The Hoops led 65-61 after an 11-4 run led by Jai Lucas who scored seven of the 11. SoCal's Taylor King score all four of SoCal's points during the run and added a three to halt the run and get the All-Stars within one.
Houston looked to run out the clock, but with eight seconds left they appeared to have a wide-open dunk attempt, but it was blocked by Taj Gibson and the All-Stars had one last chance. After a timeout, the All-Stars got the ball into King's hands and isolated him on the baseline.
This is where the controversial part began.
Actually it began earlier. The referees were inconsistent at best and had attracted the ire of some parents. One official asked that one boisterous parent be moved to another part of the gym midway through the second half and seemed to be rattled by some heckling.
It would not end there.
King took a few dribbles and then went strong to the hole. He lowered his shoulder just a bit and drew contact with the Hoops' defender. The shot was good and all of the All-Stars thought they'd get the bucket and possibly the foul. Instead they called an offensive foul.
Coach Joedy Gardner protested and was given a double technical and ejected. Jai Lucas made 3-of-4 free throws and the game ended. Following the buzzer a few parents confronted the officials and it looked like it could get much worse before order was restored.
In my opinion, the refs blew it. I video taped the ending and it was not real conclusive (I was at the far end of the court) but I think I have a pretty good idea of what happened. King did lead with the shoulder, but never dropped it or really used it to ram the defender. The defender had pretty good position, but seemed like he flopped just a bit. To me it was a no-call. In the final seconds the game should not come down to a referee. I believe the bucket should have counted and the Hoops should have been given a couple of seconds to get a final shot attempt. While I think the call was not the best, it was not so bad that parents needed to confront the officials.
The Hoops almost didn't make the finals. They needed a late run to get by the Portland Legends. They used a 13-0 run to take the lead and held off two three-point attempts in the final seconds to advance to the finals.
Chase Budinger continues to impress. He is remarkably athletic and can really stroke the ball. He's not a great rebounder and still floats a little bit, but can he score. He scored 18 points on 8-16 shooting. He was aggressive to the rack, but really didn't shoot enough from the outside. He was just 1-for-1 from behind the arc. He also guarded future Wildcat Nic Wise whenever the Hoops went to a three guard attack.
Nic Wise cramped up and missed the end of the championship game. It was a shame because he had a chance to show Lute Olson how he could play in the clutch. Coach Olson was front and center for the finals and also saw Nic hit two free throws in the final seconds of the semi-final game.
We can't say enough about Kevin Love. The 2007 center is one of the best young post players in the class because he is a true back to the basket low post player. He told Cat Tracks that he has heard that the NBA has all but passed a 20-year age limit and that he's happy to go to college. Right now the Cats, North Carolina and Duke lead for his services. He spoke with Lute Olson last week and admitted that he picked the Tar Heels in a bracket contest.
Love's Portland Legend's teammate Kyle Singler got better every time we saw him. We liked him on Saturday. Liked him a little bit more Saturday morning and loved him on Saturday after noon. He's got great height and is an excellent passer and rebounder. He compares himself to Luke Jackson and that is very apt. He is well rounded like the former Oregon Duck. Interestingly enough, Singler plays better without Love on the floor when he is the main man.
Taylor King can score. He reminds me a bit of Jason Kapono and Jud Beuchler. He has a jump stop similar to the former Cats and uses his strength well. He can also stroke it from the outside.
Jai Lucas put on a show today. He looks like a mini version of his brother, former Oklahoma State guard John Lucas. He's four inches shorter, but has all of the same moves, including an eerily similar floater and jumpshot. He does a great job of getting a lot of arc on the jumper as to avoid blocks by bigger players. In fact his teammates Brandon Brown and Wise all put a lot of arc on their shots.
Both Jai's brother and his father, former NBA great John Lucas Sr. were on hand all weekend. Jai likes a lot of schools, but John Jr. is really pushing Oklahoma State on him. Jai also noted that he'd like to go to the same school as high school and Hoops teammate Isaiah Rusher.
The Hoops have five players that can play either forward spot. They are all between 6-5 and 6-8 and do some of the same things as Fendi Onobun did last summer. Mike Singletary admitted that the coaches stress that they have no positions and he isn't kidding. James, Singletary, Jerrod Johnson, Darris Santee and Gary Johnson all look like solid combo-forwards.
In an interesting move, the Portland Panthers, who were eliminated from the rival Pump ‘N' Run Spring Tournament Saturday night, were on hand to watch the championship game. When Olson moved to the other end of the gym, half the team moved with him and seemed to be listening to what he was saying to some fellow coaches. There is no doubt that Lute has a certain presence. He and Lorenzo Romar were the most prominent head coaches on hand, but Jay John and UNLV's Lon Kruger were also very noticeable.
E-mail Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org