Rivals, Playaz qualify for Gauntlet Finale
The second stop on the Adidas Gauntlet tour took place this past weekend in Atlanta were both the Mass Rivals and New England Playaz finished with 3-1 records in the u17 division to punch their ticket to South Carolina in July for the Adidas Gauntlet Finale.
After going 4-0 last weekend in Dallas, the Rivals wrap-up the evaluation period with an overall record of 7-1 with their lone loss coming on Saturday to Upward Stars in a battle of two undefeated teams. The Stars led by 20 points early in the second half but the Rivals went to a four-guard line-up and turned up the defensive pressure to come storming back with Makai Ashton-Langford leading the way. The Rivals took their first lead of the game with a minute left to play but the Stars answered with a quick 5-0 run of their own to steal the win. Ashton-Langford finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against only 2 turnovers while Azar Swain added 11 points and 9 rebounds.
The Rivals continued to play all 12 players on their roster throughout the weekend and so Ashton-Langford's performance was an outlier as one of the few stat stuffers of the weekend. Four different players scored in double figures in Friday night's opener over Exum Elite Utah Prospects with Jarrod Simmons and A.J. Reaves leading the way with 12 a piece while Wabissa Bede and Swain both had 10. Makhtar Gueye went for 11 points, including a pair of threes, and 7 rebounds in a 66-59 win over Team Rose while Swain scored in double figures for the third consecutive game with 15. Ashton-Langford was at his best again on Sunday with 24 points and 4 assists in a win over Team Carroll while Simmons, David Duke and Monytung Maker got in on the action as well. Simmons had 8 points and 10 boards while Duke had 10 points on 4-5 shooting and Maker 9 points on 4-4 shooting.
The Playaz were equally impressive this weekend, winning their first three games before dropping a similarly dramatic finale to Compton Magic without Kellan Grady in the line-up. Defensive execution and offensive balance were the themes for the weekend and that was apparent on Friday night when they held the Michigan Mustangs to just 41 points with 10 players seeing action and 9 of them playing double-figure minutes. Jerome Desrosiers led the way with 14 points and 14 rebounds while Nate Laszewski came alive with 11 points in 11 minutes.
Grady was at his best Saturday morning against a Basketball University squad with one of the best backcourts in the Gauntlet. He finished with 12 points, 7 assists and 3 steals against no turnovers while Desrosiers went for a game high 21 points on 6-8 shooting from the floor and Tomas Murphy added 14 points on 6-7 shooting to go with 5 rebounds. Chuck Hannah had his best game of the weekend in a quality win on Saturday night versus a talented and disciplined Florida Sons team 55-51. Hannah had 10 points and 5 boards while also distinguishing himself defensively while Grady paced the team with 12. Sunday's finale came against Compton Magic and UCLA pledge Jaylen Hands, and even with Grady out of the line-up this one came down to the very last possession before Compton escaped with a 56-53 decision. Desrosiers and Murphy both stepped up with their best games yet as Desrosiers had 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists while Murphy delivered 16 points, including a big time move from the elbow to keep the Playaz within striking distance in the final minute of regulation. Shyheim Hicks had 10 in the backcourt.
The Rivals and Playaz also showed well in the 16u division, both winning their respective pools and advancing to the quarterfinals before falling on Sunday morning. Chris Camille stood out with his long-term potential for the Playaz while Calvin Whipple, Noah Fernandes and Ethan Wright impressed as well. Alex Rivera, David Mitchell, Jovan Jones and Tanahj Pettway impressed at various times for the Rivals.