One For The Ages

LEWES, Del. - When it was over, you almost half expected each bench to throw a towel to their respective stars and then have David Padgett and DJ White embrace at midcourt ala Rocky and Apollo Creed. It was that kind of a war at the Slam Dunk To The Beach.

Padgett, clearly one of the top players in the nation in the Class of 2003 and White, the same kind of player, just a year younger, waged war at the shore in Delaware.

Padgett's Reno High team claimed the Tip-Off Classic trophy with a 51-46 win over White's bunch from Hillcrest in Alabama. The final tally had Padgett, the 6-11 senior with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 blocks. His counterpart, a 6-9 junior, posted 22 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and a block.

Even more special than the individual performances, and they were as good as it gets, was the fact that these guys seemed to grasp the moment. It's rare in high school basketball when an atmosphere can be created in which 2,000 people gather to watch a pair of future professional big men square off.

It's even rarer when the two players deliver. From the tip, this one had intensity, energy and passion on both sides. White picked up two fouls in the first two minutes. He would spend the rest of the period watching from the bench as Padgett did work. It was the best front row seat White never wanted.

Upon his return, White wasn't passive. Saddled with the fouls he played smart, strong and aggressive. He used skilled post moves on Padgett and then did his best to keep his opponent in check.

But their was plenty of fight in Padgett too. As advanced as the pivot moves White showed, Padgett's were of equal status and slightly more polished. Exactly what you would expect from a senior.

As the game wore on they continued to absorb each other's punches. An up and under move from Padgett. A face up jumper from White. A Padgett block. A White steal.

Reno led most of the contest and by as much as 11 but for someone with no stake in the game, the outcome would merely be a statistic. It was the battle inside that captivated my attention.

It wasn't just that these warriors were scoring buckets; it was the manner and the skill in which they did it. Nothing was easy for either one of them. They made each other work. The defining moment for White was probably a follow slam off an offensive rebound. Padgett's slipping of two defenders – one of which was White – en route for a layup and the foul was awesome.

The Slam Dunk To The Beach had been going on since Dec. 26. I sat through 41 of the 43 games of the tournament. After the first day you clearly are rooting for anything but overtime to keep the games moving.

At the end of the third quarter of game No. 44, I had a change of heart.

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