Harden wins Cactus Classic MVP

The final game was a bit of a let down in terms of competitiveness, but that did not put a damper on the Cactus Classic. The event was loaded with talent and in the end a pair or Wildcat prospects beat the team with Wildcat ties.

Pump N Run took the first ever Cactus Classic championship in a bit of a laugher. Gonzaga-bound Austin Day scored 14 of Pump N Runs first 18 points and the team from Southern California rolled to a 67-48 win over the Houston Hoops.

James Harden was named MVP of the entire tournament and his performance in the championship game showed why. He was 3-4 behind the arc and scored 20 points in the win. He also pulled down five rebounds in the win.

Harden is now sporting an offer from the Wildcats and it is obvious to see why. He can play either wing spot and has some similarities to former Wildcat Gilbert Arenas. Most importantly, his game has improved dramatically since last summer. Expect him to really rise up the rankings.

Pump N Run point guard Larry Drew did not have a big offensive game, but he did dish out five assists and did a nice job defensively on Hoops guards Jai Lucas and Tommy Mason-Griffin, both of whom had huge games in the semi-finals.

On the losing end Gary Johnson scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds. The Hoops' perimeter players had difficulty getting him the ball down low, but when they did he was effective. He was 4-6 from the field and went to the line seven times. He did look a little tired but he was facing double teams most of the tournament and the Hoops did not have a deep bench.

The day started with some very competitive quarterfinal games. Pump N Run battled Seattle Rotary Select late in the game. It was tied at 61 with 2:00 to play but Pump scored the next six points to take a 67-61 lead. Seattle trimmed it to one but Harden sank four later free throw attempts to seal the win.

Harden led the way with 17 points and eight rebounds. Day added 12 points while Larry Drew dished out nine assists.

Seattle's Venton Overton led all scorers with 22 points. Overton really helped his stock with his performance. The two-star recruit should see his rankings increase and if he keeps this up expect some new schools to get involved.

The other 9:00 a.m. game pitted the undefeated Illinois Warriors against the SoCal Razorbacks. The team from Southern California gave the favored Warriors all they could handle but came up short in the end.

Five Warrior players scored in double figures, which was enough to better the three-headed scoring monster of Shane Morgan, Drew Viney and Kamyron Brown. Morgan had 20, while Viney and Brown each added 19. Viney added 11 rebounds.

The Las Vegas Prospects were the early morning favorite after dominating the action on Saturday. They would have their hands full with the P Miller Ballers, a team that really came together the second half of Saturday.

The game was reasonably close early on but the Prospects made a run before the half and never looked back. Things got ugly in the stands late in the game with parents heckling each other. The on-court action mirrored the action in the stands and got a little physical late.

Guard play proved to be the difference. Andre McFarland and P'Allen Stinnett scored 28 and 25 respectively and were just too quick and too physical for the Ballers' guards. The Ballers featured two of the best 2009 prospects in Lance Stephenson and Renardo Sydney. Sydney played well, scoring 17 points, but Stephenson was held to just two points and four assists. Those are surprising numbers from a player who all but called out O.J. Mayo last year.

Luke Babbitt scored 13 points and ripped down eight rebounds for the prospects, while Matt Simpkins scored 10 and added eight boards for the Ballers.

The final quarterfinal game was the best. The Houston Hoops edged the SoCal All-Stars 71-67 in double overtime. What made the win even more impressive is that Gary Johnson fouled out for the Hoops early in the first overtime. Before fouling out the elite 2007 forward scored 18 points.

Lucas paced the Hoops with 22 points and five rebounds.

The semi-finals were just as good. Hot outside shooting from Mason-Griffin overcame a two field goal outing from Johnson and the Hoops pulled off the minor upset in their win over the Las Vegas Prospects. Despite just one field goal, Johnson scored 11 points and grabbed five boards.

Babbitt scored 11 in the loss.

On the other side of the bracket the Pump N Run guards made enough plays down the stretch to hold off the Illinois Warriors.

IMPRESSIONS:

*Austin Day is going to make the folks in Spokane very happy. Someone needs to show him to a buffet but the 6-9 forward has a great stroke and is a decent inside player.

*Harden has really improved since last summer. He's a good leaper with a nice lefty stroke. This could very well be a coming out party for him.

*Keep an eye on P'Allen Stinnett. The Las Vegas guard is a great athlete and does a decent job on both ends. He's reclassified to 2007 and could have a host of suitors be summer's end. As of now we are hearing that USC, ASU and Iowa State have showed the most interest.

*Jai Lucas lacks size, but someone is going to get a nice point guard.

*Luke Babbitt is the real deal. He's physically mature for a player his age and his outside stroke is really pretty.

*Expect the debate between Brandon Jennings and Larry Drew for best 2008 West Coast point guard to rage for some time. Jerime Anderson is in the discussion as well.


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