Tag Archives: Chris Kelly

No. 1 McEachern captures third-place at City of Palms Classic

Contributed by Chris Kelly   (@C_KELLY99)

No. 1 McEachern 56, Simeon (IL) 54

No. 1 McEachern lost a tough game against eventual champion University School (FL) on Friday but the Indians looked to defeat Simeon (IL) to capture third place in the City of Palms on Saturday. Simeon is a storied basketball program from the south side of Chicago who has produced a number of elite NBA players, such as Derrick Rose, Jahlil Okafor, Anthony Davis, and Nick Anderson to name just a few. Simeon, led by longtime coach Rob Smith, is always a top-notch basketball team looking to give any team a tough matchup. They played the consensus number one team in the nation, Memphis East (TN), and gave the Mustangs a game that went down to the wire. The Wolverines, led by versatile, senior wing Talen Horton-Tucker, looked to get some revenge and beat McEachern to end their trip to Florida with a third-place trophy.

The first quarter started with a slow offensive showing. Coach Mike Thompson dug into his bench early and put guards Alyn Breed and Devin Gordon onto the floor. The two juniors gave a stagnant McEachern offense some life and played with some energy. On the other end, Simeon guard KeJuan Clements controlled the pace of the game and finished well when he got into the lane. McEachern’s defense was great in the first quarter, holding the Wolverines to just 13.

The second quarter remained rather consistent with the first. Coach Thompson continued to utilize his bench. Guard Quinton McElroy got on to the floor as well to provide some fresh legs. Simeon, who lacked much size, couldn’t keep big men Babatunde Akingbola and Jared Jones off the boards. The two big men were swatting shots constantly and pulling down rebounds over the much smaller Simeon guards.

While the Wolverines lacked size, they made up for it with speed and intangibles. They were a blur in the open court and were able to adjust their defensive scheme to limit Jones’ and Akingbola’s offensive production. While Simeon was able to contain the big men, they struggled to guard the wings. Isaac Okoro and Sharife Cooper both put up good numbers in the first half, combing for 27 points. Cooper hit a few threes and had some great assists to his teammates, while Okoro got to the rim and finished over the small Simeon players. At the half, McEachern was up 35-30.

To start the second half, Okoro hit a jump shot from the right wing, but then the Wolverines blitzed the Indians and put up points in a hurry. Simeon went on a huge run fueled by guard Xavier Pinson and do-it-all wing Talen Horton-Tucker. Pinson, a senior guard, came off the bench for Coach Smith and provided a huge spark. The bouncy guard finished well above the rim and helped facilitate the ball to his open teammates. Horton-Tucker did everything on the offensive end from posting up to running pick-and-rolls.

After the initial offensive burst, the Indians settled in and Okoro started the heat up. He put constant pressure on the interior defense and got to the free throw line. He finished with seven points in the quarter and the Indians had an 8-point lead entering the fourth.

About a minute into the final quarter, Cooper picked up his fourth foul. Coach Thompson chose to keep him in and trust his savvy, young guard. Pinson continued to attack for Simeon until big man Jared Jones stepped in front of a driving Pinson and took a charge. This resulted in Pinson’s fifth and final foul as he had the watch the remainder of the game from the bench.

Simeon continued their game plan without Pinson and saw Drake-commit Messiah Jones step up. He hit some open shots to give the Wolverines a little momentum. Jones, who played out of position the entire tournament, had to battle with the posts down low.

As the game almost came to a close, Simeon fouled Okoro. He went to the line and he knocked down two free throws. The Wolverines rushed down the floor to get a shot but turned the ball over to Cooper with about 16 seconds left. Guard Devin Gordon missed the first of his two free throws but made the second one.

Simeon came down the floor and cleared out for Horton-Tucker. He got to the rim with ease but his layup rolled out.

With two and a half seconds left and the ball under the hoop, Coach Smith drew up a great screen-the-screener play for Clements, using Horton-Tucker as a decoy, and Okoro lost his man. However, Clements wasn’t able to finish the layup, the Indians surviving 56-54.

McEachern finished their first City of Palms appearance in 3rd place. The young team, according to Vice President of the tournament Donnie Wilkie, will be returning in 2018 and have a huge opportunity to develop over the summer and potentially win the entire tournament next year.

Chris’ Takeaways

Sharife Cooper is going to attract some national attention soon. The sophomore guard had a terrific run at the City of Palms including a 42-point outing against 5-star senior Jahvon Quinerly. 42 points is a record by any Georgia player at the City of Palms Classic. Considering some of the Georgians that have played in the tournament, MJ Walker, Collin Sexton, Lou Williams, Kobe Simmons and Malik Beasley to name a few, this is a huge accomplishment. Cooper’s play earned him a spot on the All-Tournament team, alongside some elite company.

Xavier Pinson is still a great available guard for any low or mid-major college. After decommitting from Kent State, the senior blew up on the AAU circuit. Pinson holds a handful of offers from smaller colleges, such as George Mason, Buffalo and Evansville. He is bouncy and is fearless attacking the rim and has a good-looking jump shot. Against Memphis East (TN), Pinson attacked the rim constantly and almost dunked over 7-footer, top recruit in the nation James Wiseman. No matter who’s in the middle, Pinson looks to rise up and slam it on them.

McEachern’s offense will need to improve before the playoffs start. While the Indians will not face a team that has anywhere near the talent that University (FL), Simeon, or Hudson Catholic (NJ), had, they will still face some tough teams in Class AAAAAAA. Against the last three teams McEachern faced in the City of Palms, their offense looked stagnant and struggled at times. Their first game against Ranney (NJ), McEachern’s offense looked smooth and efficient. The Indians only shot the ball 31 times against Simeon and had 21 team turnovers.

Top Performers

Isaac Okoro – 22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Sharife Cooper – 19 points (5-5 FG), 4 rebounds, 5 assists

Simeon (IL)
Talen Horton-Tucker – 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Xavier Pinson – 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Messiah Jones – 10 points, 10 rebounds

Tye Fagan rallies No. 1 Upson-Lee to 44th straight win and City of Palms Signature Series Championship

Contributed by Chris Kelly   (@C_KELLY99)

No. 1 Upson-Lee 73, Corbin (KY) 71

Last Friday night had both Georgia teams playing in the City of Palms. The first of the two games was for the championship of the Small-Town Signature Series between No. 1 Upson-Lee and Corbin (KY). The Knights had a huge challenge having to guard Furman bound Andrew Taylor. Going into the City of Palms, Taylor was averaging just under 30 points per game and his first game in the tournament, he had an efficient 36.

The game started with Corbin winning the tip and immediately giving it to Taylor. Taylor, like throughout much of the game, was able to get to the rim easily or knock down outside jumpers. On the other end, The Knights were aggressive early and played downhill. Tye Fagan, who looked much better this game, came out attacking and was able to get going early.

To start the second quarter, the Red Hounds knocked down threes at an extremely high rate. They would space the floor and clear out for Taylor to get into the lane. He then would find his shooters who couldn’t miss. The Knights had a tough time closing out on shooters and Corbin made them pay. Fagan and big man Travon Walker did their part to keep the Knights afloat. Fagan was scoring consistently and Walker pulled down any rebound near him. At the half, the Red Hounds were up 42-29.

To start the second half, Fagan turned it up a notch. Corbin couldn’t stay in front of him and he was making plays for himself and his teammates. The Red Hounds, who lacked size, couldn’t defend Walker inside. Walker, who finished with 21 rebounds, had his way down low, moving much smaller players around. Upson-Lee’s defense was outstanding in the third quarter.

At the beginning of the final quarter, Fagan and Zyrice Scott started to knock down some threes. The Knights opened with an 11-2 run to get themselves back into the game. The Red Hounds appeared a little tired and the Knights attacked. Coach Darrell Lockhart made the decision to press Corbin, but ended up sending the Red Hounds to the line frequently. This may have actually been a blessing in disguise for Upson-Lee because the Red Hounds had a subpar shooting percentage from the free throw line and the clock was stopped.

As Corbin continued missing free throws, Fagan was scoring from everywhere. Scott also served as a great sidekick in the fourth quarter, knocking down his open looks. With about a minute left, both teams had scored 69 and the Knights had the ball. Fagan knocked down a mid-range shot and then Taylor quickly got a layup on the other end.

With the score tied at 71, the Knights held the ball for the last shot. Fagan drove baseline but was met with baseline help. This left big man JaCorey Smith wide open near the hoop and Fagan found him. Smith laid the ball in right before the buzzer and the Knights added another win to their record by a score of 73-71.

Chris’ Takeaways

Tye Fagan is one of the most well-rounded players in Georgia. This game marked just the third time I have watched the Middle Tennessee State-signee in action and I wasn’t blown away the first two times. This game I finally saw what everyone was talking about. Fagan can score from all three levels rather well and can even put his back to the basket and find ways to score. He’s a tough guard than can rise up amongst the trees and grab boards as well, something a lot of guards don’t do nowadays.

Andrew Taylor is a steal for Furman. Taylor is a high-scoring guard that does his scoring very efficiently. In the first game of the tournament, Taylor dropped 36 points on 10-of-15 shooting and followed that up with a 26-point game on 9-of-17 shooting. He can take defenders off the dribble and find his shooters with ease. He is sneaky athletic and also gets to the free throw line at an exceptional rate. Through two games he shot 26 free throws and made 20.

Travon Walker is an extremely good basketball player, even though he’s a football player. After some research, I learned that, while an exceptional basketball player, Walker is a four-star defensive end with high major, SEC offers. This leads me to wonder how good would Walker be if he was only a basketball player? With great hands, soft touch around the rim, and great timing for jumping, Walker already has the tools to be a college basketball player. He pulled down 21 rebounds against Corbin, which puts himself on the all-time leaderboard for rebounds in tournament history.  If Walker were only a basketball player, he’d have more time to work on his rough areas and solidify himself as a D-1 recruit on the hardwood. But with Alabama and Florida State offers, to just name a few, I would say Walker has made the right decision to focus on football.

Top Performers

Tye Fagan – 34 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Travon Walker – 12 points, 21 rebounds

Corbin (KY)
Andrew Taylor – 26 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Chandler Stewart – 22 points (6-9 3PT)

No. 1 McEachern dominates on national stage at City of Palms

Contributed by Chris Kelly   (@C_KELLY99)

No. 1 McEachern 77, Ranney School (NJ) 57

No. 1 McEachern (7-0) entered their first City of Palms game against the Ranney School (NJ) as the nightcap on Monday. McEachern and Coach Mike Thompson knew they were going to have their hands full with 5-star wings Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis. Both wings are highly touted prospects with a handful of offers from high-major schools. The game tipped off with a total of nine juniors and a sophomore starting between the two teams. It started out as a fast pace matchup with Sharife Cooper and Isaac Okoro finishing strong at the rim. On the other end, McEachern came out in man-to-man with the long Brandon Suggs guarding Lewis, the No. 6 ranked player in 2019, and Okoro picking up Antoine, the No. 7 player in 2019. As the quarter closed out, Cooper put up a long two, looking for a foul and made it to give McEachern a four-point lead.

The second quarter began with the Indians going on a small run. McEachern’s size inside, mainly Jared Jones and Babatunde Akingbola, became a big problem for the much smaller Ranney School. The two bigs made their presence felt by continually crashing the boards and swatting shots. Towards the middle of the quarter, Cooper floated a perfect pass to Akingbola who rose up and dunked all over Lewis.

McEachern closed out the half with a string of great defensive stances and Ranney School head coach Tahj Holden getting a technical foul. At the half, McEachern was up 42-19.

The third quarter opened up with the Ranney School sparking a brief run. Lewis got his first points off of a beautiful crossover and three. Antoine got to the free throw line a few times and both the standouts found guards Ahmadu Sarnor and Alex Klatsky for easy buckets. McEachern responded with a run of their own, fueled by Cooper’s ability to penetrate and find players on the wing. Big men Jones and Akingbola both showed their versatility by knocking down some outside shots. Lewis left part way through the third quarter with what looked like a very gross, dislocated pinky finger but quickly came back and started to make his presence felt a bit. He hit a few jump shots and did a great job finding shooters open on the wing. McEachern still closed out the quarter by a wide scoring margin and began to pull away.

The fourth quarter started with the Ranney School losing one of their more consistent players, Sornar, to fouls and McEachern capitalized on it. Cooper turned it up a notch and got into the paint at will, finishing well with both hands. McEachern’s bench came in to give their starters a rest and provided the same level of production and consistency. Juniors Alyn Breed, Quinton McElroy and Devin Gordon were the main contributors from the bench and provided little drop off in production from the starters. As the quarter went on, the lead never dwindled and McEachern kept their foot on the gas. Towards the end of the game, both squads put in their reserve players and Lewis finished with a few big time plays, including a spin move and huge dunk.

McEachern won by 20 with the final score being 77-57. The Indians displayed their dominance on a national stage at the City of Palms. The young, Georgia team has a very tough match-up Wednesday morning against the No. 8 ranked team in the nation, Hudson Catholic (NJ). The second New Jersey squad the Indians will play, are led by a senior core consisting of Ohio State-commit Luther Muhammad, Oregon-commit Louis King, and recent Arizona-decommit Jahvon Quinerly. The game tips off at 11 AM.

Chris’ Takeaways

Sharife Cooper was one of, if not, the best player on the floor. Cooper was extremely poised and made great decisions for his team, something you do not normally see from a sophomore. He got into the paint with ease and was able to find teammates to kick the ball out to.

McEachern’s defense is the real deal. The Indians held a very good Ranney School team to just 19 points in the first half and finished with only 58, with most of those second half points coming at the end of the game. Brandon Suggs and Isaac Okoro did a great job containing Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine. The two wings combined for thirty-two points on a subpar 33% shooting.

Beating McEachern come playoff time will be no easy feat. The Indians, despite being young, limit their mistakes and played under control. McEachern is also such a deep team. Coach Thompson’s team has very little drop off in production when the second unit comes in the game.

Top Performers

Sharife Cooper – 21 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
Isaac Okoro – 15 points, 5 rebounds
Jared Jones – 16 points (6-9 FG) 7 rebounds

Ranney School
Bryan Antoine – 20 points
Scottie Lewis – 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists