The Very Best From This Weekend's Games
Oakland Soldiers, Florida Rams, Sports U. all shine
The Nike EYBL schedule tipped off this weekend at the same time as a major adidas event and the Pitt Jam Fest. So, with nearly every team playing three or four games, there’s a lot to digest in the grassroots basketball world. Making sense of it all can be difficult, but here is my attempt:
By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, only six EYBL teams were still unbeaten...and four were not ranked in the Five-Star 17U Power Rankings last week. While powerhouses like No. 10 Team Penny and No. 11 Team Takeover struggled, the Albany City Rocks and Each 1 Teach 1 asserted themselves as major factors on the Nike circuit.
Fans and coaches following the action in Minnesota were treated to two great matchups right away. In the first set of games on Friday, the Mac Irvin Fire got by Team Penny (playing as the Bluff City Legends), 73-67, behind 20 points from Jabari Parker and 12 from Kyle Davis. But that proved to be just a warmup for the classic that would unfold minutes later. No. 16 BABC led the No. 1 Oakland Soldiers by eight at the half and seemed ready to pull off a major upset, when suddenly, the Soldiers fought back. In the waning seconds, a Jabari Bird layup won it for the Soldiers, preserving their ranking and sending BABC to its first of two losses this weekend.
Saturday, of course, featured the bulk of the games, with several good ones unfolding in the morning. At 11:00, BABC rebounded from its tough loss on Friday to outlast the Mac Irvin Fire. BABC scored the final nine points of the game and had four players in double figures, led by Rene Castro’s 17. Then, despite a subpar game for Andrew Wiggins, CIA Bounce slipped by Team Takeover, 54-51.
After another slate of games on Sunday, the only unbeatens left standing were the Albany City Rocks, California Supreme, Each 1 Teach 1, No. 6 CIA Bounce, Oakland Soldiers and Houston Hoops. Meanwhile, Team Penny went winless, while Team Takeover and No. 12 Boo Williams were each 1-3. It’s certainly not over for those teams, but they’ll need a much stronger showing this weekend in Hampton, Va.
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I don’t know if Kasey Hill and the Florida Rams were upset by their preseason No. 21 ranking, but if they were, they took it out on every poor adidas team that stood in their way. The Rams stormed through the 17U portion of the bracket, sweeping pool play, then beating New Heights and No. 8 Garner Road en route to the title. Hill was named tournament MVP.
The No. 15 Compton Magic, meanwhile, were not as fortunate. The Dallas Mustangs and Urban DFW were among the unknowns that they lost to. Their ranking will surely take a hit after such a tough weekend.
In the 16U bracket, it was the Florida Rams again. They beat the New England Playaz, Atlanta Celtics and No. 23 Indiana Elite on their road to the championship, after comfortably taking care of the Houston Hoopstars and Colorado Hawks in pool play.
While the 16U Indiana Elite team couldn’t get it done, their 15s made up for it. They clobbered the No. 10 Compton Magic 14s in pool play, then beat the No. 2 Compton Magic 15s and No. 6 Dream Vision to surprise everyone and win the title.
Pitt Jam Fest
The Sports U. 17s made it pretty clear last week that they felt snubbed for not being in our Power Rankings. I don’t want to give anything away, but after their performance in Pittsburgh, it will be awfully tough to keep them out again.
Yes, they won the whole thing, and no they did not face more than one ranked team in doing so. But the ranked team they did face was the No. 3 Houston Defenders, and for large stretches of that semifinal game, Sports U. was simply playing at another level. They led by as many as 20 in the first half and withstood a late charge to advance to the finals with a 72-61 win. They then took care of Ohio Basketball Club in the championship game to be crowned Pittsburgh Jam Fest Champions.
Not to be outdone, the No. 4 Sports U. 16s made a pretty impressive run themselves. They advanced all the way to the title game before falling to North Carolina’s Team Loaded. Loaded, who was previously unranked, should check our power rankings on Wednesday. They might like what they see.
Meanwhile in the younger age groups, The City won the 15U chip and D.C. Assault won it for the 14s.