Phog Break Down: Fire vs. Eagles

Phog.net's Aaron Cedeño reporting courtside on the marquee matchup at Peach Jam between the Mac Irvin Fire and the St. Louis Eagies. This game had a number of well known Jayhawk targets in action. Details are inside...

When perusing the schedule of a tournament as loaded with talent as this year's Peach Jam, a few games inevitably jump off the page.

Late Tuesday night, for example, hundreds of eager spectators – ranging from talent scouts and college coaches to player's families and casual fans – crammed into every available inch of Court 1 at the Riveriew Park Activities Center in North Augusta, S.C.

Why? For the opportunity to see the highly anticipated contest between Each 1 Teach 1 – featuring 2011 super-recruit Austin Rivers and backcourt mate Travis Lacey – and Boo Williams – home to the likes of North Carolina-bound James McAdoo and talented small forward Dorian Finney-Smith.

The Tuesday evening tilt between Mac Irvin Fire and the St. Louis Eagles was supposed to be one of those buzz-worthy games. The Fire are loaded with high major prospects, including Wayne Blackshear and Sam Thompson, and have a well-deserved reputation as the embodiment of a highlight reel. The Eagles, meanwhile, are one of the contenders to take home the Peach Jam title, complementing disciplined and solid fundamental basketball with the star power provided by Brad Beal and Ben McLemore.

It may have started out as a lopsided affair – the Eagles led by almost 20 points at two different intervals, and maintained a commanding halftime lead – but the intense battle everyone expected to see did eventually make its way to Court 3. A missed free throw by the Fire's Sam Thompson was the only thing standing in the way of a tie ball game with just seconds remaining.

The Eagles eventually prevailed by a score of 75-69, and both teams now maintain a 3-1 record heading into the conclusion of pool play Wednesday morning. Phog.net was on hand to take in the action, and provide an update on the performances of several players noteworthy to Kansas fans.

Brad Beal – St. Louis Eagles – SG – Class of 2011

Word was that Beal had a rough go of it in the morning session, which is entirely understandable. He and several other top prospects at the event made their way to North Augusta immediately after arriving home from international competition with the USA U-17 squad.

Whatever it was – be it tired legs or simple jet lag – it was gone by Tuesday evening. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard opened play by canning a deep two pointer with a Fire defender practically tucked inside his jersey, and he never looked back.

The Eagles are simply a different team with him on the floor, which is to be expected of a consensus top five prospect. His length, physical strength and competitive spirit make him an elite level defender when he wants to be, and his offensive game is as complete as any in the class. A deadly shooter from deep, rivaled in 2011 perhaps only by Oakland Soldiers shooting guard Jabari Brown, Beal is also capable of putting it on the deck and driving to the basket, hitting mid-range jumpers and creating for himself when the situation demands it. An excellent free-throw shooter, he also hit 11 of 12 attempts on the night, en route to a 25 point evening.

It's hard to find complaint with such a performance, but if forced to do so one would have to point to his on-the-court demeanor. Competitive in the extreme, Beal is prone to trash-talking at times, and Tuesday it got a little out of hand. To be fair, when one carries the notoriety Beal does, everyone wants a piece of him – even opposing coaches, apparently.

He's simply a game changing player, and with him on the floor the Eagles remain one of the favorites to play for the 2010 EYBL Championship on Thursday evening.

Ben McLemore – St. Louis Eagles – SG – Class of 2011

Unfortunately, there's little to report on McLemore, as it appears the Eagles coaches wanted to take the opportunity to impart a few lessons to their budding star. Every time McLemore made a turnover or committed a costly mistake, he would find himself back on the bench waiting for another opportunity to enter the fray.

The official box score tabbed him with six minutes of playing time, in which he went without a field goal but did connect on 4-4 free throw attempts.

This was an off game for McLemore in what has been a solid – and sometimes spectacular – couple of days. Expect him to return to form Wednesday, as the stakes are raised with each game.

Sam Thompson – Mac Irvin Fire – SF – Class of 2011

For an indicator of Thompson's importance to the Fire, all one has to do is take a look at the box score and check out the "minutes played" column. The 6-foot-6 wing logged 32 minutes versus the Eagles, more than anyone else on the squad by a fair margin.

Known for his versatility on the offensive end of the floor, in the team's three previous games – all closely contested affairs – Thompson provided a steadying influence with his ball handling and precise decision-making.

However, as was the case with every member of the Fire in their contest against the Eagles, Tuesday simply wasn't Thompson's night. Going 3-9 from the field and 0-3 from deep, the St. Louis defense harried the entire Mac Irvin squad into rushed decisions and an almost frantic pace of play, and Thompson fell victim to it as much as anyone.

Still, as with McLemore, Thompson's play has been outstanding for much of the first two days of the tournament, and the Fire remain in great shape to advance beyond pool play and into bracket play Wednesday afternoon.

Stay tuned to Phog.net for continued reports in the days to come.

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