10:13: The first game has tipped, featuring Wilbraham (Mass.) W&M vs. Apex (N.C.) Middle Creek. Goodluck Okonoboh is the primary object of attention for the crew from the Northeast, and he's joined by Indiana-bound forward Max Hoetzel. It's a tie game after one quarter as both teams are still getting warm.
10:59: After a very quiet first half, Okonoboh stepped it up in the third quarter. He remains very raw offensively but got a couple blocks and a steal and a slam to end the quarter. He also has hit a couple of 12-foot jump shots.
I'll have more on Hoetzel later, but he's a good open shooter who will need to overcome a size and athleticism deficit for the Hoosiers. Junior guard Curtis Cobb has slashed into the paint repeatedly and is having a nice game.
11:49: W&M nearly fell in an upset, but they survived to win 67-65. Okonoboh went for 18 points and six rebounds, shooting mostly layups en route to a 8-9 performance. He needs to keep himself inside and eliminate his tendency to dribble on the perimeter, because at the rim he does make his presence felt.
Cobb tallied 19 points, six rebounds and five assists, redeeming himself after a missed dunk late with a critical steal. Hoetzel went for 12 points and nine boards.
Next up is Kentucky signee Devin Booker and Moss Point (Miss.) High vs. local Apex High.
1:20: After an average first half, Booker exploded in the second frame to finish with 42 points. The future Wildcat lived at the free throw line, proving that you don't have to be an elite slasher to draw contact. He almost uses his jump shot as a decoy at this point, shooting some threes but moving much better without the ball. He had a key shot later and may have been fouled, but no call was forthcoming. Booker also has become noticeably stronger, which benefits his getting into the lane.
Now, it's Kinston (N.C.) High and junior forward Brandon Ingram against host Broughton High.
2:17: Ingram has been very quiet this game, but through three quarters Broughton senior guard Cameron Gottfried has been the most effective player. Gottfried is, of course, the son of North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried. It's anyone's game down the stretch.
2:52: Kinston survived an overtime challenge from Broughton. Ingram finished with 15 points but committed far too many turnovers (eight), though he did also make several key steals and blocks due to his length and instincts. He simply had a poor shooting and ballhandling day.
Gottfried, meanwhile, finished with 19 points and showcased improved strength and athleticism over the past.
Now, we move to a contest between Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler (juniors Daniel Giddens and Jaylen Brown) matched against Garner (N.C.) High.
4:15: Not much newsworthy has occurred in this one. Giddens didn't play but Wheeler is winning via rout, regardless. Elijah Staley may be a football recruit in February, but he's a powerful hybrid who might contribute to the Mississippi State basketball program as a walk-on.
Touted junior Brown showcased his power wing abilities. He loves to slash from the top of the key and uses explosive athleticism and a nice touch off the glass to convert old-fashioned three-point plays.
Brown is a very aggressive competitor and also picks up slams, rebounds and blocks. He did hit one medium-range jump shot, but expanding his offense should remain a priority.
We now move to Martinsville (Va.) Carlisle vs. Raleigh (N.C.) Sanderson. Thon Maker, whom I watched last week at the Chick-Fil-A Classic, will showcase his substantial talents in front of new fans.
5:38: Maker hasn't had a huge offensive game, but that's normal for him. He's an elite prospect because of what he will be, not necessarily what he is now from game to game. That said, he certainly has impressed the crowd here with several dunks and his general ability to run the floor.
In my opinion, at least, the game of the night takes place next. Columbia (S.C.) Hammond will square off against Fayetteville (N.C.) Trinity Christian.
In prospect terms, that means a trio of blue-chip sophomores will take the court, and they're all guards. Seventh Woods is the prime performer and a YouTube sensation for Hammond, while Trinity Christian features both Junior Smith and Kwe Parker.
You never know if a head-up matchup like this will deliver, but I can't wait to find out. The pregame scouting report reads like this: Woods is the fast and best athlete of the three, but not by as wide margin as you'd think, compared with the other. Parker, in particular, is a sensational leaper as well. Smith is the only true point guard of the group and presently may be the most complete of the three.
7:38: Well, occasionally amid a blowout, something magical still manages to break out. Although Trinity Christian simply overwhelmed Hammond due to its number of athletes, Seventh Woods stole the show in the fourth quarter.
Down roughly 20 points, Wood scored a minimum of 25 points in the fourth frame, including seven three-pointers. He hit a couple open ones and then began to drill them contested. He even banked one in, and in the final couple minutes the crowd booed any Hammond teammate who did not immediately pass the ball to Woods.
There's more to a scoring binge, obviously. Woods actually didn't play terribly well prior to that point, turning the ball over frequently and missing most of his shots. His final numbers included 42 points on 14-23 shooting, 7-11 on threes, along with seven turnovers (and no assists).
For Trinity Christian, Junior Smith also threw the ball all over the floor but finished strongly as well. Smith loves to drive baseline and explode off two feet, and he also settled in as the game wore on and made more authoritative moves with the ball. He finished with 22 points on 10-16 shooting and seven turnovers of his own, though with six assists as well.
Not to be forgotten, athlete deluxe Kwe Parker had some great drives and finishes but was quiet with 13 points on 5-12 on field goals.
Next up is Orlando (Fla.) Lake Highland with UNC signee Joel Berry versus Clayton (N.C.) High and Cincinnati-bound forward Gary Clark.
9:13: Another romp ensued, only this one didn't feature any unforgettable performances. Berry played the role of facilitator for the victors, going for 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, shooting 6-11 from the floor.
Clark tried to keep the game competitive, but he's best as a utility guy and not a creator. Credit for the attempt, which resulted in a frustrating 14-point outing on 6-17 shooting. He needs guards and not to handle too much, especially with his left hand. But as evidence of his hard work, Clark did snare 15 rebounds and demonstrate very good athleticism.
10:56: Closing thoughts for the evening, after Justin Jackson and HYCA easily dispatched Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God.
Obviously, Seventh Woods took command of the day, but his team lost. The winners bracket is where the action will be tomorrow, as four outstanding matchups will take place in separate divisions.
The crowed reached capacity tonight and likely will tomorrow as well, and definitely everyone who shelled out their hard-earned cash today received their fair share of entertainment.
That's it for now, I'll be back tomorrow afternoon.