An interesting side note is how each team dealt with injuries the entire weekend. The most severe blow was handed down to Elite which lost do-it-all wing DeAndre Liggins to a broken foot at the tournament's inception. KOTC lost Korie Lucious after the semis and Anthony Crater may have broken his hand in the same game.
Enter Tyler Zeller.
Elite conserved his energy and minutes throughout the weekend and in the end he was most fresh in the title game. Zeller scored 13 points and ran the floor with amazing grace and purpose for a player his size.
Zeller's big game came against a big time player in Kenny Frease who set the tone early with a strong message to Zeller's sternum on the opening possession. The two big fellas played with spunk, especially for a Sunday afternoon marathon.
Lewis Jackson earned high praise from his coach for once again providing leadership. Emmanuel Negedu finished with 14 including a thunderous throw down which ended the game and invoked the slaughter rule.
Delvon Roe was the real deal throughout the playoffs. The future Spartan gave UNC fans a taste of what might have been in the finals. He erupted for a game-high 27 points while stroking 3s and angling for tough finishes. His attempt to put KOTC on his back was commendable but without the firepower of Lucious and Crater it wasn't to be.
King of the Court vs. Atlanta Celtics (semis) – This was a big boy basketball game and it didn't begin well for KOTC. The Celtics frontline of Chris Singleton, Trey Thompkins and Derrick Favors was rocking. They owned Delvon Roe and Kenny Frease to the tune of 21-9 in the first half as the Celtics led by 12.
The second was a different story. Anthony Crater started making triples, Roe went to work and Favors – who controlled the paint early – couldn't go anymore after injuring his ankle in warm-ups. Thompkins' back flared up but he still mustered up 21 points and a great effort.
Roe rallied for 15 of his 18 after the break. Crater finished with 15 and Lucious 16. Lucious knocked down 4 straight free throws to end the game as KOTC won 63-58.
Varez Ward, SF, SE Elite – Romero Osby had 14 and Courtney Fortson scored 17 but it was Ward who connected the dots for his team's win over Juice. Ward scored 17 points, passed well and kept up his rugged profile. Still, his biggest contribution was slowing down (not stopping) down Lance Stephenson. Ward was the team's lone matchup against the sophomore.
Lance Stephenson, SF, Juice – Just when it looked like Juice would ride him to a playoff win, Stephenson's back flared up. His first half trips into the paint when he was nearly impossible to slow down (except for Ward's determination) faded as the game wore on. Eventually he wore down. Though his coach wouldn't cop to the injury, Stephenson admitted it's bothered him the entire weekend.
Assault is his team and he does an excellent job – especially for a kid his age – in keeping his poise and directing traffic. Plus, he's got thick skin. When Traynham missed a free throw that would have brought about the 20-point slaughter rule, his boys needled him and he took it all in stride.
The Juice All-Stars were without a key component on Sunday. Lamont Jones hurt his ankle Saturday night and wasn't able to play at all. … DeAndre Liggins broke his foot and will be out at least 6 weeks. … There is no timetable for Crater's injury. The actual injury was not positively diagnosed on Sunday. …
Lance Stephenson has a long list of schools. "I can't think of them all right now," Stephenson said. "Now I'm focused on basketball." Stephenson rattled off North Carolina, Duke, Ohio State, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Kansas. …
Illinois Wolves wing Joseph Bertrand has the markers of a good young player. However, at a burger under 160 pounds, he's a long term stock. Coach Mike Mullins feels both he and Diamond Taylor (another sub-160 pounder) could be two of the top players his program has produced – in time. … Speaking of growing into his body. Assault's Wally Judge is now 2 inches taller than the last time we saw him. He's progressing nicely. …
"You know he's a super star. He doesn't even get Gatorade, he gets orange juice!"