Key Hoops, Run N’ Dunk Claim CNIT Gold
The CNIT national championships were on the line today in the 14U to 17U divisions, and the multitude of high level NCAA coaches, Basketball Canada representatives, and fans in attendance were treated to a show.
First matchup of the night pitted UPLAY’s 15U team taking on Key Hoops in the 16U final. Despite playing a year up, and their star Point Guard C/O 2022 Ryan Nembhard playing two years up, this UPLAY team had been impressing scouts all tournament with their athletic finishes at the rim, and impressive energy on defence. Key Hoops came into this one being led by their breakout prospect of the summer C/O 2020 guard Brandyn Talbot, who led his team in scoring on their way to the finals.
Both teams loved to run, and did just that as the game began, but it was Key Hoops that held a slight advantage at the half. They would continue to hold a lead that stretched out to 49-41 with just three minutes remaining in the game.
Uplay wasn’t finished just yet, however, as Nembhard knocked down a huge transition three to make it 53-52 Key Hoops with just 4.4 seconds left. The drama would only get more intense as Jordan Persad missed one of his two free throws the following possession, making it 54-52 with 3.4 seconds remaining. On the following possession however, it would be Key Hoops forcing a turnover as time ran out, giving them the 16U national championship in the process. Malik Pottinger led Key Hoops with 13 points and 4 rebounds in the win, while Nembhard finished with 18 points for UPLAY.
The second championship of the day pitted Eastern Elite against Run N’ Dunk Academy. Both teams had a difficult road to the championship, but persevered and at the same time gained a ton of respect from both their opponents and the college coaches and scouts in attendance. Tommy Pendergast led the way for Eastern in the semis in their win over the Mississauga Monarchs with 12 points and 2 rebounds, while C/O 2019 Kevin Evbagharu had 17 points for Run N’ Dunk in their win over Grassroots in the semis.
Run N’ Dunk got off to a hot 10-2 start in this one, but regardless Eastern Elite were able to find their footing near the end of the first half from beyond the arc and trailed 23-16 at halftime. Eastern would continue that momentum swing at the start of the second half, tying the game up at 25, forcing a Run N’ Dunk timeout with 16:42 to go.
It would remain a tight contest until the final minute, when Nick Ougeude managed to grab an offensive rebound and huge put back that had Run N’ Dunk up 51-46 with 30 seconds to go. Ougeude would then proceed to record a huge block down on the other end that sent the ball careening to the other side of the court with just over 20 seconds remaining, sealing the title for Run N’ Dunk Academy by a final of 52-46.
The 14U finals pitted two powerhouse programs Canada Elite and UPLAY Blue, with the national title and bragging rights on the line. Dylan Kalambay and Andrew Robinson had been a deadly one-two punch for Canada Elite all tournament, while Autrey Dawkins and Caleb Atewe were major factors for UPLAY’s finals appearance.
As expected between two heavyweights, the first half had no shortages of back and forth action, with both teams showing off some intense defence, resulting in multiple foul line trips. Canada Elite would hold the 27-21 lead at the half after going on a quick 6-0 run to end it.
The back and forth battle would pick up right where it left off in the second half, with both teams tied at 40 going into the final three minutes. Then, David Ononiwu would record a huge steal in the paint off of Robinson, before a transition bucket by UPLAY would make it 46-40 with two minutes remaining. UPLAY would seal it on a Josiah Davis and one with 20 seconds to go and give them the 2018 14U national title by a final of 51-44. Davis would finish the game with 19 points and 5 rebounds for MVP honours.
The final game of the night pitted the Mississauga Monarchs and S-Elite battling for the 15 U national title. The Monarchs C/O 2021 Riley Curtis had been having an outstanding tournament going into the finals, showing off multiple offensive moves that garnered him multiple MVP performances throughout the weekend.
The first half did not start well for the Monarchs, however, as they struggled to hit their shots across the floor, allowing S-Elite to take a commanding 25-13 lead with 8 minutes to go.
The Monarch weren’t done however, thanks to a couple of very impressive finishes at the rim by C/O 2021 Jaden Reyes, at one-point finishing over a defender who had a full foot in height advantage over him. The Monarchs would finish the half on a 28-10 run to pull the score to 35-30 at the half.
The second half would prove to be where S-Elite shone the brightest. They would respond to the Monarchs run and outscore them 29-10 in the second frame to claim the U15 CNIT national title.