TORONTO,ON–With March Madness kicking off, PHASE 1 and the NPSAA is giving Canadian basketball fans a slice of the action as the inaugural National Prep School Championship tournament is underway at Seneca College’s Newnham Campus.
Eight teams were invited to the three-day tournament and were separated into two pools. Headlining Pool A was the host PHASE 1 Academy, along with fellow NPSAA member REDA, C.I.A. Bounce Academy, and from Durham region, Starting 5 Academy. In Pool B, YAAACE was grouped with Grassroots Academy, New Creation Prep and Next Level Academy.
Over the first two days, teams would participate in three round-robin games, with the top two teams in each pool moving onto the semi-finals and finals to be held on Saturday.
With five games scheduled on day one there was a lot of action to take in.
GAME 1 – REDA vs. C.I.A. Bounce Academy
What better way to open the tournament than with an upset. This is exactly what Bounce Academy did holding off REDA late to win 90-86 in an overtime thriller.
It looked like Bounce was ready to pull away with just five minutes to play in regulation, leading by six, before REDA responded with its second surge of the afternoon.
Led by Brian Rouse, who finished with a team-high 21 points, REDA managed to regain the lead with just 30 seconds to play. Both teams shot free throws to close out the quarter and were knotted up at 75 after 40 minutes-that’s when Malcolm Duvivier woke up.
After scoring 16 points in the first two quarters, the smooth guard had a quiet second half, until opening up overtime with back-to-back jumpers and eventually icing it. Duvivier scored eight of his game-high 32 points in the extra frame.
A young team comprised of mostly sophomores, Bounce showed no signs of being intimidated by the bigger and older REDA squad as they battled valiantly throughout the afternoon.
It was a shock the game even needed extra time as REDA trailed for most of the first half and came out of the gate looking rather flat. Trailing 43-30 at halftime it wasn’t looking good for REDA in the early going as Bounce was able to score off perimeter shooting while REDA struggled to establish its low-post game in the half court.
Regardless, REDA managed to pull itself back into the game with a 15-4 run to open the second half and took its first lead of the game, 47-46, with 5:00 remaining in the third quarter. They would outscore Bounce 31-16 in the quarter and led by two heading into the final period.
In the end, it was the clutch shooting of Dunvivier that would be the difference as Bounce opened up the tournament with a shocker.
GAME 2 – Grass Roots Academy vs. Next Level Prep
It was an ultimate game of runs in the second matchup of the day, as Grass Roots Academy and Next Level Prep flip-flopped leads.
Yet, in the end, the team that went on the last run was Grass Roots, holding on for the 100-92 victory.
Up by 12 heading into the final frame, it appeared Grass Roots was in complete control of the contest, as they had led by double-digits throughout the second half. Yet foul trouble to star forward Nik Stauskas, who finished with a game-high 30 points, forced the high scorer to the bench and that’s when Next Level made its final run.
Despite trailing 85-79 with just under six minutes to play, Next Level cut into the lead by handing the ball to Theon Reefer who scored 11 points to bring his team within three points, down 93-90 with 2:23 to play. But it was too little, too late for Next Level, as Staukas hit one of his five three pointers to put the game out of reach.
The runs for both teams started right off the opening tip, as Grass Roots opened an 8-0 lead only to be answered by Next Level’s 7-0 run to get back in the game. Keeping Next Level in it for most of the first half was the hot shooting of Ryan Augustine who hit three triples en route to a team-high 21 points.
Though undersized for the most part, Grass Roots made its mark attacking the basket and dishing to open shooters when the defence broke down. It was a large part of why the young squad took a 48-37 edge into the locker room at half, with standout Andrew Wiggins providing eight points off the bench.
Grass Roots would maintain a double-digit advantage for the entire third quarter up until the late surge from Next Level.
GAME 3 – PHASE 1 vs. Starting 5 Academy
With two comebacks falling short to open the competition, unheralded PHASE 1 would provide the first successful comeback of the tournament in its 76-65 decision over Durham region’s Starting 5 Academy.
In what can only be regarded as the biggest shocker of the day, the young PHASE 1 side was carried to victory by Johneil Simpson’s massive fourth quarter, scoring 15 of his game-high 25 points in the final frame.
It seemed momentum had carried over from the third quarter as PHASE 1’s defence cut into a double-digit lead and brought the game to within six heading into the fourth. It was that same defensive intensity that spurred most of the comeback as Starting 5 was held to just 10 points in the final 10 minutes of action.
A game it trailed since the second quarter, PHASE 1 didn’t regain the lead until there was only 3:24 remaining, with Simpson hitting floaters in the lane to take a 60-59 lead -from this point on, PHASE 1 never looked back.
Exploiting each other’s inability to shoot the outside jumper with any efficiency, it was Starting 5 who benefitted as they got points off turnovers, scoring in transition while PHASE 1 struggled to get the ball into big man Raviel Burton who had 10 first quarter points.
Leading 41-34 at the half, Starting 5 opened the third looking to demoralize PHASE 1, going on a 6-0 run. The deficit would be pushed to double-digits just before PHASE 1 went on a 33-12 run to close out the game and secure the W.
Leon Alexander and Damion Rashford finished with 18 points apiece to lead Starting 5.
GAME 4 – YAAACE vs. New Creation Prep
The length and athleticism of YAAACE was too much to handle for New Creation Prep who fell 75-66 to coach Devon Thompson’s team.
It was far from an aesthetically pleasing affair as both teams committed well over 20 turnovers. Despite the sloppy play, it was YAAACE’s defence in the fourth quarter that would be the difference, holding New Creation to a measly 11 points in the final frame.
Possessing a sizable advantage on the inside, it took 30 minutes before YAAACE realized its success would come by exploiting their noticeable strength on the interior. Once the guards bought into penetrating and attacking the rim as opposed to settling for outside jumpers, New Creation was dominated.
Though a lacklustre finish is what remains fresh in most observers’ minds, it was a back-and-forth contest for the first three quarters, as the game was tied at 55 heading into the final 10 minutes.
It seemed neither team truly ever wanted the ball, consistently turning over the rock for a helter-skelter brand of basketball that was sometimes difficult to watch.
In the first quarter the two teams combined to score only 26 points, as both teams had only a single field goal after six minutes of play. The following Q would be no better as YAAACE came away with over 10 steals to take a slight one-point edge into the half 35-34.
Leading all scorers was Emmanuel Ajayi with 15 points, while Chase Campbell and Marshall Bennett each had 13 points to lead New Creation.
GAME 5 REDA vs. Starting 5 Academy
Both teams entered the final game of opening day in desperate need of a win if they had any hopes of playing on Saturday, and only one would come away victorious.
With a sense of urgency fueling the team, REDA came away with the only blowout of the first day of action convincingly handing Starting 5 Academy a 93-78 loss.
It was never really close as REDA led by double-digits for most of the game. Even when Starting 5 managed to bring the game to within nine points in the final quarter on two occasions they were always met with a response from REDA.
The final blow came from Brian Rouse, who finished with a game-high 19 points, including a “posterization” causing the gym to erupt while demoralizing Starting 5’s hopes of a miracle comeback.
Unlike its first showing in the tournament, REDA was able to establish its size down low and got good production from its big man tandem of Meshack Lufile and Nic Yantzi. Along with getting meaningful minutes from the bigs, REDA’s defence was a large part of the success, holding Starting 5 to 11 first quarter points and under 30 in the first half, leading 44-29 heading into the break.
Though there was still plenty of time remaining in the third, it appeared Starting 5 had been deflated from its forgettable start and was out of sorts on both ends of the court, conceding defeat.
Leading the way for New Creation was Damion Rashford who finished with 16 points.
Collecting the win keeps REDA’s hopes of playing for the title on Saturday alive, while Starting 5 will most likely find itself on the outside looking in unless it can win its next contest by a large margin and get some help from other clubs along the way.
For the full schedule, Visit the NPSAA website!