Empire won the underclassmen game 101-95 and then carried the momentum over into the senior game, scoring an 82-77 victory.
With fans packed into a tiny gymnasium in Manhattan, the younger kids essentially stole the show. The juniors and sophomores from Empire were a high-energy bunch led Paul Harris (2006) and Melquan Bolding (2007). The pair combined for 45 points with Harris leading the way with 23.
However, it was Bolding who took home the hardware as his team's MVP. The 6-foot-3 self proclaimed small forward did a little bit of everything. He rebounded, ran, converted tough finishes and even managed to drain a few triples. The Beacon H.S. product acquitted himself well and he'll be a name to file away under the "high-major" prospect tab.
While Bolding was working on establishing his reputation, Harris was cementing his. The Niagara Falls product did all of his damage at the rim. He's a tough matchup in a one-on-one situation and that was exactly what materialized in the game. Basically, Apple couldn't find anyone who could stay in front of him and they did try a few brave souls.
Rob Thomas (2006), a native New Yorker prepping in the northeast, also had 19 for Empire. Thomas is at his best when he's active at the rim and he was a menace in transition and played in attack mode inside.
Apple's Curtis Kelly (2006) was far and away the top overall prospect in the contest and he was credited with 21 points on 9-for-12 from the floor to go with 5 rebounds and a pair of blocks. Kelly, a Top 10 player in his class, is just scratching the surface. He's got explosive athleticism, a good feel for the game – especially as a post passer – and for a young kid has some legit post moves. He should be poised for a big year.
While Kelly was the inside threat, Corey Fisher (2007) was the outside presence for Apple. His 27 points were a game-high and his effort was much more consistent than his previous day's showing at the Eddie Griffin Challenge.
Fisher loves to have the ball in his hands and he's good enough athlete with range on his jumper to be considered a threat as soon as he touches it. Since we're talking about NYC players, think Allen Ray. And if you're wondering what Fisher, who attends high school in New Jersey was doing in the game, understand that he's an NYC native.
Other key contributors for Apple were junior Edgar Sosa (13 points) who showed range, defense and a commitment to running at the point guard slot and Michael Glover (2006). The latter player is the brother of former St. John's forward Anthony Glover. Like his older sibling, Glover has bounce thrives on the baseline and is an energy guy.
Team Apple (95) – Corey Fisher 27, Darius Gabriel 3, Chris De la Rosa 5, Edgar Sosa 13, Larry Davis 5, Curtis Kelly 21, Michael Glover 12, Austin Wallace 0, Tyrone Nash 1, Kashif Pratt 6.
Team Empire (101) – Taylor Battle 6, Alexander Zampier 0, Daye Kaba 10, Rashard Green 12, T.J. Carey 3, Paul Harris 23, Melquan Bolding 22, Rob Thomas 19, Greg Avila 0, Devin Erwin 7.
In a less than stellar display of hoops, Empire was not to be beaten. Led by Andray Blatche's 18 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, Empire won it by 7. Before touching on the top performers, it's important to note that a new name did surface from the contest.
South Kent School big man Frane Markusovic, a 6-10, 250+ pounder out of Split Croatia, is going to get high-major mail this coming week. Markusovic has only been in the country since early September but given his size and the fact that he moves pretty well, made a 3-pointer and appears to have a hoops IQ, he's now on the radar as one of the better available big men around.
Blatche and Vernon Goodridge were the MVP's in the game but it wasn't like there were a ton of outstanding performances to choose from. In fact, Goodridge took home the trophy despite scoring only 8 points and grabbing four rebounds.
North Carolina-bound wing Danny Green chipped in with 16 points for Apple. Green, known for his offense, actually had his shining moment come on the defensive end where he blocked a pair of shots on the same possession.
Team Apple (77)– Levance Fields 8, Saiquon Stone 2, Niko Scott 8, Ricky Torres 14, Jessie Sapp 10, Chris Bethel 8, Tyrell Biggs 12, Vernon Goodridge 8, Mike Davis 7, Frane Markusovic 7.
Team Empire (82) – Chris Lowe 10, Jon Han 0, Tiki Mayben 10, Danny Green 16, Tyson Johnson 16, Bougari Konate 3, Andray Blatche 18, John Garcia 8, Eugene Harvey 0, James Tchana 1, Jabari Edwards 0.
Senior guard Levance Fields said that he's down to St. John's and Pittsburgh. "It'll be out of those two likely," Fields said. However, there is no timetable and a spring signing is being discussed though Fields did not rule out an early signing. … Frane Markusovic is in the initial stages of a recruitment. He's hearing from Rutgers, Purdue, Boston University, San Francisco and Drexel. …
Melquan Bolding said that he's already heard from Syracuse and St. John's. …