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PITTSBURGH, PA — Grassroots Canada is a perennial power on the AAU circuit, and this year proved to be no different. The 16U team captured a Platinum bracket championship at the Pittsburgh Jam fest to continue the tradition with a 71-54 win over Team Jersey Elite (NJ). The program was victorious in the 14U age group which also won a title.
“It basically just shows that we’re still doing what we do. There’s a lot of other teams out there that are coming up but it shows we’re still a little ahead of the game and we win Championships” explained Head Coach, Ro Russell.
“This is our 4th and 5th Championships (referring to the 14U team) in the hoop group jam fest so far, so it kind of solidifies us as a leader in AAU in Canada. Having all these younger groups come up let’s people know that we’re here to stay,” continued Russell.
Throughout this tournament, there was never a clear indication of what team would prevail. Grassroots, like many other teams, had an up and down journey before making it to Sunday where a fortunate few would battle it out for a spot in the finals. One factor to keep in mind is that most personnel on this team are playing together for the first time. New faces included 2013 Henry Tan, 2013 Jamal Reynolds and 2014 Anthony Pate.
In the championship game the opponents came out with a run and gun offense that was answered back with equally high pace basketball by Kaza Keane and company. Keane and Peter Rusic combined for 60% shooting from 3-point land (3-5). However, it was a back and forth game until Grassroots was able to pull away by 5 and take a 37-32 lead going into halftime.
From the start of the second half there was a sense of optimism from the poise and sense of assurance that was reflected by the control that Grassroots had over the tempo of the game. Mikyle McIntoch, who had been fairly calm on day 2 of the tournament for his standards, came out big for when they needed him. McIntoch threw down a big one-handed hammer jam that would be a part of his 13 points in the game and give the boys a big boost in energy. McIntosh added 13 rebounds and 6 swats. A couple of possessions later McIntoch puts his defender in spin cycle and turns his move into a 3 point play as he makes the difficult bucket while absorbing the contact.
Henry Tan was top of the line in terms of impact players throughout this weekend, as he played big minutes while limiting turnovers and playing ferocious defense alongside Keane. The two complimented each other’s game beautifully since they can both handle the rock and score. In the finals, this gave Grassroots more options offensively; when the ball was in Tan’s hands it forced Team Jersey Elite to stretch their defense to the perimeter, where Keane and Rusic were ready to pull and both have the ability to attack the gaps.
Keane expresses his trust in Tan, “When he gets the ball I feel confident. There are certain players you’re never fully confident with when the ball is in their hands, but with Henry I could trust him. Also, he’s a great leader, he’s a silent assassin. He’s quite but you know he’s going to get the job done”.
Furthermore, the key substitution in this game was the addition of Jamal Reynolds into the lineup. He led all scorers with 16 points and contributed with a tremendous effort while grabbing a ton of boards. Tan and Rusic finished with 14 points each.
Stay tuned for more NPH Coverage on the Pitt Jam Fest!