Hoop Mountain Invitational - Sunday Recap
Championship Sunday had plenty of excitement at the Hoop Mountain Invitational. Each of the championship games went down to the wire, and there were many clutch performers. Here are some of the highlights from the day’s action:
Expressions Elite Wins 17 and Under Championship
Expressions trailed the entire game against a very good Jersey Shore Warriors team. The Warriors appeared far more experienced than the Expressions team that has only been playing together for a few weeks. Expressions hung around, however, thanks to the outstanding play of Kyle Casey. Casey demonstrated his newfound toughness as he finished time and time again in traffic against the physical Warriors frontline. With two minutes remaining in regulation, Expressions trailed by eight, and things did not look promising against the steady Warriors club. Expressions stormed back furiously though, cutting the lead to three on a Casey and-1. After some missed free throws, Expressions had a chance to tie. They swung the ball around the perimeter, and Greg Jacques knocked down an open three pointer with six seconds remaining. In overtime, Expressions’ momentum was too much to overcome, as Jacques hit yet another three to put them up for good. The speedy guard has greatly improved his jump shot, and his confidence showed as he was able to hit two daggers. He and Casey both finished with 20 points. Altogether, it was quite an accomplishment for Expressions, withstanding an excellent 17 and under field to emerge victorious.
Connecticut Basketball Academy Wins 16 and Under Championship
In somewhat of an upset, Connecticut Basketball Academy downed the Rhode Island Hawks to win the 16 and under bracket. CBA was led throughout the weekend by their phenomenal backcourt duo of LaQuan Mendenhall and Ronnie Underwood. Mendenhall is a tremendous long-range shooter and has the strength the take the ball to the basket. Underwood possesses the quickness and toughness to beat people off the bounce and lock up opposing guards defensively. In the championship game, the Hawks had no answer for the two guards as Mendenhall scored 21 and Underwood dropped in 14. The Hawks kept the game close, however, thanks to another strong performance from Chris Fitzgerald, who netted 17. Greg Newton also played well for the Hawks, running the team and hitting an array of pull-up jump shots.
Connecticut Basketball Club Wins 15 and Under Championship
CBC scored an impressive comeback victory over the New England Playaz to earn the 15 and under title. The New England Playaz had complete control over the first 24 minutes of the game. Alex Murphy showed again why he is poised to do great things before his high school career is over. He is long, can make shots, and is a terrific passer. If family heritage is any indication, Murphy is going to be very tall, and he will undoubtedly possess a full repertoire of guard skills. Also impressive for the Playaz were Tyrus Weaver, a quick little scoring guard, and Canaan Severin, an athletic wing scorer and rebounder. Yet, CBC stole the show in the second half as a result of the play of Tavon Allen and Andre Drummond. Allen is a smooth lefty who makes shots and has a solid mid-range game. Drummond is a dominant shot blocker who negates opponents’ ability to penetrate. In the end, CBC overtook the Playaz and stole the title.
Game of the Day
The best game of the day, aside from the 17 and under final, was a 17 and under quarterfinal match up between CBC and the Rhode Island Hawks. The back and forth affair featured an outstanding match up of playmaking guards, in the Hawks’ Alex Berthiaume and CBC’s Danny Lawhorn. Lawhorn used his terrific quickness to help him create space to knock down several mid-range jumpers. Berthiaume demonstrated his passing prowess as he continuously made the right find in transition. The lead changed numerous times throughout the game, but after a drop step dunk from CBC’s Will Tye gave them a 5 point lead with under a minute remaining, the game appeared in the bag. CBC made several crucial mistakes down the stretch, though, which ended up costing them the game. First, they fouled Berthiaume on a three point attempt, and he went on to convert all three free throws. Then, they missed the front end of a one and one. Finally, they fouled Sam Martin on another three point attempt, and he made two to tie the game and send it to OT. In the overtime, Martin, Berthiaume, and Tim McKinney all made clutch free throws to ensure the victory. McKinney led the Hawks with 23 points, showing great ability to finish with strength. Overall, this quarterfinal contest was a terrific game and certainly one of the best of the tournament.
Some Players Who Shined on Sunday:
Eric Alleyne, Expressions Elite- Alleyne is a younger member of the Expressions 17 and under team and did not play many minutes in the finals, however, in Expressions’ earlier games, Alleyne made quite a mark. He is a strong guard with a great handle and feel for the game. He always seems to make the right play with the ball in his hands, whether it is to finish the play himself or kick out to an open shooter. In Expressions’ pool play victory over Shen Pride (NY), Alleyne scored 11 points and distributed the ball effectively to his immensely talented teammates.
Alex Berthiaume, RI Hawks- The best individual performance of the day had to have been Berthiaume’s game against Expressions Elite in the 17 and under semifinals. He was simply unguardable in the second half, scoring 20 points in the period despite being hounded by Expressions’ band of speedy guards. Berthiaume was a joy to watch as he was able to break people down off the dribble and finish with floaters over much taller players. He completely carried the Hawks as they cut a twenty point first half deficit to 5 at one point. Normally an unselfish playmaker, Berthiaume had to take matters into his own hands when he saw his squad down by such a margin. The talented point guard just received a scholarship offer from Concordia College and is deciding between either there or Maine Central Institute, where he would prep a year.
Zach Messinger, Connecticut Flame- Messinger has good size and can really shoot the ball. He showed this in the Flame’s win over the Boston Soldiers, when he scored 23 points, including five three-pointers.
James Marcellus, Boston Soldiers- Marcellus displayed his polished post-up game against the Flame, despite the Soldiers’ loss. He was able to finish around the rim very effectively to the tune of 18 points.