Champions Crowned at ZG Nationals
Over 550 teams came in to Zero Gravity National Finals hoping for a chance to hoist Sunday's trophy, but those honors only went to a select few clubs. Here's a run down of championship action in all three high school divisions as well as a look at some of Sunday's best individual performances.
Mass Rivals, BABC, New England Playaz, CBC, Metro Boston, B2L, Mass Premier, and DC Blue Devils all advanced to the quarterfinals by winning their pool. The quarterfinal round was highlighted by Mass Rivals and Azar Swain. The 2017 Yale commit nailed seven 3-pointers in the first half, putting on a display that had the whole gym buzzing leading to an impressive win for the Mass Rivals.
CBC won in a very entertaining game with the DC Blue Devils. Tshiefu Ngalakulondi started the game with a couple highlight reel alley-oops from Geo Baker and knocking down the 3 ball, but CBC stayed close with the play of Jared Simmons. Back-to-back 3-pointers by guard Geo Baker put the Blue Devils up halfway through the second half, but CBC came back and took the lead on a Jordan Powell drive with four minutes to play. They would hang on for a 86-81 win. Kewan Smoot also emerged in the second half as a key contributor for CBC
BABC would defeat the New England Playaz in a defensive battle that saw Marcus Santos Silva & Darnell Brodie go head to head inside the paint. Kellan Grady starred for the Playaz, but BABC's depth proved to be too much. Terrell Brown helped Santos Silva score in the paint, and Jakigh Dottin hit two big free throws with 30 seconds left to seal the deal for BABC advancing 62-55.
The game of the day took place in the second semi-final between CBC and the Mass Rivals. CBC overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to tie it up early in the second half. The combined effort of hot outside shooting and spectacular finishes by Makai Ashton-Langford put Rivals in front, but a step-back 3-pointer by KeAndre Fair as the horn went off sent the game into overtime. Playing up, 2018 wing David Mitchell sank an elbow jumper to put Rivals in front. Jared Simmons came back with a trey for CBC to put them up 1 with 40 seconds to play. Ashton-Langford's layup put Rivals back up by 1 with 25 seconds to play. After a missed outside shot and a foul, CBC corralled a missed free throw and kicked it out to guard Mike McGuirl. McGuirl took three dribbles, crossed his defender over, and swished a 28-footer at the buzzer to send CBC to the finals.
The finals featured BABC vs. CBC in a game in which BABC was able to grind out a victory with their signature pressure, capturing another ZG National Championship. Santos-Silva was able to use his wide frame to get easy baskets inside, and wing Bailey Patella capped off a very strong tournament by getting to the hoop for some explosive finishes, in addition to doing all the little things necessary to win. CBC was led by 2019 Jaiden Delaire and Jared Simmons with their 3 point shooting but BABC was just too much. The victory for BABC continues a tradition of strong play at Zero Gravity events, as their varsity team has never lost a game at ZG events in six years.
10th Grade Division
Rivals, CBC, RI Renegades, Metro Boston, CM3, Middlesex Magic, New England Playaz, and DC Blue Devils all won their pool and advanced to the quarterfinals of the 10th grade bracket. Rivals and Middlesex Magic cruised in their respective quarterfinal victories. The Playaz had to hold on late, as they went back and forth with the Blue Devils throughout the game. Metro Boston rode hot shooting from Mohomed Traore and Jayden Depina to the semis.
Incoming Exeter junior Ben Eckstrom grabbed a huge rebound off a missed free throw with five seconds to play to seal the deal for the Middlesex Magic to advance. Thomas Shaughnessy shot the lights out, as well. In defeat, Calvin Whipple left everything he had out on the floor and lead the Playaz. Coming off an injury, Whipple has found much success over the last month. While Playaz 2019 Chris Camille continues to display his high ceiling with his great athleticism and size.
In the finals between Middlesex Magic and Rivals, Akok Akok controlled the paint on defense for the Rivals. He blocked everything that came his way, and often corralled those misses as rebounds. As the three headed backcourt of Tanahj Pettway, Taelon Martin, and Jimmmy Yfantuplus controlled pace of the game and we're making plays in the lane. Shaughnessy continued his hot shooting from outside in the first half. Tommy ONeil who played his best basketball of the weekend in the Championship also shined for Middlesex, providing rebounding and making plays from the perimeter in a role which suites him well moving forward. However, Rivals would outlast Middlesex to take the title in large part to their depth and guard play.
9th Grade Division
BABC City, Expressions Elite, NH Elite, Mass Rivals, BABC, and Middlesex Magic all won their pool in the 9th grade bracket. Expressions Elite and NH Elite would both advance from the quarterfinals to the semis. Expressions met Rivals in the semis, and was able to advance because of the strong play of their wings. Jordan Richard played well again in defeat for Rivals. NH Elite defeated BABC in overtime. Point guard Quest Harris controlled the tempo of the game for BABC, while Robert Baum excelled on the defensive end, making it difficult for NH Elite to get much going for most of the game. Zac Bennett and Marcus Peterson starred for NH Elite, and Peterson hit a key 3-pointer in overtime to lift his team to the finals.
Expressions pulled away toward the end in the championship game. Rivaldo Soares was the key all weekend for his team, as he picked his spots to score the ball. He is doing a much better job of letting the game come to him. He was certainly not alone, as Kyle Murphy, Aireus Raspberry & Daman Tate were solid all weekend for the champs.
Some other players who impressed throughout the weekend:
Terrell Brown (BABC, 2017)- Brown impressed throughout the weekend with his new-found aggressiveness in attacking the hoop. He went up to dunk the ball every time he caught it down low and embraced the contact that came with it. The incoming Tilton post-graduate also knocked down multiple deep three's from the top of the key. It was a very productive weekend for Brown.
Nate Laszewski (New England Playaz 2018)- Playing in the varsity division, Laszewski is one of the best shooters in all of New England. He has such a high release on his jumper, making it nearly impossible to block (and since he is 6'8, it is very difficult for defenders to even contest).
Justin Mazzulla (BABC, 2017)- The point guard is the straw that stirs the BABC offense. He may not have the stats or get the most recognition, but he is one of the key reasons for their success this spring. He gets the ball where it needs to go and to whom it needs to go to. He picks his spots very well to drive the ball and kick to an open teammate for a shot.
Jon Noel (B2L, 2018)- The St. Mark's School guard already has a college-ready body that he uses very well. He is physical in taking the ball to the basket and is a creative finisher who is able to use either hand and a series of finishing moves to score the ball.
Cameron Ray (DC Blue Devils, 2018)- Ray has a nice shooting stroke. He made several contested shots on Sunday morning, including one to beat the buzzer at the end of the first half. He is comfortable shooting off the catch or off the dribble.
Tommy MacLean (Mass Premier, 2017)- MacLean helped keep Mass Premier close with the Playaz in their playoff game on Sunday. He is a competitive player who makes shots. He is a leader and is one for college coaches to keep an eye on come the winter season for Taunton HS.
Nick Timberlake (Metro Boston, 2017)- The 6'3 wing is a great athlete who is not afraid to go up and try to dunk it on taller, stronger players. He had a couple of high-flying dunks on the day, including one in Metro's playoff game against Rivals that had the crowed very entertained.
Jackson Mannix (Middlesex Magic, 2017)- The forward hit some big shots in the second half of their game on Sunday morning. His shot has improved a lot in the last couple years, and it is beginning to show for the Middlesex Magic this spring.
Scott Graziano (BABC City, 2019)- Graziano does all the little things well for his team. He takes charges and makes the extra pass, but can still knock down a shot when left open.
Jacee Martin (CBC, 2017)- The quick point guard for CBC was a key catalyst for their success this weekend. He changes speeds very well to get in the lane. He recognizes once the defense collapses on him and gets rid of it before he gets swallowed up in the paint.
Mykel Derring (New Day, 2018)- After coming off a strong Saturday performance, Derring followed up with a 36-point game on Sunday afternoon. He nailed seven 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds.
Jordan Mason ( Wrighwayskills, 2019)- Mason continued his hot shooting from deep finishing the weekend averaging 25 points per game.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the all-tournament team for all three age groups!