creek, hit a 3-pointer right before the halftime buzzer to give Triple Threat a 40-31 lead. The lead eventually grew to 51-32, and that's when Belmont Shore made their move although it didn't seem they were in the game until the very end of regulation.
Belmont Shore's leading scorer, Darius Morris, hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to ten points (71-61) with just under five minutes left in the game. Point guard Cezar Guerrero then converted a traditional 3-point play to cut the lead to 73-69 with just under three minutes remaining.
Leading 77-75 with the ball, Triple Threat was called for an offensive foul and Alec Williams tied the game with a layup off an out-of-bounds play to send the game into overtime. It looked like D.C. Triple Threat would win it at the end of regulation, but Chris Braswell's tip-in at the buzzer was disallowed. It eventually didn't matter as they outscored Belmont Shore 8-0 in the extra two-minute period.
Creek finished with 31 points on 11 of 17 shooting, including four of six 3-pointers. Braswell added 11 points for D.C. Triple Threat while Erick Green Jr. netted 15 points.
Morris finished with 20 points on seven of 14 shooting, including four of nine from 3-point range. Hollis Thompson also had a solid game for Belmont Shore with 18 points and nine rebounds while Guerrero added 12 points.