Despite the wide range of out-of-state talent that has set foot on the hardwood of all of the locations of the iS8/Nike spring and fall tournaments, arguably, the most perennially talented program would have to be that of the metropolitan-area team New Jersey Playaz Club.
On Saturday, at the home stage of the iS8/Nike Spring High School Classic in Jamaica, N.Y., the Playaz Club upheld its reputation of bringing in some of the tourney's toughest competition at all levels. The New Jersey-based squad nearly swept the six games its program was scheduled to play in - two matchups a piece for its senior, junior and sophomore classes - finishing with five wins and only one loss.
The Playaz inflicted losses to many local squads, whether it was through a blow-out or a close-call. However, it was another out-of-state team that would rival the Playaz so well that it served the program its first and only loss of the day.
Let's take a look at some of the Playaz' New York action, as well as its one defeat.
Playaz (Juniors) Trump NYC Phoenix, 71-67
At first glance, spectators were able to see the noticeable size advantage that junior point forward Kyle Anderson had over the competition. The big man with a soft touch was the go-to player for interior defense with rebounds and deflections. Aiding with a strong wave of scoring was Myles Davis (game-high 23 points).
Despite this nice package, Playaz saw a small five-point lead early in the first quarter get swallowed up by the perimeter and interior offense of NYC Phoenix threats Terrel Phelps (12 points) and Luke Cohen (14 points). By the close of the primary period, Phoenix was leading by three points, 20-17.
Still, being one of the classes of a powerhouse program, the Playaz (Juniors) tied the game on a trey from Davis and earned a lead of as much as eight points, 39-31, by halftime.
In the third quarter, the Playaz Club (Juniors) were able to extend its lead to as much as 12 points a few times - the last time with under a minute left in the period when the score was 50-38 on an and-1 completion by Vance Matthews (four points). Anderson stepped up his point production from four points in the first stanza and tacked on more in the tertiary quarter. He attacked the glass, drew fouls and made them count at the charity stripe, helping to keep NYC Phoenix offensively at bay and defensively tentative.
Anderson finished with 16 points.
With the hard work of Ibraheem Shamseldin (five points) on back-to-back possessions, NYCPhoenx used the last few seconds of the third to get its point deficit down to only five points, 50-45, before the start of the fourth quarter.
The high-energy fourth quarter saw many ties and about just as many lead changes. Anderson and Davis continued to grind out some clutch baskets, including a nerves-of-steel drained 3-pointer by Davis with 1:15 left in the contest to tie the game at 67. And, with 40 seconds remaining, Anderson followed it up with a putback to give the Playaz a lead it would not release.
Davis would seal the deal with a quick lay-in to the rack off a Phoenix turnover.
Playaz (Juniors) Win the Battle of Bunky Reid, 83-75
The Bunky Reid All-Stars brought its usual fire to the contest with Playaz (Juniors), never extinguishing its flame throughout the entire 32-minute stretch. In fact, both squads were neck-and-neck until the final moments of the game, when it came down to the intensity of Playaz' Savon Goodman (26 points) in the paint.
In a contest that saw blood and sweat, Bunky Reid created a very physical game for the Playaz - an atmosphere to which the Juniors were able to quickly adjust. Despite a brief stint by the Playaz Club, the Long Island, N.Y.-based Bunk Reid led for the majority of the first half, albeit a one or two-possession advantage. This was due, in large part, to Marist-bound Chavaughn Lewis' (team-high 25 points) combo-guard skills and early buckets from Paris Abrams (18 points).
Still, Bunky Reid could not pull away too far because Myles Davis (game-high 29 points) was letting his shots fall without any restraint. Neither team was afraid to take it inside and, at the same time, neither team was afraid to enforce an intense defensive swarm over the competition.
By halftime, Playaz (Juniors) regained the advantage, leading 46-44 after six consecutive points by Goodman in 30 seconds.
Although Bunky Reid tied the game in the third quarter, Playaz was able to take back the lead and extend its advantage to seven points, 58-51. Bunky Reid sprang back into action and led the Playaz by as much as six points, 64-58, on a bucket by Lewis.
Bunky Reid and Playaz fought between ties and one-possession leads in the fourth quarter. With less than six minutes left in the period, Bunky Reid's Charles McCann (12 points) knotted the contest at 71on a 1-of-2 from the charity stripe. But, Playaz shot back out in front of the competition, 73-71.
However, the X-factor became Goodman, who took over the final 2:15 of the game. Goodman would seemingly, single-handedly maintain the contest in favor of the Playaz, vying for boards and scoring on consecutive baskets.
Team Phili Goes Hard on Playaz (Sophs), 85-80
Team Phili showed much interior strength against Playaz (Sophs), who were coming off a win against Team Underrated in the morning matchup. Despite trailing from down for the majority of the first half, the youngest Playaz class of the iS8 hung with the longer and stronger Philadelphia, Pa. squad.
Led by the rebounding and scoring efforts of Malik Garner[ (20 points, 13 in the first half) and Ameen Tanksley (20 points, 11 points in the first half), Team Phili held as much as a 13-point advantage, 39-26, over the Playaz (Sophs) with about two minutes left in the second quarter.
The New Jersey team was still in a double-digit hole by the break, 41-30. Playaz' Jared Hall (game-high 28 points) helped break the deficit in pieces by scoring in bunches. Teammate Reggie Cameron (20 points, including six 3-pointers) helped slice the deficit with some perimeter scoring. With the second wind of the Playaz, the game was tied at 49.
Although Team Phili would regain the advantage, the Pennsylvania team would never garner a double-digit advantage again. Instead, Playaz Club (Sophs) stayed close enough to tie the game a few times - the last time being at about the 1:30 mark of the fourth quarter when the score was knotted at 78. However, the run would be short-lived as a clutch 3-pointer by Garner and a handful of questionable calls down the stretch left the Sophs on the losing end of the out-of-state challenge and the Playaz program one 'W' short of a full sweep at the iS8 on Saturday.
IN OTHER NEWS
• Despite losing to Team Phili (2-0) in its second matchup of the day, Playaz (Sophs) pulled out a 64-55 win over a relentless Team Underrated (0-4). Playaz Club (Sophs) now hold a 2-1 standing in the East division.
• After defeating both NYC Phoenix (0-4) and Bunky Reid (2-2), Playaz Club (Juniors) is now 2-0 in the West division.
• Playaz Club (Seniors), which is now 2-0 in the Southeast division, trounced both of its opponents - Malik Sealy All-Stars (1-3) and Team Buckets (2-1) - in the squad's first outing at the iS8/Nike for the pool-play portion of the Classic. Most notably, in the Playaz' first matchup, the New Jersey team, led by Rutgers-bound Myles Mack, tore through the Malik Sealy All-Stars so badly that a mercy rule had to be enforced in the game. This resulted in the contest ending at the close of the third quarter. Playaz (Seniors), without having to play a fourth quarter, trounced the competition 77-28.