By Robert Alfonso Jr.
ARSLEY, NY – Teams descended on House of Sports to secure a spot in the Under Armour Final in Atlanta. Some teams had their tickets punched, while others needed strong performances this weekend to get in.
The top eight teams in each 17U division (16 overall) qualified for the championship bracket, while the top six teams in each of the 16U division (12 overall) advanced to play for a league title. Teams are looking to get crowned on July 15-18, 2015 in Atlanta.
Here is the rundown.
THREE-WAY TIE FOR 17U TOP SPOT
Team Canada, Team CLT and WeR1 all finished with an overall record 9-3. Team Canada, with the addition of Thon Maker, went undefeated in New York. Team CLT’s only lose was to the neighbors in the North, which is why both teams were tied atop of the Humble Division.
WeR1 stumbled out of the gate with its opening lose to the DC Blue Devils on Friday. The Delaware-based organization then proceeded to dismantle most of the competition behind the strong play of Nysier Brooks, Trevon Duval and Quade Green, securing the top spot of the Hungry division.
The balance throughout the UAA circuit is unimaginable. Team Thad, DC Premier, Team Breakdown, Atlanta Xpress, MWA Elite, New Heights, Philly Pride and Illinois Wolves all recorded 8-4 marks.
MCGUSTY AND JACKSON TOP THE STATS
UAA’s overall scoring leader was Kameron McGusty, of the Houston Defenders with 23 points a game. The Seven Lakes High product had three 30-point games in the circuit’s regular season, including back-to-back ones against DC Premier and Team Breakdown.
Josh Jackson, from One Nation, finished the regular season with a double-double. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 19.2 points and 10.4 rebounds, which included regular-season high 41 points in April. His biggest rebounding performances came in New York. He grabbed 14 boards against New Heights on Friday and 15 on Sunday while playing the NY Jayhawks.
VIPERS ATOP OF 16U DIVISION
The Florida Vipers has made its presence felt in its first season as a sponsored organization. After its trip to the Big Apple, the Vipers finished in a three-way tie in the 16U division. It is tied for first with Indy Hoosiers in the Passion Division and New Heights, which played in the Pursuit Division.
The Vipers went 3-1 on the weekend, but not game was bigger than its game against the Atlanta Xpress. Florida beat Atlanta 51-46 but it was not easy.
“This was a blessing,” said a relieved Vipers coach Brandon Mcthay. “They played as best as they could.”
Both teams entered the weekend tied atop of its division. The main reason Mcthay felt blessed in meeting the Xpress was because the Atlanta team was without its main piece MJ Walker. He was back in Atlanta attending his sister’s graduation.
Florida, however, still expected a tough matchup. The Vipers set the tone early with its defense. Raiquan Gray, from Dillard High, established himself inside and helped the Florida organization take a 23-20 lead at halftime.
Atlanta made a second-half adjustment its defense became relentless. The Xpress swarmed all over the place defensively with Elias Harden, Dalvin White and Braylon Sanders. They each pressed the Vipers 94-feet propelling Atlanta to a 36-31 lead midway through the second half.
Despite not having Walker on the trip, the Xpress got a shot of energy from Preston Horne. The 6-foot-4 Tift County High product was relentless on both ends of the floor. He finished above the rim on several plays and a few other times he rejected shots on the defensive end.
Florida did not let this run phase what it wanted to do. The Vipers remained poised and gat back-to-back baskets from Jordan Wright, which gave Florida a 43-42 lead. This is when the wheels fell off the track for the Xpress.
Atlanta failed to take care of the basketball in the last minute to play in the game. Three consecutive turnovers allowed the Vipers to take a 49-42 lead before the final score.
“The last 1:06 in the game was important,” Xpress coach Winfred Jordan said. “You have to value the basketball.”
Gray finished with a team-high 12 points for the Vipers. Horne and Rayshaun Hammonds, from Norcross High, finished with a game-high 14 points. Harden, from Sandy Springs, chipped in with 11 points.