New England Rules West Virginia
The Hoop Group concluded their annual West Virginia Jam Fest on Saturday, formerly known as the Triple S Harley Davidson Classic, the Jam Fest is the largest of the Hoop Group’s summer tournaments with over 200 teams participating in the u15-u17 divisions.
Playaz Take u17 Crown
The New England Playaz won seven games in three days to claim the championship, proving themselves the best of the 150 seventeen-and-under teams in the field.
The Playaz entered the tournament as the field’s number one overall seed and didn’t disappoint as they plowed their way through pool play with Alex Murphy, Kaleb Tarczewski, and John Papale all earning recognition from Scout.com’s Dave Telep.
After dispatching of East Coast Fusion and Midwest Stars during Wednesday’s pool play, the Playaz opened up bracket play on Thursday with another convincing win over CBIZ to advance to the round of 32. Max Hooper stepped up next against a tough New Jersey Shoreshots squad, drilling 8 of 10 from from behind the arc to help the Playaz score the come from behind victory. Next up was Mid-Atlantic Select who the Playaz knocked off in the quarterfinals.
The semi-finals saw a match-up with the Jersey Shore Warriors, who took the title at the Summer Classic just a few days earlier. Finding a team who was equally disciplined and skilled for the first time this summer, the Playaz relied on their size advantage to pull them through as Markus Kennedy stepped up big in the middle and Alex Murphy scored six consecutive baskets in the second half as the Playaz pulled away.
Friends for Life came into the final riding a wave of momentum as the relatively unknown program featured a high-major duo and had defeated the likes of New Jersey ABC, Expressions, Team Takeover Canada, and Philly Elite en route to the championship game.
Naadir Tharpe was at his best in the final, controlling the game with the ball in his hands, making plays in the open floor, and knocking down shots when he had to. With former UConn player Kevin Freeman replacing head coach John Carroll on the bench for the day, the Playaz went up 18 early in the final only to see Friends for Life come storming back and take a four point lead. The game went back and forth late until a Papale corner three-ball pushed the lead to six as the Playaz seized control for the final time.
With Joe Bramanti still limited with his ankle injury, Xavier Pollard stepped up big throughout the weekend on both ends of the floor and drawing a wide range of division I interest in the process. Tyler Strange also made big contributions on the defensive end of the floor.
The Playaz will resume their summer schedule next week at the Adidas Super 64 where they have already been named the second overall seed in the tournament.
Expressions Claims u15 Title
Fresh off their title at the Hall of Fame National Invitational, Expressions fifteen-and-under squad continued their winning ways, taking the championship of the u15 bracket.
With 48 teams in their age division, Expressions came out of pool play on Wednesday with wins over Basketball Stars of America and Maryland Shoreshots. They opened bracket play with a win over NSAL Renegades before knocking off the prestigious All Ohio Basketball Club in the quarters.
The semifinals featured a tight win over another highly regarded national program in Team Takeover, setting up the final with Boo Williams, one of the most storied nike sponsored programs in the country.
The final featured a dramatic contest that remained even after 32 minutes of action, forcing an overtime period in which Expressions would ultimately claim the three point victory.
Ramon Gibbons continued to lead the way in the backcourt with 19 points and 6 assists while Nate Anderson had a double-double inside with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Jaylen Blakely had 11 points and 7 assists while Jared Terrell also stepped up with 13 points. Kaleb Joseph had 6 points in the final but put up big numbers earlier in the tournament.