Game 1 - Spiece Indy Heat v. B.A. Hoyas (16U):
This game was a mismatch from the start. But it was the combination of solid play from K.J. Walton, who has interest from Illinois, and Joey Morlan, who was hot from behind the arc all game, that gave Spiece the win. Walton, who played under control, even when the pace sped up, also flashed a lot of ability on the defensive end and notched a couple of blocks en route to the win.
Game 2 - Spiece Indy Heat v. Michigan Titans (17U):
Another mismatch for another Spiece team. It was already lopsided, but throw in the fact that Trey Lyles made his return this weekend, and the Michigan Titans didn't stand a chance. Up 32-12 midway through the first half, Spiece had four scorers with at least 6 points by that juncture. While the effort was pretty well distributed throughout Spiece's lean 7-man roster, it was Jaquan Lyle and Trevon Bluiett that rose to the top, notching 18 points and 21 points respectively.
For Lyle, he displayed his ability to handle the ball extremely well, especially in traffic. He got to the rim pretty regularly after recognizing that his jump shot was not falling. So rather than try to force shots all night, he shifted his focus, getting to the rim and setting up teammates.
Bluiett proved that his shooting range is no joke. He hit several threes, a few coming from NBA range. His body looks improved and he's added strength. Still not an elite athlete, he's an elite shooter, and that allowed him to fill up the scoring column.
Game 3 - Peoria Irish v. Team Thad:
In Leron Black's first outing of the spring following injury, he came out guns blazing, racking up a quick 8 points in the first four minutes of the game, but then he sat.. for a really long time. My guess is that he's still working his conditioning back up to a tournament level. His body still looks like it remained in good shape, but the cardio isn't what it used to be. Black finished with 12 points on fast break dunks as well as mid-range jumpers.
But Michael Finke, an Illinois commit, also performed well, especially considering that he was matched up with Black. Finke finished with 21 points on a mix of layups and threes. While he had a few miscues from behind the arc, his stroke looked consistent and pure from the outside, stretching the Team Thad defense.
Another player who really shined for the Peoria Irish was Marcus Bartley. Bartley is a skinny guy, but every time I've seen him, I'm amazed at how tough he is and just how much he puts his body on the line and keeps getting back up. That toughness was infectious with the team, and he and Finke kept them in the game for a while, but the athleticism and physicality of Team Thad gave the Memphis-based team the win.
Game 4 - Mac Irvin Fire v. Ohio Varsity (17U):
Maybe the Fire slept on Ohio Varsity, or maybe they really struggled that much without their top two big men in Cliff Alexander and Jahlil Okafor, but it wasn't a pretty night for the Fire. With Alexander at prom and Okafor still recovering from an injury, the Fire were forced to play with a skeleton crew roster. While they did still have soph star Jalen Brunson and wing Josh Cunningham, it wasn't enough on the off night.
Brunson wasn't quite the "killer instinct" point guard we've seen him as in the past, partially because he was counted upon to do more than he realistically could. Josh Cunningham chipped in to make it a game, but ultimately a missed Brunson buzzer beater gave Ohio Varsity the one point lead and started the Fire's tournament off in a way they really weren't expecting.
Other Bits & Pieces:
The Illinois Wolves 16U and 17U teams played in the last games of the night at the Spiece Fieldhouse. The 17U's pulled away late to get past REACH Legends behind a 20-point outing from Keita Bates-Diop. Ore Arogundade and Malek Harris also chipped in some key buckets to give the Wolves the win.
For the 16U team, their night went a lot longer than they expected. Locked in a tight matchup with Wisconsin Playground, the game ended up going to triple overtime after more than one buzzer-beater to prolong the game. In the end, the Wolves did enough to get the win behind 26 points from both Prentiss Nixon and Glynn Watson. Jordan Ash put up an additional 15 points and Roosevelt Smart finished with 17.
Saturday should be eventful, especially once tournament play begins.