Zero Gravity Battle for the Belt - Event Recap
Hosting a season-high 415 teams spread out across eastern Massachusetts, Zero Gravity hosted their final New England tournament of the fall, with each of the winners receiving the elusive championship belt.
The playoffs in the varsity bracket lived up to the hype as teams eyed the championship belt. Metro Boston held off one of the season's top programs, Middlesex Magic, in a closely contested semifinal game, then cruised to the title in the National Division. Steady all weekend, Team Saints held off its competitors in the National bracket to capture another title. Middlesex Magic-Scheffler assured the program that it would not go a weekend without taking home a title in the high school division, as it survived a wild 99-97 win over Hoop Star in the semifinals, then made the plays they needed to late in the International Championship to take the belt.
BABC continued their tradition of excellence with a dominating performance from wire-to-wire this fall. Defeating a tough & talented Middlesex Magic team in the final in a tight contest, BABC's 10th grade team has established themselves as one to be reckoned with. Rise Above Basketball won in the National Championship game, while Bay State Flash- DiPaola took the International Championship.
The 9th grade division featured close championship games all the way through. BABC claimed the American Division, showing they are more than capable of grinding out a win. MV Pride- Tierney took the National Division, and Expressions-Silva pulled away late to win the International Division, meaning all three will proudly hold the belt until the spring grassroots season.
The following players stood out this weekend:
Brycen Goodine (BABC, 2019)- Goodine is more than just an athlete. His skill level combined with his ability to cut and get open on the perimeter make him a dangerous player who's best days are certainly ahead of him. His pull-up jumper has shown progress throughout the fall, as well.
Carl Pierre (Metro Boston, 2017)- Pierre's offensive game has drastically improved, and helped Metro Boston be successful this weekend because of it. Able to get in the paint, he makes good decisions once he is there-- valuing the basketball is always a trait that college coaches look for!
Jay Dieterle (NE Playaz, 2020)- The Rivers guard appeared to be much more comfortable with the ball in his hands as he transitions to a player who needs to be able to make plays for his teammates. His length was also a factor on both ends, whether it be getting deflections on defense or stretching out to finish at the rim on offense.
Nick Timberlake (Metro Boston, 2017)- A freak athlete, Timberlake's jumper has steadily improved over the last year. He made a lot of plays for his teammates over the weekend, as well, showing the versatility that will make him a valuable catch at the next level.
Tommy O'Neil (Middlesex Magic, 2018)- The lefty forward continues to improve his defense & rebounding. His touch around the rim is solid, but being able to stretch out his shooting range has opened up his game so much over the last year.
Dallion Johnson (BABC, 2020)- The more we watch Johnson, the more impressive he is. The smooth lead guard has some bounce in his game, and uses it to create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates when a shot is not available for himself.
Mitch Doherty (BABC, 2019)- Doherty excelled in the championship game of the 10th grade division. He puts his teammates in positions to be successful in ways that traditionally are described for point guards.
Michael Williams (RI Cyclones, 2018)- In leading the Cyclones, Williams made a variety of shots from all over the floor. He gets his shot off quickly, and is very confident in taking every shot, a key trait for a shooter.
Marc Dolgin (Middlesex Magic, 2019)- The Milton Academy guard got hot late in the tournament and helped his Magic team down the stretch. Capable of making shots in bunches, Dolgin can be very dangerous when his jumper is falling, as it can open up other aspects of his game.
Dylan Ahearn (NE Playaz, 2020)- Ahearn is a solid off-guard with a high IQ and great feel for the game. He gets the ball up the court quickly with the pass if he spots an open teammate. Ahearn also drilled several 3's to seal the deal in the second half of their exciting win on Sunday morning.
Jayden Depina (Metro Boston, 2018)- Depina connected on outside shots all weekend long. One of the more underrated shooters around, the Noble & Greenough junior guard needs to be accounted for when he's on the court; if the defense loses him, they will see him rising up for a 3-pointer more often than not.
Qualeem Charles (BABC, 2020)- Charles has a strong, wide body for such a young player. He may be next in line among BABC's recent big men who can not only occupy space in the lane, but rebound at a high level. He has very good hands, and does a great job of feeling where is defender is down in the post & getting proper position for an easy layup.
Brendon Sailor (Central Mass Swarm, 2019)- Sailor scored from all three levels. The point guard gets in the lane, plays off two feet, and is more than able to find shooters after drawing the defense in. The St. John's HS product also guarded the ball at an exceptional level throughout the weekend.
Mariano Rodriguez (Evolution, 2018)- Rodriguez elevates to grab rebounds in traffic. He is a very good athlete who uses it to impact the game in more ways than just high-flying dunks.
Charles & Charley Mitchell (LOX, 2017)- The Mitchell twins are always fun to watch on the ZG Circuit, and this weekend was no different. They both bring so much passion when they step on the court, and their communication and positive energy is something that cannot be overstated. It has been a constant over the last few years for both of them.
Max Bonney-Liles (Team Saints, 2018)- An all-around forward, Bonney-Liles contributes in every facet of the game. He rebounded the ball well and shot it from deep, but also made key hustle plays to help his team win.
Denzel Lyles (Bay State Flash, 2019)- Long and lanky, Lyes scored the ball at will here at the Battle For The Belt. Leading his team to a championship, Lyles is another wing who uses his length on both ends of the court in order to be effective for his team.
Ricky Tejada (NE Gladiators, 2017)- Armed with a variety of ways to get to the basket, Tejada showed off an impressive Euro-step by faking both to the middle and to the sideline. Look for big things from Tejada out of Lawrence High School this season.
Arlind Shehu (Mystic Valley Pride, 2017)- Shehu is a big man who gets off the floor quickly, enabling him to get offensive rebounds while his man is still taking off. He finishes tough inside and provides an interior scoring presence.