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July 27, 2007

Las Vegas: Day Five

LAS VEGAS - The champions have been crowned in Sin City and the three tournaments are in the books.

Celtics strike Vegas luck

The Atlanta Celtics are on a red-eye flight back home to the Peach State and unlike so many passengers that leave Sin City on the late night trip, these kids are elated.

After four unsuccessful tries against Pump N Run from California, the Celtics finally got over the hump with a 75-64 win to claim the 17 and under title at the adidas Super 64.

As it has been all week, the Celtics used great balance and relied on their size to prevail over the guard-based club from California.

The Celtics relied on the warrior-like play of forward Delwan Graham of Dunwoody High School. The future four-star forward was outstanding and should have earned tournament most valuable player after his 20 point (9-14 FG) and 10 rebound performance.

Graham is one of the most intense players in the country and he clearly sets the tone for the level of play for the Celtics. Throw any concerns about his height (6-6) and his average skill set away from the basket. Simply put, the kid produces and wins basketball games.

"This was great for our team," Graham said. "We've been together for a long time and have gone through some battles together."

Teammate Derrick Favors said Graham sets the bar high for the rest of the Celtics.

"He's our sparkplug," Favors said. "He puts his heart into it. He gets us all going. You have to play hard with Delwan. You almost don't have a choice."

Favors certainly took notice and was the beneficiary of Graham's aggressiveness around the cup. The five-star class of 2009 big man scored 17 points (8-10 FG) and worked the boards for eight rebounds. There wasn't a more polished offensive big man on the floor on Thursday afternoon than Favors. He had a tremendous week in Vegas and certainly cemented himself as one of the top overall players in Sin City this week with his stellar play.

Gluing Graham and Favors together nicely was Chris Singleton, who had the most efficient game on the floor in the championship game. Singleton, who will rise in the next set of rankings, had a gem of a game of 11 points (4-5 FG), eight rebounds and seven assists.

Fluid with the ball and dead eye with his passes, Singleton showed off his versatility that he's capable of doing.

"I think we just wanted it so bad. We had to come out and play like that," Singleton said. "I didn't want them to score. We wanted too badly. We all talked about winning it all last night at the hotel and we knew what we had to do. We've played them four times before and lost to them each time. That wasn't going to happen again."

Point guard Andre Cornelius put in nine points in the victory for the Celtics while 2009 wing Noel Johnson nine points as well. Guard Pierre Jordan did a find job as a defender as well in the backcourt for the Celtics.

Part of the Celtics success was keeping Jrue Holiday out of the lane and spreading the ball around to his talented teammates. The UCLA bound guard didn't attack the Celtics frontline at all until the game was already in the Celtics control.

The five-star guard was a cold one for seven from three and two for nine overall in the game. He finished with a rather un-eventful eight points, four rebounds and two assists.

Despite Holiday's struggles, the Pump team had a good showing from guards Jerime Anderson and Larry Drew.

Anderson, a UCLA commitment, scored 14 points and four assists in the defeat. There is something about Anderson's game that is different than most floor generals in the class of 2008. He's confident with his body of work and smart while controlling the game. It's not surprise why the SoCal locals love his long term potential.

Drew was equally of effective in the backcourt. He was hot from the perimeter, scoring on four three-pointers en route to his 15 points. It was a good showing for the North Carolina bound guard.

Belmont Shore takes Reebok Summer Championship

Brandon Jennings fought through a tough shooting night to hit two critical three-pointers down the stretch to give Belmont Shore a 78-73 overtime win over Team Breakdown. The most critical was a buzzer beater to send the game into overtime off a backcourt inbound with 6.6 seconds remaining.

On the game, Jennings scored 23 points on five of 18 shooting, two of eight from the arc and 11 of 11 from the line. Jennings also grabbed a team high eight rebounds and dished out seven assists to three turnovers.

The offensive story of the game for Belmont Shore , however, was Team Breakdowns strategy of making Leonard Washington beat them from the outside. Despite the baggage of having started two altercations during the event, Washington knocked down ten of 16 shots for a game high 25 points. Those points came on jumpers from the high post and some quick drives on the baseline.

Renaldo Woolridge took advantage of a favorable match up against the shorter Zach Bailey and posted him up for13 points on six of eight shooting.

Coming through with some clutch free throw shooting, J.P. Olukemi played an integral part in Belmont Shore win. Over the game the physical driver made seven of 12 free throws and grabbed six rebounds.

In a losing cause, 2009 five-star prospect Kenny Boynton had a huge first half in a 21 point effort where he only hit six of 18 shots. Brandon Knight, an elite 2010 prospect, defended Jennings well while also scoring 13 points in the game and delivering a team high five assists.

The player of the game for Team Breakdown, however, was Eloy Vargas with his inspired play on the boards and creative offensive game. With eight defensive and nine offensive boards, Vargas finished with 17 rebounds to go along with 21 points on nine of 15 shooting, including a made three-pointer on his only attempt.

Gauchos strike again

The New York Gauchos claimed another major tournament as they knocked out Team Texas in the championship of the Main Event, 101-86.

The summer has been good to the Gauchos as they went undefeated in June and July. The team won the Peach Jam earlier in the month.



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