ST. LOUIS — The road to the championship game of the 17U division of the 2016 Battle For The Arch wasn’t an easy one for the undermanned St. Louis Eagles 17U squad.
The St. Louis squad still had plenty of talent, led by Jordan Goodwin, Brandon McKissic, Jericole Hellems and Poplar Bluff (Mo.) Class of 2019 standout Marcedus Leech, who was playing up for the weekend.
The 17U squad went 2-0 in pool play, beat Big 3 Basketball 71-51 in the quarterfinals on Saturday night and pulled out a 71-67 win over TNE in the semifinals on Sunday morning.
In the championship game the Eagles were matched against the St. Louis Eagles’ 16U group, led by James Wiseman, Fred Thatch and Karrington Davis. The 16U squad, which usually features Leech and talented post player Francis Okoro, also won all four of its games to reach the final.
The youngsters gave the older squad a fight in the title game, with Thatch hitting a 3-pointer in the final seconds to send the game to overtime tied 77-77. But the Eagles’ 17U group emerged with the win in overtime, 84-79, to capture the 2016 Battle For The Arch championship in front of a group of head coaches that included Missouri's Kim Anderson, Illinois' John Groce and Saint Louis' Travis Ford.
Hellems scored a team-high 20 points, including two 3-pointers, to lead the 17U group, while McKissic added 17 points on a variety of strong drives to the basket.
Goodwin, who has been the Eagles’ difference maker all summer, was his usual dominating self leading up to the final but was limited to 14 points due to foul trouble. Reggie Crawford added 10 points, big man Silas Adheke had nine and Leech scored eight off the bench.
The story of the game was Thatch, a Class of 2018 standout from Sikeston (Mo.) High School. The strong do-it-all 6-foot-3 wing forward, whose game resembles Goodwin’s, scored a game-high 25 points and brought his team back from a six-point deficit in the final minute with an assist, basket and the game-tying 3-pointer.
“I’m impressed with my team — we played hard, we played good together," Thatch said. "We were so close, but we took a couple bad shots when we weren’t supposed to. They got a couple runs and easy dunks and lay-ups and the run went down from there.”
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