South to confront West in NGC finale

The Nike Global Challenge will conclude on Saturday. The USA South team will face the USA West, two clubs that survived their countrymen and a crew of international squads to advance to the final.

Day two at the NGC became an All-American affair. The international teams — Pan-Africa, Brazil, Canada and France — failed to defeat any of the four American clubs, turning last night's semifinals into a civil entanglement.

As mentioned yesterday, the West may be the most talented assemblage at the event. And it was Stanley Johnson, who has performed like a national top-five prospect this month, who led the way over East by a 99-82 count.

Johnson scored 22 points and added 10 rebounds, knocking in a trio of threes to provide further proof that he's now a legitimate inside-outside weapon. Kelly Oubre added 21 points, while Justin Jackson (17) and Daniel Hamilton (17) further cemented the West's dominance on the wings.

The East actually received balance scoring as well, but they simply lacked the West's explosive potency. Bonzie Colson did his best neutralize the West's size advantage, tallying 13 points and 12 boards, but the East was both out-rebound and out-shot by their taller, more skilled opponents.

The other semifinal proved to be defense-optional, with both teams shooting over 50 percent and the South outlasting the Midwest 130-122. D'Angelo Russell once again played the starring role, scoring 28 points on 10-15 shooting. Depending on how the final transpires, he must be considered a strong candidate for MVP.

Devin Booker also caught fire for the South. He hasn't shot well this year on the travel circuit but hit 8-9 from the field and 5-6 on threes to finish with 21 points. The South shot 63 percent on threes as a team (15-24), a remarkable number even if left wide open. Along with Booker's exploits, Grayson Allen (3-5), Joel Berry (3-4), Theo Pinson (2-4), Justin Coleman (1-2) and Russell (1-2) all hit at least half their three attempts.

Alex Owens once again held his own inside, going for 14 points and, more importantly, 11 rebounds. Pinson also contributed in an all-around fashion, notching 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Midwest certainly received plenty of offense, they just couldn't keep pace from deep. Reid Travis continued his strong summer, tossing in 28 points and six boards on 12-21 shooting. Jae'sean Tate went for 25 and 10 at a very efficient 10-16 clip, the problem for their team being that two is less than three. The Midwest made only 4-16 on threes, the story of the game.

Surprisingly, Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and James Blackmon struggled with their jump shots, missing all 12 of their combined three attempts. The fact that the Midwest didn't get blown out is a testament to their inside play.

The West likely should be favored in the final. They have taller perimeter players and should enjoy an inside advantage, though of course another torrid shooting effort obviously would put the South in a position to triumph.

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