CBC Runs to Final Four of AAU Nationals
The Connecticut Basketball Club made some serious noise this week in Orlando, advancing all the way to the Final Four of the AAU national championships.
After coming out of bracket play unscathed and scoring two blowout victories over Team NJABC and the CT Kingz in the opening two rounds of the championship bracket, CBC drew a tough match-up in the Round of 32 against a loaded Georgia Stars team. The Stars were led by their 6’3” 200lbs point guard Kedren Johnson who was fantastic a round earlier in leading them over the Illinois Wolves.
After the Stars jumped out to an early lead it was only Tavon Allen’s heroics that kept CBC in the game as he drilled five three-pointers in the first half to keep his team within striking distance. Andre Drummond also set the tone inside, using his incredible size and power to flush a couple of balls and rip down rebounds in traffic. The second half would go back and forth and stay tight for the final two minutes. Phil Gaetano rose to the occasion and played Johnson evenly, running the team and throwing some pinpoint dimes while Kris Dunn and Greg Langston both made some key plays. Drummond had a huge dunk with 1:30 left on the clock that put CBC up for good as they ultimately escaped with a 62-56 win.
The Round of 16 brought a match-up with South Florida Elite, who had just knocked off the Westchester Hawks. This one was never close as CBC rode the wave of momentum from their big win earlier in the day and pounded South Florida. Freddie Wilson and Deshawn Murphy were the stars of this game as Wilson attacked the rim at will making plays off his dribble and Murphy went six of six from behind the three-point line.
In the quarterfinals CBC saw another loaded opponent in St. Louis Gameface who featured B.J. Young, another 6’3” guard who had just dropped 47 points on Long Island Lightning Dingle. Wilson once again rose to the occasion knocking down six three-pointers, defending well, and making plays off the dribble. Gaetano continued to prove himself against yet another high-level guard as he ran the show to perfection. Even still, CBC still found themselves down 10 with only 2:28 to go in the game. But they would come storming back in the last two minutes and end up taking a brief lead before St. Louis would tie the game at the free-throw lining giving CBC one final possession. With the game now tied and 20 seconds left on the clock CBC put the ball in Wilson’s hands. The Hillhouse guard was patient allowing time to tick off the clock before making a quick drive to get into the paint and acrobatic finish to put CBC up 2 with 4 seconds to play. When St. Louis failed to score on their final possession CBC marched on to Saturday night’s Final Four with a 66-64 win.
The Arkansas Wings were ready and waiting in the semi-finals featuring a lethal inside out combination of 6’5” point guard Kye Madden and 6’8” skilled power forward Aaron Ross. The Wings would open a commanding lead early, controlling the game 20-9 after one quarter. Brandon Sherrod would spark CBC in the second quarter taking three consecutive charges, rebounding over Ross in traffic, and scoring around the basket to cut the deficit to 7 heading into halftime. The Wings would stretch the lead back to 13 in the third before CBC responded with a flurry of their own behind some pressure defense and finish the quarter trailing by 10. They would cut the lead to 6 midway through the fourth quarter, as Gaetano set people up for easy lay-ups and knocked down his open shots from the perimeter. They found themselves down 9 until Murphy banged a big three-pointer and CBC called a timeout trailing by 6 with 1:04 to play. But Murphy wasn’t done as he would make a couple of plays in transition, getting to the rim for a bucket and then getting sent to the free-throw line, to make it a single possession game with 46 seconds to play. But that was as close as CBC would get as they would ultimately fall 65-61.
While CBC naturally was extremely disappointed following Saturday night’s loss the week was still a huge success as they advanced all the way to the Final Four of AAU nationals and got big performances from a variety of different players along the way.
Drummond continued to show flashes of brilliance in the middle, making the type of plays that others can only dream of. Vince Van Nes stepped up for a couple of big games earlier in the week while Dennis Levene made some deep shots off the bench. Sherrod came alive down the stretch of CBC’s run, proving his ability to change the game in the paint while Langston was tremendous early in the week and a key component throughout.
Allen, Wilson, and Murphy all had starring performances down the stretch of the championship bracket while Gaetano proved himself going head to head with three consecutive top 100 players in the country at the point guard position. Kris Dunn showed his potential to take on a starring role next year while Mike Mallory, Garey Allen and Brandyn Benson provided sparks off the bench at various points.