The mighty Atlanta Celtics stormed into the finals against Pump 'N Run as favorite to win it all on the strength of their front line. However, in the end it was a pair of guards that ruled the action. MVP Jordan Farmar had 20 points and four assists in the 94-86 win. Bryce Taylor had 16 of his own and 2003 forward Jared Dudley did plenty of damage as well.
Dwight Howard had 16 points, five rebounds and four blocks for the Celtics, who were bidding to win their fourth T.O.C. title. The Celtics walloped Tulsa 74-51 and Juice 76-51 to gain a finals berth.
Pump 'N Run smoked a fine Houston Westside team 71-48 and squeaked one out against the New York Ravens 74-72.
The Long Island Lightning defeated the New Orleans Jazz 60-51 in the finals to capture the championship among second-place pool finishers. However, the Lightning were defeated in the semis by the Southern Cal All-Stars, but gained a berth in the finals when So Cal had to leave to catch a flight.
Meanwhile, Tasmin Mitchell scored 27 in a big time semi-final performance against the Playaz. The Jazz won 90-75 in that one.
16 Year Old Division
Another Georgia squad entered a title game as the favorite and came out a runner-up. In overtime, the Illinois Wolves defeated the Georgia Stars 66-64 as guard Bobby Frasur sank two free throws with five seconds to play.
Frasur was named all-tournament, but the MVP went to point guard Brian Mullins whose savvy floor game paced the Wolves. Meanwhile, Louis Williams of the Georgia Stars scored 21 points including a 9-for-10 effort from the line. Prior to the title game, Williams' strong play was one of the story lines in the bracket.
15 Year Old Division
The "Big Ticket" was big time for Boo Williams, which defeated the Tim Thomas Playaz 61-46 to win the championship. Vernon "Big Ticket" Macklin was the easy choice for MVP of the division. Boo Williams has not lost a game this spring yes (that means in any tournament) and captured the Southern Invitational title two weeks ago.
Josh Wright, PG, L.I. Panthers: We couldn't be more impressed with his play. Wright has developed into a Top 10-caliber player at his position and really has shown a propensity to score the ball. He takes big shots and really turned in a fine weekend. He had 25 in a game against the Alabama Challenge.
Jordan Farmar, PG, Pump 'N Run: Against the Celtics in the title game he did what a player of his caliber should do and led his team with patience and poise. He was awarded the MVP for his efforts. He had 20 in the title game and set up Taylor well.
Bryce Taylor, SG, Pump 'N Run: A strong case could have been made for him being the MVP of the event. Taylor's hot hand from behind the arc from Saturday on was a major reason for PNR's rise to the championship. Give him credit, he catches and shoots with some of the best shooters in the class and he was hot in Chapel Hill.
Celtics Frontline: Dwight Howard and Josh Smith shared 30 points and Randolph Morris played well in the championship game, but once again it was another guard who took home MVP honors and the trophy. Still, most everyone who saw this massive conglomerate of talent on the Celtics roster agreed that there have ever been few frontlines as talented as this group. Good things lie ahead for this group of Celtics.
Ronnie Steele, PG, Alabama Challenge: He's strong and has a nice body for a point guard. Against the Panthers, he scored 23 points and really shot the ball well in each half.
Shane Foster, SF, New Orleans Jazz: Foster is an athletic specimen. The guy gets a lot accomplished near the basket and in the paint. He put up some nice scoring numbers during the whole event.
J.R. Smith, SG, Playaz: His team had to stage a furious rally to be the Magnolia Stars in the quarters and Smith led the charge with 20. This Cadillac-caliber athlete does things athletically that you can't account for. His step-back-jumper and elevation is a killer. He could be in store for another big summer.
Tasmin Mitchell, F, New Orleans Jazz: Against the Playaz this guy was terrific. He had 27 every which way possible. From tip dunks to threes to medium-jumpers, he was scoring it from all over the place. He's had a big rep for the past few seasons and he is living up to the billing.
Louis Williams, SG-PG, Georgia Stars: It wasn't vintage Williams in the title game loss, but the talent is evident. He is a young man who can get himself in and out of tight spots with offensive creativity. He's a scoring guard who is comfortable shooting it from deep and medium-range, but he can get to the cup. He's a big timer.
Off The Dribble
Long Island Panthers forward Rashon Clark is a superb athlete who finds ways to contribute. DeMare Carroll (John Carroll High in Birmingham) of The Alabama Challenge is a long, good looking athlete. He's still refining his offense and can really pump up his scoring totals by rebounding. He wouldn't tell you, but Playaz point man Sean Singletary wasn't 100% this weekend. A bum shoulder is still giving him some problems.
Speaking of point guards, there is a star emerging in Louisiana. Jazz freshman sensation Darryl Augustine is going to be a big-time player. He started and was a driving force in his team's overall success. In the Playaz win over the Magnolia Stars early in the playoffs, Charles Thomas had 28 points and the ultra-talented Monta Ellis had 27.
News & Notes
Jordan Farmar knows what school he's going to pick, but he'll wait until the middle part of the week to announce. UCLA and Florida are getting much burn here. DeMare Carroll is hearing from Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Auburn, UAB and Alabama. Rashon Clark likes Iowa State, UMass, Richmond, Dayton, Rhode Island, Seton Hall and Providence...Panthers star guard Josh Wright likes Syracuse, Boston College, UConn, Kentucky and Louisville. Don't sleep on the Eagles or the Huskies. Challenge shooter Bobby Norton likes South Alabama, Southern Illinois, Central Florida and Florida International...Raleigh's Finest point guard Troy Mathis is interested in Xavier, Minnesota and Clemson among a host of others. He's just getting this recruiting process started.... Josh Smith of the Celtics will attend Oak Hill Academy next season. Greg Paulus made an unofficial visit to North Carolina on Sunday. J.R. Smith is making an official visit to Louisville next weekend.