Every sports fan must learn to endure disappointment, when a highly anticipated matchup fizzles. Certainly, Tuesday’s championship tilt between Wesleyan and Orangeville carried an immense potential to let down a raucous crowd of onlookers and interested recruitniks throughout the country. Top teams, superstar talent — it could have gone wrong any number of ways.
But every aspect of the HSOT’s finale stood up to the hype. Wesleyan fell behind by double digits before waging a gradual, unrelenting comeback, while the individual struggle between top juniors Harry Giles and Thon Maker also produced fireworks.
Maker led the way early, drilling three-pointers and getting a couple dunks to send Orangeville to an early lead. Giles countered with a three-pointers and three and-ones to keep Wesleyan within shouting distance.
|Giles has answered the bell on all challenges this season|
The creeping problem for Orangeville was foul trouble on Maker. He managed draw several fouls fighting for high post position, but the extra-aggression from Wesleyan defenders (typically much shorter) ultimately led to his picking up an offensive foul 18 feet from the basket without the ball, fouling him out.
Between his triples, running hooks, transition dunks and generally exquisite quickness, Thon accumulated 24 points and 11 rebounds prior to heading to the sidelines. His departure certainly hurt Orangeville, but in truth Wesleyan had erased the deficit even prior to that moment.
Wesleyan received strong play from junior combo guard Kwe Parker, who now appears to be a legitimate high-major combo guard. He’s likely more of an SG/PG at this point, but defensively he can hang with opposing points.
Giles began to establish just a little separation from Maker in the second half. His quality showed as he yanked down multiple traffic rebounds, pushed the ball in the open floor, made one up-fake and drive for a slam that locked his rival’s legs in place and, as always, competed with a ferocity that inspired his team and stoked the fans into maximum buy-in.
He finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, struggling somewhat finishing around the rim — and missing a lot of free throws — but continuing to fight and ultimately coming through when his team needed him to steady the ship.
There’s no such thing as the perfect player and both Giles and Maker have deficiencies they’ll need to address, but we’re talking about two almost sure-fire pros. Giles likely will factor largely into our next round of rankings as the potential No. 1, with the understanding that it’s a top heavy class that includes other stars who factor in as well.
Orangeville junior guard Jamal Murray warrants mention here as well. He’s a big-time scorer who knocked in 19 points and had a chance to tie the game with a three at the buzz, but it just missed. He’s yet another major talent who strode onto the court Tuesday night.
Fall-ing into the record books
Tacko Fall tied the HSOT's cumulative rebounding record with 57, the same number amassed by Shawn Bradley back in 1989. Fall's finale in Raleigh was truly dominant, featuring a 44-point, 17-rebound performance for Tavares (Fla.) Liberty Christian in its win over Lynchburg (Va.) Virginia Episcopal.
|Fall not only is extremely tall, he’s substantially built|
The 7-5 center’s line consisted of multiple, point blank shots, enabling him to shooting a wildly efficient 19-24 from the field. He also knocked down 6-8 from the foul line (a big improvement over Monday) and blocked three shots.
He accomplished those numbers going head to head against talented junior Sacha Killeya-Jones, imposing himself physically and demonstrating that he's not only tall, he's a man of solid mass and looms as a perpetual threat in the halfcourt game.
In the same game, Killeya-Jones himself turned in a solid 21 points, while Delante Jones — a 6-6 wing forward headed to American next season — poured in 31 points on 13-21 shooting and added seven rebounds. Jones struggled through a rough game on Monday, so it was nice to see him turn around. He's a good athlete with a solid, broad-shouldered frame and a nice stroke. He buried 4-8 on threes versus Liberty Christian.
Chris Clemons, PG, Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook — In a losing effort, Clemons nevertheless made perhaps the most impressive single play of the entire tournament. He raced downcourt and rose for a foul line area jumper, missed it but followed up and skied for a scintillating tip-slam. Sounds cool, right, but consider that he's 5-9 on a good day. ... Meanwhile, the senior point guard and Campbell signee registered 33 points on 11-24 shooting, nearly leading his team to a victory versus in-city rival and host team Broughton. The two teams are a combined 23-2, each having only one defeat. This was Clemons showing out in a very high level affair.
Jerome Robinson, SG, Raleigh (N.C.) Broughton — For victorious Broughton, Robinson stepped up in the second half to drill key shots. The slender wing knocked down 7-10 for the game en route to 17 points. A Boston College signee, Robinson lacks explosiveness or much one-on-one scoring ability but should develop into a solid system shooter for the Eagles.
Demetris Troy, SG, Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God — Troy set the record for threes made in one game, knocking down 10 long bombs en route to a staggering 49 points. He shot 16-32 overall and 10-19 on threes, and he also contributed 11 rebounds and seven assists as Word of God blasted Trinity Christian. Troy is an undersized, 6-0 shooting guard but should play immediately at UNC-Greensboro, with which he signed in the fall. He isn't the tallest or most athletic but is intelligent, tough and obviously dangerous from long-range.
James Dickey, PF, Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God — Dickey will join WoG teammate Troy at UNC-G. He's a very thin 6-8 power forward and will need time to develop physically, but he possesses long arms and good quickness to succeed at the mid-major level. Dickey has improved his footwork and didn't shy away from contact on Monday versus Harry Giles, and with time he should contend for a starting position. Against Trinity, he finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks.
Dennis Smith, PG, Fayetteville (N.C.) Trinity Christian — Smith's performance on Tuesday didn't top his heroics on Monday, as he did much of his damage late in a blowout loss, but you can't argue but so much with this line: 34 points (12-21 FG, 4-8 threes, 10 assists, seven rebounds). The bottom line is that, over the past 10 days here and at the Chick-Fil-A Classic, Smith has affirmed his top-10 status in the Class of 2016 and certainly will continue to wage battle for status as the top point guard in the country. He, Derryck Thornton and Kobi Simmons all loom as legitimate contenders, with others potentially joining them later.
I'll have more on them later, but Quentin Jackson and Kaleb Johnson both had their moments against Ravenscroft. The Martinsville (Va.) Carlisle duo couldn't push their team to the winner's circle yet still played at least somewhat effectively on an individual basis. Jackson led the squad with 17 points and added five rebounds and two steals, while Johnson went for 16 points and 18 rebounds. Neither player shot well but competed hard in a defeat.