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Next Level Prep Falls to St Benedicts Prep in NJ

Published by on January 18, 2011

On January 15, 2011, Next Level Prep (NLP) Academy out of Oakville, Ontario, travelled down to Jersey City, New Jersey to participate in the Dan Finn Classic. Thier opponents in the one day event, were none other than the perennial prep powerhouse team, the St Benedict Grey Bees. In a contest where execution and size really did matter, and NLP not travelling with a couple of their bigger bodies, the Canadian Prep team fell 66-39.

Played out of the 5,000 seat, Jersey City Armoury, the one day showcase event featured New York and New Jersey area teams. Even on the best of days, Next Level, would need the best of all hands on deck in order to be able to give the Grey Bees, a run for their money. But traveling without Senior, 6′ 7″, Bikram Gill and 6’6″ Senior, Charlie Drouin, put NLP a bit disadvantaged in the size department. A disadvantage that appeared to have spilled over into other areas of their game.

The Grey Bees, re-tooled with their most recent acquisition, Brampton native Tyler Ennis (click here for details), looked to control things early on in this contest. Despite this, NLP managed to force a few turnovers that would keep them within striking distance early. Unfortunately turnovers of their own, and poor shooting prevented Next Level from taking advantage on the scoreboard, and they found themselves down 14-9 at the end of the first quarter.

Throughout much of the early portion of the game, the NLP offensive strategy appeared to rely on perimeter play. But, after only finding mild success early on via outside shooting from NLP’s Tyler Scott and Taevaunn Prince, that strategy was readjusted to include more penetration and driving to the hole. Forward and 6’7″ Senior, Emmanuel Ajayi came through for his team, and his inside work was rewarded to the tune of 8 first half points. Despite the mild success Next Level Academy was experiencing, the Grey Bees still managed to increase their lead to 31-21 by halftime.

Next Level Prep Academy did manage to find some stability in going into the second half. Next Level Prep coach Adam Nicholson, recognized that a change in strategy was necessary in order to climb back into the game. “We needed to play smarter basketball, including being more aware of what we were doing away from the ball,” recalled coach Nicholson. The renewed game plan coming out of the locker room appeared to have worked. His team going blow for blow in the third quarter with the Grey Bees, and it appeared as though the major damage they sustained in the first half, appeared to have leveled off. Their U.S. opponents only outscored them by two points in the third quarter until a pivitol Grey Bee block late in the third quarter seemed to have been the key to taking away any momentum gained to that point for Next Level.

Although St Benedict’s Center, Philip Nolan, only managed 4 points, his presence inside the paint paid big dividends for the home squad. Providing a strong presence inside the paint including cleaning up rebounds and numerous blocked shots, including that monster block at the end of the third quarter, appeared to have been the straw that broke the Canadian squad’s back in this game. This coupled with the strong inside play of Forward Tyler Harris, and decision making of their G/F Vaughn Gray, made it tough to defend for NLP. Put all those together with the fact that NLP was playing with a shortened bench compared to the contstant rotation of St Benedict Prep’s fresh legs from their deeper bench and that was just too much for NLP to deal with. That final combination saw the St Benedict Grey Bees close the game out on a 21-6 run and the eventual 66-39 victory.

Coach Nicholson’s post game assessment was one that focused more on the strategies his team could have for the win, rather than mechanics. “We have to view this as a learning process” he said referring to the panic he was felt was causing some of the turnovers in the game. “Certain players seem to feel they need to put the team on their back and force play”, which he felt led to bad decision making. As a strategy he believed that his team would have been more successful had they been “looking to exploit more of what’s working for them” and by “finding ways to get more of their shooters involved including better shooting opportunities via open looks”.

Tyler Harris led the Grey Bees in scoring with 12 points, despite sitting out the fourth quarter while his teamate Vaughan Grey chipped in 11. While logging quite a few minutes, Tyler Ennis got the chance to continue to gel with his new teamated and contributed 7 points for the winners.
Next Level Academy’s Tyler Scott hit three 3-pointers on his way to a game high 16 points and team MVP honours. NLP’s Emmanuel Ajayi added 10 points in the loosing cause.

Next Level Prep didn’t have to wait long in order to try to redeem themselves as their next test was in Brooklyn, NY to face Adelphi Academy on January 16.

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Recruiting Notes

- Emmanuel Ajayi a 6-foot-7 PF is receiving interest from Florida International, Eastern Carolina and James Madison

-  6-foot-2 point guard Tyler Scott who recently joined Next Level Prep is hearing from New Mexico State and Grand Valley

- Marquis Clayton a 5-foot-10 point guard in the 2011 class is getting interest from North Dakota, Wright State, Longwood and NJIT. Has already taken a visit to Wright State.

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