The championship game of the 11th Annual Spiece Run N Slam All-Star Classic might as well have been called the sounds of silence.
That's because the title game in the 17 and under bracket was never played.
Seattle Rotary, which advanced to the championship game of the tourney, had to vacate its slot in the finale due to travel plans. Rotary which defeated the Illinois Warriors, would have squared off against the Illinois Fire. The Fire nipped Spiece Indy Heat in the semis on a three pointer with two seconds left by Tony Freeman.
"Before Seattle's game against the Illinois Warriors started, the coach informed me that they would not be playing in the championship game under any circumstances, particularly if they won, because of their airplane connections in Chicago that they couldn't get changed," explained Tournament Director Bill Hensley. "So at that time, both coaches agreed that Seattle was going to forfeit the game, but they were going to play, and the Warriors, even if they lost, would play in the championship game. That's what the coach said and that's what the players wanted to do."
So it set up what appeared to be a delicious finale between the adidas sponsored Fire, led by Mac Irvin, and the Nike sponsored Warriors, directed by Larry Butler. But a funny thing happened on the way to the championship game...
"When the Fire beat the Heat, and the Fire then had to play the Warriors, who had actually gotten beat by Seattle even though there was a forfeit, the coaches of both teams thought they were going to play," Hensley said. "At that point in time, Larry and Mac huddled up and decided not to play the championship game."
"They gave me no reason other than that they didn't want to play it, and they agreed that Mac was the champion, because he had won his game and advanced on," Hensley continued. "Larry ended up being the runner-up."
For the first time in the 11-year history of the Run N Slam, a champion was crowned essentially by default.
"It's never happened here before," a disappointed Hensley said. "What concerned me, was that the players wanted to play, and were are here for the players. I wish we would have played the game."
If the championship game would have been anything like the semis, it just might have been one of the best Run N Slam Tournaments ever.
Dripping with drama, the Fire's Tony Freeman nailed a three pointer with two seconds remaining to lift his squad to a 71-70 victory over the loaded Spiece Indy Heat squad.
The Indy Heat team, led by 6-11 rising junior Greg Oden, was essentially a 16 and under squad playing up a level in the 17 and under bracket. The same team had lost in the title game of the Kingwood Classic a week earlier.
There were several lead changes over the final five minutes, but Freeman's shot was the final salvo in a highly competitive game. Freeman finished with 15, while bulldog small forward Nate Minnoy led the way with 20 points. Lead guard Jeremy Pargo also hit for double figures, tallying 15 points for the winners.
Oden paced Spiece Indy Heat with 20 points. Despite playing with a heavily bandaged finger, point guard Michael Conley canned five treys and chipped in 19 points. However, Conley missed several baskets late in the second half that could have helped his team ice the game.
As for Rotary, swingman Terrence Williams forced overtime by converting a follow inside. His shot deadlocked the game at 73, and served to ignite Rotary in the extra session.
Rotary opened overtime with a 10-2 burst, capped by Williams' one handed tomahawk slam, to take an 83-75 lead. His backcourt partner in crime, wiry 6-6 small forward Marcus Williams, scored five points during the surge, which also included a three-point basket from mighty mite Garrison Carr. Carr's timely three-point shooting had wrecked opponents all weekend long.
Marcus Williams led all scorers with 37 points. Terrence Williams added 13, Carr (five treys) 16 and forward Michael Boxley 11.
Sleeper Phil Perry, who consistently scored all weekend long, topped the Warriors with 22 points in the losing effort (although the game was later "won" by forfeit). Julian Wright, who played better as the tournament progressed, finished with 20 points. Southern Illinois commit Josh Tabb added 15 for the Warriors.
Here is a capsulated look at how the round of 16 and elite eight broke down in the 17 and under bracket of the Spiece Run N Slam:
Illinois Warriors 70
Martin Brothers 67
Summary: Tony Freeman scores 19 points, Nate Minnoy and Robert Eppinger each chip in 12 to give the Fire a slot in the semis. Forwards Travis Nelson and Grant Franzen score 14 apiece to lead Martin Brothers.
Spiece Indy Heat 57
Friends of Hoop Wisconsin 45
Summary: Greg Oden is too much for FOH Wisconsin. He scores 17 points to lead all scorers in the defensive struggle. Forward Morris Cain led FOH with 14 in defeat.
Illinois Warriors 80
Michigan Hurricanes Black 68
Summary: Phil Perry proves that the Illinois Warriors are much more than just Julian Wright and Josh Tabb. Perry explodes for 30 points, while Tabb (19 points) and Wright (11 points) play supporting roles in the Warrior victory. On the other side, the Hurricanes' Eric Devendorf was a one-man wrecking crew. He scored 24 points in a losing cause.
Seattle Rotary 84
Philly MJC 61
Summary: Marcus Williams once again led Rotary to an easy victory.
ROUND OF 16:
Illinois Fire 75
Cincy AAU White 54
Summary: Nate Minnoy scores 14 points to lead a balanced Fire attack.
Martin Brothers 83
All-Ohio Red 70
Summary: Kevin Kanaskie (24 points) and Andrew Stimson (23 points) rain down threes and hit key free throws late to thwart All-Ohio. All-Ohio was led by beefy 6-4 forward Jamelle Cornley with 22 points.
Friends of Hoop Wisconsin 79
Michigan Hurricanes White 59
Summary: Point guard Ryan Kroeger canned five treys on the way to 24 points, sparking FOH to a win over the Hurricanes' second entry in the 17 and under division. Walter Blount Jr., and Ben Hailey added 13 apiece for the winners. The Hurricanes' Tory Jackson led all scorers with 30 points.
Michigan Hurricanes Black 76
Full Package Select 70
Summary: Eric Devendorf pumps in 26 points, and point guard Jabari Currie adds 17 to lift the Hurricanes top entry to victory.
Illinois Warriors 65
Billy Shepherd Sports 62
Summary: The Warriors survive a major scare against the well-drilled Shepherd squad, getting 28 points from Julian Wright and 14 from Josh Tabb in the victory. Deonta Vaughn tops Shepherd with 18 points.
Philly MJC 66 Spiece Select 2005 60
Summary: Defending tournament champion Philly MJC opened up a 41-34 half-time edge and held on for the victory. Wing Noel Willmore led Philly MJC with 23 points, while Villanova bound Shane Clark added 14 for the victors. Point guard Dominic James finished with 18 for Spiece Select.
Seattle Rotary 72
Cincy AAU Red 69
Summary: Seattle Rotary opened up a 49-34 lead at the break, and withstood a furious second half rally by Cincy Red to advance to the Run N Slam elite eight. Sharp-shooting point guard Garrison Carr connected on four treys and scored 18 points to lead the way.