No. 6 Center Court 73 No. 3 The Lair 60
Playoff basketball tipped off on Monday night in Greentree, as J.J. Moore and Center Court were able to pull out a 73-60, upset victory over The Lair. The game began with a very lethargic pace, but, just as Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon arrived, the play quickly erupted into one of the most exciting games of the season.
Center Court's trio of J.J. Moore, John Johnson, and Khem Birch certainly did not do much to disappoint the crowd, as they put on a clinic of how to get up-and-down the floor throughout the duration of the game. Moore, however, was the star of the game by far. He finished the night with 29 points and 6 rebounds, with 18 of those points coming in the first half, and is setting himself up nicely to be considered in the league MVP discussion. He was 11-17 from the field, including 3-5 from beyond the arc. He also added possibly the dunk of the season, as he took off from a distance that appeared to be as far away as the free throw line. All in all, Moore may be the most naturally talented player on this Pitt team.
For as spectacular as Moore was, his teammate, John Johnson was nearly as impressive. He had 19 points, 3 assists, and 5 steals. Johnson has easily been the most electric player with the ball in his hands, as he can get to the hoop almost at will. He went 4-7 from three-point range and began the second half by hitting back-to-back three pointers that seemed to put a big smile on Jamie Dixon's face. Add in the fact that he absolutely harassed every player that handled the ball for The Lair, and Johnson once again had a very impressive game.
Another reason for Center Court's success on Monday night was the great play from highly touted freshman Khem Birch. Birch had his best game of league play, as he contributed 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots. He was seemingly all over the place as he was constantly collecting offensive rebounds and finishing with a put back. On the defensive side of the ball, it seemed as if every shot that was taken in the paint was quickly rejected by Birch, as he once again showed his uncanny ability to block shots. Birch seemed to take a little longer than some of the other players to get comfortable, but he has more than made up for it with his great play as of late.
Almost lost in the great efforts by Center Court's players, was the very strong play of Pitt's Dante Taylor. In the loss, Taylor was able to muster up 20 points and 12 rebounds. He started out very slowly, but was able to rebound quickly and began the second half with three straight thunderous dunks. He went 8-12 from the field and 4-5 from the foul line. Taylor seems to have greatly matured as a player and is poised to be a breakout starter for Pitt.
Center Court advances to the second round, while The Lair has been eliminated.
No. 4 SPK Law 98 No. 5 UPMC 65
SPK Law, led by another great performance from Ashton Gibbs, held a 19-point halftime lead en route to a 98-65 shellacking of UPMC. There was never much doubt about this game, as SPK Law quickly gained a double-digit lead and did not allow UPMC to gain any ground at all. SPK Law now advances to the second round of the playoffs.
If his performance in this league is any indication of things to come, Ashton Gibbs may not only be the best player on this Pitt team, but also one of the best players in college basketball. Gibbs finished the game with 31 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. He went 12-17 from the field, including 3-7 from three-point range. Gibbs is a truly dangerous scorer that, if given an inch of breathing room, will almost certainly make the defender pay. In fact, he may be one of the most prolific scorers that Pitt has seen at the guard position in quite some time. He seems to have improved everything about his game in the offseason, including and most noticeably, his dribbling ability. Expect great things from Gibbs in the upcoming season.
The UPMC duo of Talib Zanna and Durand Johnson once again had solid nights in their team's loss. Zanna finished the game with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Zanna has been a consistent presence in the post, while also showing the ability to step out and hit a jumper here and there. Johnson added 14 points for UPMC. He started the game very slowly but came alive in the second half. He has great touch around the hoop and has shown the ability to penetrate with relative ease. However, he was not able to connect from beyond the arc, as he went 0-3 on the game.
SPK Law received strong efforts from former Pitt player Gary McGhee and current player Lamar Patterson. McGhee had 9 points and 7 rebounds. Patterson contributed 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. He had somewhat of a quiet night by the standards that he has set, but did his part in his team's victory.
Youngstown State's DuShawn Brooks and Blake Allen also had excellent games for SPK Law. Brooks added 22 points and 7 rebounds, while Allen was an absolute gunner with 17 points on 5-8 shooting, including 4-5 from three-point range. Youngstown State has displayed through this league that they have some very talented players and could make some noise in this upcoming season.
UPMC has now been eliminated from the PBC Pro-Am playoffs.
TUESDAY NIGHT PLAYOFF LINEUP
7 pm: SPK Law vs. PBC
8 pm: Center Court vs. PGT Trucking