LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Ahmad Nivins did all he could to lift North Jersey Hoops into a slot in the Sweet 16 at the Reebok Big Time Tournament, but the 6-9 rising senior from St. Anthony H.S. in Jersey City could only watch as another big man took center stage.
Nivins turned in one of his stronger offensive performances of the summer, registering 14 points in North Jersey Hoops' 61-52 loss to Oakland Slam N Jam on Sunday morning at Foothill H.S.
A second half drought proved costly to North Jersey, who was seemingly stuck on 48 points for a large portion of the second half.
The team's stalled offensive was as much a byproduct of the defense provided by freakish 7-5 Iranian import Jaber Rouzabahini. Rouzabahini proved to be a great obstacle for North Jersey in the second half, blocking and altering a ton of shots as Slam N Jam streaked into the Big Time Sweet 16.
A top recruiting target of Rutgers, Seton Hall, Clemson and St. Joe's, Nivins showed a diverse offensive game in the loss, hitting some midrange jumpers and doing his usual handiwork around the bucket.
"I wanted to go at him," Nivins said of Rouzabahini. "Him being 7-5, I had seen him the other day, I didn't care how tall he was. I am going to try and go at you, that was my mentality today."
Nivins hit a pair of jumpers midway through the second half, the latter of which gave North Jersey a 48-42 edge.
The momentum turned quickly however, as missed shots and the defensive presence of Rouzabahini sparked a 13-0 Slam N Jam run that yielded a 55-48 deficit for the Garden Staters.
After Rouzabahini tied the game at 48 on a jump hook, Slam N Jam took the lead for good on a three-pointer from small forward Theo Robertson. A slam dunk by Larry Gurganious, and a one-handed, flat-footed dunk from Rouzabahini increased the SNJ lead to 55-48 with 3:17 remaining.
North Jersey, which combines both the St. Anthony and St. Benedict's high school programs, got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
"As the game went on, we got tired," Nivins said. "We weren't converting and we were taking dumb shots."
Rouzabahini had a lot to do with that. The fans were clearly behind the
Oakland team during the comeback, as a number of them were chanting "Soldiers"
as the SNJ squad made its comeback from an early eight point second half
"He's really long," Nivins said. "I don't think he's that athletic, but it was something new and something we had to overcome, but we didn't do it."
Even so, Nivins acquitted himself well in the loss, proving that he's capable of being called a top 100 prospect in the Class of 2005.
"In the first half, my plan was to go right at him, to show him that I wasn't just some other 6-10 guy," Nivins said. "In the second half, I wanted to just go against him and use all of the moves in my arsenal, because I knew he couldn't play me out on the perimeter.
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