HSOT Invitational: Friday live thread

RALEIGH, N.C. -- I'm back for winners bracket contests at the High School OT Invitational. Yesterday featured one of the great performances thus far this season, with Seventh Woods exploding for 42 points and seven consecutive threes.

Four semifinals will tip off tonight, in two different divisions, but first let's catch up on some losers' bracket action.

Devin Booker scored 38 points to add to his 42 from yesterday, and he's now 39-41 from the free throw line. That's an astounding percentage and make sure to check out feature on him from earlier today.

After a so-so performance on day one, Cincinnati signee Gary Clark led Clayton past Booker and Moss Point.. Clark dominated from start to finish, compiling 35 points, 22 rebounds and nine blocks. He's making a push for the national top 100.

As for Woods, he had his problems as Hammond fell to Word of God. He did score 23 points on 7-14 shooting and 4-7 on threes — continuing his progress as a jump shooter — but had only two assists against nine turnovers and struggled to prevent his team from falling apart.

4:43: In the first matchup of the evening games, Brandon Ingram leads Kinston against Jaylen Brown, Elijah Staley and Wheeler.

5:15: Ingram jumped out to six quick points and played far more aggressively than he did yesterday, but his over-aggression resulted in three fouls and a seat on the bench for most of the half.

Brown, on the other hand, started slowly and missed some easy finishes but played great defense. Late in the half, he used a slick crossover dribble to shake his man and get an and-one attempt at the bucket. He isn't the greatest handler in the world and must improve his jump shot, but his aggression reminds me a bit of Dez Wells'. His physicality also played a role in Ingram's foul trouble.

6:10: That was a very interesting game between two blue-chip juniors. Kinston overcame Ingram's foul trouble and hung around long enough to take the lead and then get a key steal late for the victory.

I've watched Ingram many times, and this may have been his finest performance yet. He and Brown guarded each other at times (especially Brown defending Ingram), and Ingram amassed 23 points on 8-11 shooting an 4-6 on threes, along with eight rebounds and four turnovers.

Brown had his typical beastly game, including 23 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. He did shoot only 8-19 and turned the ball over on four occasions, but all in all he played very well — and that doesn't truly factor in his defense.

If you're comparing the two side by side, Brown is the far superior athlete, much stronger and infinitely better finishing in the paint. He could defend Ingram better than Ingram could defend him.

The flip side of the coin is that Ingram is a couple inches taller, much longer and the bearer of far greater ball skills, including a three-point shot. Ingram needs to gain weight and to become more consistent with his effort, while Brown very much needs to upgrade his handle and jump shot.

More potential head-to-head fireworks await. In the next game, Thon Maker and Carlisle will face Goodluck Okonoboh and Wilbraham & Monson. If you like shotblocking centers, this is the game for you. First big man to score three times with his back to the basket wins.

7:20: When big guys square off, a noise canceling headphones effect sometimes transpires. Most high school centers excel at defense far more than offense, and they aren't accustomed to a peer in their size and talent range.

Well, that wasn't really the case in the first half. Maker went for 13 points and seven rebounds, while Okonoboh had only only four points and two boards along with two fouls. Maker actually went 2-2 on threes and hit a couple of nice short-range jumpers as well. His added offensive dimensions clearly have paid off in this duel.

8:24: Maker carried his outstanding play through the conclusion of the contest. He finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds, along with one block and six turnovers. He shot 7-15 from the floor. Okonoboh fared better down the stretch of a 59-47 defeat, finishing with 15 points and five boards on 7-17 shooting.

Still, Maker clearly was the star and got the better of a top-50 player two classes ahead of him.

Now, it's Joel Berry and Lake Highland and scrappy Apex in another semifinal.

8:52: Lake Highland would have to be considered the heavy favorite in this game, but they entered hafltime holding only a three-point lead. Berry shot just 5-15 from the field in the first half, including some forces.

Early in the second half, however, Berry has three buckets and Lake Highland has expanded its lead to six points.

9:50: This wasn't the Berry we watched on the travel circuit with Each 1 Teach 1, but he made it work. Lake Highland survived Apex 73-68 in overtime, and Berry scored 40 points — on 15-32 shooting to do it — along with 13 rebounds and three assists and four turnovers.

Berry was more error prone tonight than usual both with his ballhandling and his shot selection, but he's without question one of the toughest guards in the class. He stuck his nose in for 11 defensive boards and stepped up late when his team needed calm and points. He knocked in 7-8 free throws as well, including two in the clutch.

The final game of the evening will feature Justin Jackson and HYCA against the super-athletic crew from Trinity Christian, including sophomore guards Junior Smith and Kwe Parker.

10:36: Surprisingly to me and most others here, HYCA holds a three-point advantage at the half. Jackson has scored 23 of those points, using a variety of spins and quick finishes inside. He also has knocked in 3-5 of his threes and shot 8-16 overall.

For Trinity Christian, Smith has 12 points on 5-10 shooting. Parker has been quiet with only two points.

12:15: What a show to end the night. Jackson and Smith both finished with 42 points, with Jackson scoring consistently and Smith erupting in the fourth quarter, including four threes.

I wrote a lengthy piece on Smith earlier and will hit Jackson in more detail later, but suffice it to say that both guys looked elite tonight. HYCA had a lead going into the fourth, but Smith snatched that away and carried his club to victory.

My prior comparison for Smith to Jarrett Jack holds some water, but I think there's a little Steve Francis in there as well. He's only going to blow up from here.


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