Close games at Showcase
With another great showing at Parkland High School on Sunday for the 19th annual Lehigh Valley Hoop Group Showcase, three of the four games were decided by five points or less.
The one that was not that close included one of the area's local teams. In the opening game of the showcase, Bethlehem Catholic ran into a talented Abington Heights team out of District 2.
The Golden Hawks were making their first Hoop Group appearance since 2003, and the big stage may have gotten to the young team as it started off slow.
Becahi (8-8 overall, 5-4 in LVC) played the first quarter without one of its leading scorers in Freddie Simmons, and that didn't help matters. Abington Heights raced out to an 8-0 lead and led 15-6 after the first quarter.
Simmons entered in the second quarter and tallied seven points to help bring his team back into the game, trailing only by five at halftime, 28-23.
But the Comets' two Division I recruits were key to their the second-half run.
Evan Maxwell, a 6-foot-10 center bound for Liberty University, was 8-for-9 from the floor and finished with 18 points. Six of his eight field goals came on dunks.
The real show came from Bucknell recruit J.C. Show. The senior scored 20 straight points for his team during the third quarter when the Comets blew the game wide open with a 20-2 run, and took a 54-33 lead into the final stanza. Show finished with 33 points.
The young Golden Hawks team can still take a lot out of the game.
"We lost by double-digits, but it was still a good experience," said senior guard Jamal Aziz, who finished with 15 points and took home team MVP honors for the game. "We got to see a tough team we never saw before. We just have to come back to practice and work hard and just move on to the next one."
The second game of the showcase certainly lived up to the pregame hype that surrounded the Patrick School (NJ) and Roman Catholic (Philadelphia).
Following a closely-contested first half that saw neither team lead by more than five points, Gemil Holbrook scored 12 consecutive points for Roman Catholic (all coming on three-pointers) in the third quarter to give the Cahillites a 42-32 lead.
But behind one of the best sophomores in the state of New Jersey, the Celtics were able to respond.
Deadlocked in a 54-54 game late in the fourth, Bryce Aiken hit a three-pointer to give the Celtics a 57-54 lead with a minute to play.
Tied at 57, Aiken's name was called again for the game-winning shot. He delivered, driving to the left side and connecting on a layup over Roman Catholic's defense for the go-ahead score.
"I'm confident in myself," Aiken said. "This is what I've worked for. I'll never back down from any shot. I'm definitely for it, and I'm always ready to take that shot. That's what makes it a great play."
Aiken finished with 14 points for the Celtics, while Angel Delgado added 18 points and 16 rebounds. Shep Garner scored 15 points for Roman Catholic, and Rashann London and Holbrook each added 14.
The other local team in the showcase had a much closer game.
It took until overtime, the fifth one of the season for Parkland, but the Trojans were able to take down Gil St. Bernard out of New Jersey, 48-45, in an offensive struggle. The Trojans are 4-1 in overtime games this season.
Parkland (14-2) had to play from the midway mark of the first quarter without starter and leading scorer Nick Rindock. It was a big blow for the Trojans, but the team is deep and other players stepped up.
Fellow senior Justin Zajko, who scored a game-high 20 points, wanted to pull this one out for his classmate.
"Nick is obviously one of our best players, and we all had to step up and hit some big shots," Zajko said. "We stepped up for Nick and were happy to get the win."
Freshman Sam Iorio had given Parkland a 46-45 lead by making one of two at the line with 32.3 seconds left.
Gill St. Bernard's had two good looks at three-point shots at the other end, but missed. Cross, who had a missed assignment when his man, Ian Demarest, hit the game-tying three at the end of regulation, grabbed the rebound and rammed it home to close out the win for the Trojans.
In the final game of the showcase, Wilbraham and Monson (Massachusetts) defeated Westtown, 55-50. Goodluck Okonoboh earned game MVP honors for Wilbraham and Monson with 20 points, while Jared Nickens finished with 24 and earned game MVP honors for Westtown.