In a star-studded tip off to the Classic, 12 games were played in a 5-hour span on the three gyms at Westfield High. And in those 12 games, by far the biggest star of the night had to be Shawn Kennedy.
Shawn Kennedy. Never heard of him? Don't feel bad. I had to go look him up too. Shawn is a 6-foot point guard in the 2008 class. He plays for the Murfreesboro Stars and hails from Antioch, Tennessee, a small town just south of Nashville.
Kennedy and the Stars shocked a talent-rich Houston Hoops team, beating them 66-65 on Shawn's clutch three pointer with six seconds remaining in the game. It would be the only lead the Stars would have all night. But if you can only have the lead once, the end of the game would be the best time.
The Houston Hoops came into the game with a roster that had four players nationally ranked in the top 25 of their position in their class and a total of six players ranked in the top 100. Among them are potential Kentucky targets, 6-foot-7 Gary Johnson, 6-foot-9 Isaiah Rusher and 5-foot-10 guard Jai Lucas.
The Hoops broke out to an early lead and led by as many as 14 points in the first half. Houston maintained a double digit lead for most of the second half when the Stars began an aerial assault to get them back in the game. The Stars cut the lead to just six with 3:43 remaining. Still, behind the play of Lucas and Johnson, it appeared the Hoops team would pull the game out.
But Kennedy had other plans. Kennedy hit a three pointer to tie the game for the first time at 60-60 with 1:21 remaining. Lucas would hit a tough runner to put the Hoops up by two. Johnson would block a shot on the other end then hit a bucket of his own to put the Hoops up 64-60 with just :39 remaining. Kennedy would nail a very, very long three to pull the Stars to within 1-point and then Mike Singletary was fouled with just :18 on the clock. Singletary made only one free throw, setting the stage for Kennedy's game winning three pointer.
"It was very disappointing," said Mike Singletary, the Hoops high scorer at 19 points. "We had the game won. We should have won. We played horrible defense and they shot the ball great."
Indeed, the Stars hit a total of 16 three point shots. By contrast, the Stars only made a total of four two point buckets. The remainder of their points came on free throws.
Mike Singletary was the best player on the floor for Houston tonight. His 19 points came off of transition buckets, out backs and creating shots off the dribble. He was hustling, diving for the ball and one of the few players playing defense. The Stars really had not answer for him tonight.
"I had a good night," Singletary said. "I am hoping to have a good tournament. This loss was a set back but we have to put it behind us and play the next game."
Kentucky had been among the schools recruiting Singletary last summer but Singletary didn't mention the Cats tonight. "Texas A&M is really recruiting me hard right now and I have heard from quite a few other schools as well. Some schools that were recruiting him last summer have not called in a while, including Kentucky. But Singletary takes it in stride. "I still consider myself open," he said. If he continues to play like he did Saturday, I suspect some of those schools may start calling again.