Bloomington – Indiana Elite added another bullet point to its claim as the country's best 17-and-under AAU team.
Paced by 18 points from Colt Ryan and 13 points and seven assists from Jordan Hulls, Kenny Blackwell's team rolled to an 80-63 win over the Michigan Mustangs to win its third consecutive Adidas May Classic championship. It was also the team's second high-profile AAU tourney win this spring, coming on the heels of a win at the Pitt Jam Fest last month.
"On a night where we play together as a team and share the ball and are unselfish with it, I think we're the best team in the nation, hands down," said IU commit Bobby Capobianco, who had 14 points in the finale.
Indiana Elite showed that with its effort this weekend in Bloomington. The team went 6-0 to claim the title, and overwhelmed each of its foes with a roster full of players who each had their moments this weekend.
In a 76-55 win over Chicago Express in the quarterfinals, it was the 21 points and four rebounds from Capobianco along with the 10 points and 11 rebounds from Jordan Prosser that led the way. In the semifinals, Hulls had 19 points and six assists while Mason Plumlee (16), Stephan Van Treese (11), D.J. Byrd (12) and Ryan (10) also reached double figures in a surprisingly easy 84-60 win over the So Cal All-Stars.
In the final it was more of the same as Ryan was one of four players in double figures, while Plumlee added seven points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
"In my mind, I think we are (the best team in AAU)," said Hulls. "I think we proved it winning the Pittsburgh tournament. There was a lot of good competition there and here. We have all the tools. We play well together as a team, and you don't find that much in AAU ball anymore."
Indiana Elite took control of the championship game early. In the fourth game of the day for both teams, Elite jumped to a 31-20 lead at the end of the first quarter and led by double figures until the Mustangs cut the margin to single digits at the end of the third quarter.
But Ryan helped Elite re-open a comfortable margin. After a couple of Mustangs' free throws cut the lead to eight, 62-54, Ryan answered with a 3-pointer at the other end to push the lead to 11. Capobianco then found Van Treese wide open under the basket for a dunk to increase the lead to 13, and after another defensive stop, Van Treese zipped a pass to Ryan for another 3-pointer that opened a 16-point cushion, 70-54.
The Mustangs never seriously challenged again.
While the game's outcome was never very much in doubt, the contest did have its share of drama. The Michigan coaching staff was whistled for technical fouls twice for arguing about the officiating, and Byrd was called for a flagrant foul in the opening half after a hard foul on a fast break opportunity. In the closing minutes, even the fans in the stands began lofting verbal barbs in each other's direction over what was happening on the court.
"I wish the refs would let us play a little more," Capobianco said. "It's tough when you get those guys, and it's their last game too, they've been going all day and they're tired. Tempers flared a little at the end. It's a physical game, and I think it's good. I love physical games. I love getting in there and banging around."
While Indiana Elite clearly has a roster full of Division I talent, Hulls thinks it's the team's style of play that makes them one of the nation's best.
"A lot of other AAU teams just do one and one and they have individuals that just go and do their own thing and score 30 a game, but they never end up winning the whole thing," Hulls said. "We move the ball, we reverse it, and we're unselfish."
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