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NPSAA Championship Recap

Published by on March 26, 2012

After an exciting Day 2 at the NPSAA Championship Tournament saw its share of upsets and drama in the first set of quarterfinal games the final day would have four more matchups with the eventual champion of the 2012 NPSAA season crowned at Seneca College Newnham Campus. Here’s a look at how the day unfolded.

Quarterfinal 4 – ROCK Academy vs. Waltham Prep

A furious fourth quarter run allowed ROCK Academy to overcome Waltham Prep to take the 70-62 victory to qualify for a date with GTA Venom in the last semi-final spot.

At the end of three quarters the game was all square at 47 setting up a showdown in the final eight minutes. With the game in the balance a quick 8-2 run by the ROCK in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter sparked by three transition baskets allowed them to create some distance and eventually pull away with the W.

“We just focused on defence and it allowed us to just stay in the game. The guys played with an incredible amount of heart the only way you can play hard is by competing and I think that’s what it really came down to,” said Keith Vassell ROCK Academy head coach.

Though victorious the ROCK had to overcome some major obstacles. A pair of technical fouls on Jalen Griffith got the athletic forward ejected late in the third quarter to put the Wildcats on the line for five free throws to give them their first lead since early in the first quarter. They were regulated to just six players when Nate Golding picked up his fifth foul with over five minutes to play, leaving them vulnerable down the stretch.

Facing that adversity only proved to strengthen the resolve of the resilient club.

“The thing that I’m happy about with this team I have no problem subbing in anyone, I know the guys [on the bench] are quality players so when I put them in they make things happen. Jalen and Nate were huge losses because they were both so active it was fantastic that we were able to persevere,” said Vassell.

From the opening tip it was evident what the ROCK Academy was focused on doing, getting out in transition at every opportunity to get easy baskets. Using that formula the ROCK was able to build a sizable lead in the first half.

The easy baskets seemed to frustrate Waltham as they began hounding the refs leading to a technical being called on the bench which only fueled the ROCK even further. Heading into the break the ROCK looked to be in control ahead 36-25.

Sensing the game was about to slip away Waltham opened the second half on a 7-0 run in the first two minutes of the third to cut into the deficit and suddenly the game was in reach again for the Wildcats. Responding to the flurry ROCK continued to get out on the break for easy baskets but in half court sets the points weren’t as easy to come by.

“They jumped down our throats at the beginning of the third quarter, we had to regain composure and push through,” said Vassell.

Leading the charge was Jamal Reynolds who continues his assault on defences this tournament scoring a game-high 26 points while Kayshaune Spencer countered with a team-high 24 for Waltham.

Semi-final 1 – REDA Black vs. PHASE 1 Academy

By controlling the glass REDA Black rebounded past PHASE 1 Academy with a convincing 63-47 victory to return to the finals for the second consecutive year.

Grabbing 15 offensive rebounds REDA was able to get a number of second chance opportunities and capitalized on their evident size advantage to slowly build an insurmountable lead their opponents struggled to comeback from.

“I’ve been saying it all weekend if we can offensive rebound we can put games away just off of offensive rebounds. I highly emphasized that at the beginning of the game ‘if we do this it won’t even be close, if we don’t we’re going to have a game on our hands.’ They really went hard at the glass, got extra chances, got extra points, extra trips, time off the clock, it really went well,” said Jesse Tipping REDA Black head coach.

Controlling the play on the interior REDA began taking advantage of PHASE 1 packing in the paint and knocked down the outside jumpers to push the margin. As impressive as the offensive production was the defence was even more remarkable holding PHASE 1 to just five second quarter points REDA took a 35-12 lead into halftime.

“Well it was huge. I told them again ‘two minutes at a time put this game away, at six minutes it should be a 10 point game and so on,’ and our defence stepped up, we only allowed two offensive rebounds where in the first quarter we allowed seven,” said Tipping.

Sensing the game was slipping out of their grasp PHASE 1 opened up the second half shooting fire from the outside, hitting four 3-pointers to match their offensive production in the entire first half in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Though the hot shooting would cut into the lead and bring the margin to as close as 12, REDA would regain their composure and extend the lead past 20.

“Well we knew what they were going to do, they got good shooters I knew they had to shoot 3’s to get back in the game. Our guys just didn’t do a good enough job getting a hand up and controlling that, we helped when we shouldn’t have off of certain guys. As soon as we saw after six 3’s we need to guard these guys, we got a hand up and controlled the offensive boards,” said Tipping.

Through the opening quarter it seemed both teams were trying to feel each other out for the first few minutes, not taking many risks on the offensive end and trading the lead. As the quarter came to a close it was apparent REDA was finding their bread and butter on the offensive glass as PHASE 1 didn’t seem to have an answer on the inside, trailing 15-7 after one.

It was more of the same in the second quarter as it seemed every errant shot from REDA would end up back in their possession after an offensive rebound and a basket would be the product of their work on the boards.

Leading the way for REDA was the interior presence of Juwan Grannum who put in a game-high 18 points while Adika Peter-McNeilly scored a team-high 15 points.

With the win REDA awaited the winner of the second semi-final for a chance to claim their second NPSAA title.

Semi-final 2 – GTA Venom vs. ROCK Academy

In an entertaining rematch the ROCK Academy withstood  a 3-point onslaught from GTA Venom to walk away with a 75-73 victory to clinch a berth in the championship game against REDA Black.
With only five players on hand GTA was at a major disadvantage especially on the defensive end where the fear of fouling out and making it a five-on-four situation was ever present. It was a reality they wouldn’t have to face as coach Toney McNeil pulled his team off the floor with just under 2:00 to play when Jordan Boin fouled out, handing the ROCK a ticket to the title game.

Regardless before the disqualification the game was a tightly contested matchup that saw lead changes and runs swinging the momentum back-and-forth. In fact the ROCK needed Jamal Reynolds to pour in 14 of his game-high 31 points in the third quarter to overcome a six point deficit.

“Jamal finds a way to get layups, I don’t know a better way to put it. He has an incredible heart that is he wants to win all the time, he wants to win every second,” said Keith Vassell ROCK Academy head coach. “We just managed with Jamal and getting offensive boards and put backs we were able to capitalize on those situations.”

The start of the second saw the Venom capitalizing on their biggest strength, outside shooting, hitting five 3-pointers in the second quarter to build a lead as large as six. They would finish the game with an 11-2 edge in the 3-point department. Even when they weren’t hitting outside shots it seemed GTA was getting three points on every trip as four and-one opportunities allowed the solid free throw shooting team to build on its lead heading into the half on top 45-38.

“I don’t care who was playing these guys that was incredible from their end. Yes there are things we could’ve done better defensively but they knocked down everything, every big shot they hit it and they still had their legs. I tip my hat to that performance,” said Vassell.

With only five players on hand GTA was at a major disadvantage especially on the defensive end where the fear of fouling out and making it a five-on-four situation was ever present. It was a reality they wouldn’t have to face as coach Toney McNeil pulled his team off the floor with just under 2:00 to play when Jordan Boin fouled out, handing the ROCK a ticket to the title game.

“We played an intense game, normally we play full court basketball, you know what you’re going to get when you’re playing against the ROCK but we came out flat and I don’t think that we ever really started to play with the intensity that we needed to. It’s just a situation where we just kept going and were able to stick with them even though they were hitting every shot,” said Vassell.

At the start of the game things picked up where their first meeting left off with both sides getting up and down the floor for easy baskets. The back-and-forth affair was apparent with 10 lead changes and four ties in the first quarter alone.

Leading the way for the Venom was the smooth shooting of Nolan Mackenzie who  finished with a team-high 29 points with six 3-pointers in the game.

Finals – REDA Black vs. ROCK Academy

In something straight out of the movies, REDA Black scored a fast break layup as time expired to go ahead 70-68 defeating the ROCK Academy to capture the 2012 NPSAA Championship.

It was a finale fit for a fairy tale —  a miraculous sequence in the final 20 seconds that overshadowed nearly everything that occurred before it.

After the ROCK’s Jalen Griffith made the game-tying free throw on his first attempt from the line he would miss the second, giving REDA the ball with a chance to win the game. As Black looked to setup a last possession shot Tevaughn Stewart came away with a steal and was off in the open floor with a chance to put the ROCK ahead in the dying seconds. In arguably the play of the tournament, Abendego Lufile chased down the speedy guard and in LeBron James like fashion swatted the shot off the backboard. It was hit with so much force the ball came out to the three-point line where Charles Amponsah recovered it and passed ahead to Kashreall Lawrence who finger rolled home the game winner as time expired.

“It couldn’t have worked any better,” said Jesse Tipping REDA Black head coach. “This team from the very beginning when they got put together, that last play describes them they never give up. They put in their everything.”

For those that are interested the first 31:40 weren’t too bad either.
With both teams working in spurts to be effective in the first half, the third quarter was all about trading shots as the six lead changes in the quarter would suggest.

Yet as the quarter came to a close it was the inside play of REDA that would start to widen the gap as their advantage on the offensive glass was beginning to take its toll, clutching to a 52-47 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.

Riding that momentum REDA would extend their lead to double-digits within the first minute of the fourth quarter and looked to be in complete control. Someone forgot to tell Reynolds that however.

The slasher would score 13 of his tournament-high 34 points in the quarter, none bigger than an emphatic one hand slam to tie the game for the first time since midway through the third at 63 with 1:30 left in the game.

That’s what setup the last second drama, this is how it started.
Looking like he was still feeling it from his first two games, Jamal Reynolds picked up where he left off scoring 12-of-20 ROCK Academy first quarter points, as REDA struggled to keep the active forward out of the paint as he continued his assault on the rim to give ROCK a 20-11 lead.

Along with having a tough time on D the No.1 ranked team in the country couldn’t find the mark from the field and if not for frequent trips to the free throw line would be trailing by more after one.

It didn’t take long for REDA to respond as they opened the second quarter locked in on defence holding Reynolds to just a single point and attacked ROCK especially on the offensive glass where they seemed to be the first to every errant shot. In the end REDA would grab 15 offensive rebounds to the ROCKS four.

“That’s how we’re going to win the game. I knew from the very beginning we had to control the rebounds to win the game, they did a great job with that,” said Tipping

A big part of the damage on the glass was Juwan Grannum who’s strong play throughout the tournament earned him the tournament’s MVP award. By controlling the boards and filling up the basket as his team-high 19 points would suggest, the senior forward was integral in capturing the title.

With all the focus turned to the interior the floor began to open up and before the ROCK knew what hit them a 3-point barrage stole the lead away with just under two minutes to play to give REDA a 35-31 lead at the break.

Tournament All-Stars

Throughout the NPSAA Championship weekend a number of players stood out over the three day event. Deciding which athletes made the cut was no easy task but here are the 2012 NPSAA Championship

Tournament All-Stars.
First Team – Juwan Grannum (REDA Black), Jamal Reynolds (ROCK Academy), Nolan Mackenzie (GTA Venom), Rohan Boney (GTA Venom), Shaquille Keith (REDA Red)

Second Team — Kashrell Lawrence (REDA Black), Richard Audu (REDA Black), Jelani Daniels (PHASE 1 Academy), Brandon Burke (Waltham Prep), Justin Jarvis (Metro Prep)

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