Zero Gravity Finals - Sunday Recap
As pool play gave way to bracket play on Sunday at the University Sports Complex, the courts were lined with the biggest programs and best talent that New England had to offer.
BABC, Mass Rivals and New England Playaz advanced to the Final Four in all three high school divisions while Expressions Elite did the same in the 10th and 9th grade divisions as well. Ultimately, all three finals came down to the Mass Rivals and BABC.
In the varsity division, the Rivals scored a pair of tough wins before even reaching the finals, beginning with a 66-54 win over a D.C. Blue Devils team featured at least four division I players. Up next was a match-up with the New England Playaz, another clash that went all the way down to the wire.
Makai Ashton-Langford was at his best in the quarterfinals, getting into the lane and finishing using his strength and athleticism. The big, strong guard was rebounding at a high rate for his position. The other part of the Rivals’ outstanding backcourt duo, Wabisse Bede, continued to impress with his ability to craftily get into the paint and stroke it from deep.
BABC’s route to the finals included a 63-51 win over Castle Athletics in the quarterfinals followed by a 71-66 mark over the Beantown Bulls in the semis, stopping their Cinderella like run through the field.
Robert Martin Jr., Bruce Brown, and Kevin Marfo led the charge for BABC all weekend to the championship game while getting great production from Patrick Fisher, Brett Hanson, Ikenna Ndugba, and Arkel Ager-Lamar and typical sharp-shooting from Tommy Mobley.
The Rivals came out of the gates full of energy in the final as Chris Baldwin led them to a 9-2 lead out of the gates. While Baldwin battled foul trouble throughout the game, he was nonetheless spectacular while he was on the floor, being extremely aggressive in the paint and finishing strongly.
BABC would have an answer though as Arkel Ager-Lamar hit the first of two threes to tie the score at 16. With Baldwin on the bench in foul trouble and the Rivals guards battling fatigue, Bruce Brown took over for BABC. He made numerous drives to the basket, finished through contact and also displayed his jump shot off the dribble.
Robert Martin Jr., punctuated a huge weekend, by continuing to score off the bounce, earning MVP honors in the process while Kevin Marfo began dominating in the post as soon as Baldwin left the court, making great reads and scoring or passing out of isolations – even throwing in an old school up-and-under move.
Wenyen Gabriel, in what has become something of a habit, was spectacular for Rivals, keeping them in the game using his length and athleticism in the paint while also taking his defender off the bounce. Ultimately though, BABC captured the Varsity title with a 63-53 win.
The 9th grade final was even more dramatic with a double-overtime classic. The Rivals held a lead late in the second half but BABC got late heroics from Maurice Works, who rattled off 17 straight points in the closing minutes of regulation, including three late free-throws after being fouled at the arc, to send the game into overtime. After a scoreless first overtime, Shandon Brown scored the only points for BABC in the second overtime. His four were sufficient to lead BABC to the victory, 58-56. Martin Mann, the younger brother of Florida State bound guard Terance Mann, was also impressive, as he continues to improve his game, attack the glass hard and finish in the paint.
The Rivals were led by David Mitchell, a strong and athletic lefty who gets into the paint with ease, and his backcourt mate A.J. Reeves, who did double duty playing with the 10th grade team, but nonetheless had enough gas in the tank to put up huge numbers in the final with his long arms and smooth game.
BABC also finished undefeated in the 10th grade division, and was awarded the championship, as Jakigh Dottin, Justin Mazzulla and Nick Osanaren led the way at various points. The real story though was their defense as their full court pressure created problems for their opponents all weekend long, allowing them to capitalize for easy buckets in the other direction. Dottin, Mazzula, and Casseus led with their guard skills and ability to score off the bounce. Also on display was their athleticism in the lane, and Osanaren benefitted by finding open areas in the defense off the penetration of his guards and finishing with authority.
The Rivals also finished unbeaten in the 10th grade division as Azar Swain a heady guard who had a busy weekend having attended the Boston University camp on Friday and Saturday. Swain had plenty left in the tank, finding the open man, pushing the ball in transition, and energizing his team. Trahe Qualls a 6’5, 2018 guard was also impressive for Rivals showing off the ability to create for himself off the bounce with pull ups and drives to the rim.
Other top individual performances on Sunday included:
Tremont Waters - New England Playaz- With Kellan Grady out with an ankle injury Sunday, Waters impressed with his range and great court vision. Single handedly keep the Playaz in the game versus the Rivals.
A.J. Brodeur -New England Playaz – Brodeur had a monstrous throw down versus the Rivals, sparking a run of the elite level of play we are so used to seeing from him.
Chuck Hannah - New England Playaz- With Chris Doherty picking up an injury, Hannah was the only size the Playaz had Sunday. With his strength and finishing, Hannah was putting up double doubles all day Sunday.
Aaron Wheeler - New England Playaz- With Nate Laszewski unavailable, Wheeler stepped up huge at the wing for the Playaz. Wheeler was casting havoc in the passing lanes.
Marcus Zegarowski - Expressions Elite- Zegarowski’s ability to run the Expressions’ offense, his great court awareness, and high rate of scoring were all on display throughout the day Sunday.
Sukhmail Mathon - Expression Elite- the big man was a force, blocking and altering shots defensively, while offensively finishing over and through defenders with his great skill set and athleticism.
Cam Sells - Expressions Elite- Sells is a knock down shooter with athleticism that allows him to get into the lane with ease and finish his drives.
Kwane Taylor -Expressions Elite- This guard is a knock down shooter from deep and has a nice soft touch in the lane with a great floater. Taylor’s big moment though came versus DC Owls. He drained a game winning three with 4.6 seconds left to push Expressions through to the semifinals.
Dana Tate - Expressions Elite- Tate was dynamic in the paint scoring the ball productively and crashing the glass hard. The result was an outstanding game of 35 points and 16 rebounds.
Noah Fernandes - New England Playaz- Fernandez’ ability to run the Playaz at the point guard position is impressive for a freshman. He controls the pace of the game extremely well and has great court vision
Luis Reynoso - New England Playaz- Reynoso, an incoming freshman, has a smooth game that allows him to play a guard or wing. He can stroke it from deep or us his strong frame and finish through contact.