Backed by the timely offense of Lance Brown and the rounded play of Brian Oliver, the Playaz outran the 'Chos 98-89 without Cheek, who was on a visit to Kansas for Midnight Madness. The Playaz face Juice, who defeated New Heights in the other semifinal, in today's championship.
The Georgia Tech-bound Oliver (26 points) set the tone early, punching away a Gaucho shot attempt and drilling three 3-pointers in the first quarter for an 28-12 lead. Oliver started the break time and again and pitched in on both ends of the floor.
The Playaz carried a double-digit lead into the half, yet knew the inevitable Gaucho backlash was coming. When it did, Lance Brown had the answer.
Brown, the Fordham commit out of Paterson (N.J.) Catholic, answered every momentum-grabbing bucket by the Gauchos in the third quarter in the same fashion: he attacked the rim, with startling results.
When Durand Scott (32 points) tried to galvanize his troops with an assortment of tough, third quarter baskets, Brown responded. Brown (24 points) packed a pair of 3-point plays into consecutive possessions late in the third, swooping to the rim for the bucket and the foul on each.
Brown's second 3-point play, part of 12 third-quarter points, gave the Playaz a 65-52 lead with 2:20 to play in the third. The Playaz had weathered the Gauchos' heaviest punch.
The Playaz stuck an exclamation point on the victory in the fourth when Kyle Anderson wove through the middle and pitched the ball to Tamir Jackson (19 points) on the wing for the open 3-pointer for an 82-67 lead with 5:20 to play. By then, the game's outcome was not in doubt.
Brown and Oliver's contributions were big for the Playaz, as was the guard play of Rice commit Jackson and lead guard Karon Abraham out of Paterson (N.J.) Eastside. Laser quick at 5-foot-8, Abraham, a Robert Morris commit, showed his resiliency in scoring 17 points.
Scott turned in an inspired performance for the Gauchos but received limited help. The 6-4 swingman has a tremendous feel for the game, great instincts, and impacts games on both ends. He played with a lot of heart on Saturday and deserves serious consideration for the McDonald's game.
Danny Jennings, who arrived in the second quarter, added 20 points for the Gauchos, 18 in the second half. Jason Morris (2010), the 6-4 swingman out of the Hotchkiss (Conn.) School, made his IS8 debut with the Gauchos, scoring 14 points.