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Posted On: 02/5/18 11:20 AM
Godwin Heights met Pershing in a highly-anticipated matchup that crossed the state and classes, and the product was phenomenal! The Redhawk Showcase headliner was competitive from opening tip to closing buzzer, and both squads showed out and displayed their grit and skill. Below is a brief synopsis of the contest, followed by the “Ten Best” it had to offer.
Fast-paced. High-scoring. Intense. These describe the first quarter and pretty much the whole game. Both teams started ready to run, and Godwin clearly wanted to push the tempo. They traded buckets at the rim from drives and breaks which included strong takes from both squads and a monstrous dunk by Godwin’s Lamar Norman Jr. The high-tempo and high shot-percentage provided a score of 19-17 in Godwin’s favor after one. The second quarter got quite heated and included an on-court altercation that exploded and showed the game’s emotion. Fortunately, no one was hurt and a double technical was given. Following this were more dunks, more strong rim attacking, and a few more threes, and the first half ended with a score of 36-36.
The third quarter looked a lot like the second. Emotions still ran high with words and shoves being exchanged among players. Both squads also still finished a lot near the rim, either off drives or post moves. Neither seemed able to run away with a lead. Everything culminated in the fourth as the clock wound down. A go-ahead three made the score 67-64 in Pershing’s favor with 2:30 left. Godwin answered with another the next play. In the end, inside finishes and free throws decided the game as Godwin made those that counted and Pershing did not. In a back-and-forth contest that could have gone either way, Godwin got the 70-68 victory.
The Ten Best
MVP: Lamar Norman Jr. – 6’2 – PG (Godwin Heights)
The top unsigned senior in the state, Norman was expected to be the most valuable and did not disappoint. The point guard wowed the crowd, created a bit, and really just proved himself to be a deadly scorer. He led all players with 25 points, fifteen of which came from three pointers. Something about his shot seems light and effortless, but it he gets it off fast and the ball goes in. Four more points came off dunks, and they might have been the best of the night. Outside of scoring, Norman made a lot of other contributions. He was going at opponents and let them know it, seeming to get in their heads. He also ran the point less than I’ve seen in the past, but when the ball was in his hands, he found the open man well and delivered a number of assists.
Best Offensive Performance: D’Juan Seal – 6’4 – SG (Pershing)
Seal played antagonist to Norman and, in many ways, mirrored him. He also showed himself to be a scorer and led his team with 21 points. He hit two threes in the contest, both in the first quarter. One was a nice catch-and-shoot. The other was a tricky stepback to create space and shoot right over his defender. Another verbal player, when he beat his opponents with his moves and finishes he made sure they knew it. Unlike Norman, though, Seal was much more active inside. He scored a lot at the rim, getting two nice dunks and a number of strong and, sometimes, difficult lay-ins. He put his speed and athleticism on display which worked for him to create his scoring opportunities and make his hard finishes possible.
Best Defensive Performance: Jayln Benning – 6’5 – F (Pershing)
Benning was a guy that could have fit into a lot of these categories. On the offensive end, he was very active and contributed fourteen points. All his scoring came from near the rim, and a number of shots were created with some nice footwork. In other cases, he hustled and was rewarded by being in a position to score. He had the best DEFENSIVE performance, though, because of his blocks. He got one from behind a driving Markeese Hastings, and had an even more powerful one the very next play. Overall, he was a dominant force in the paint on both ends.
Best-the-Radar Performace: David Kellah – 6’2 – PG/SG (Godwin Heights)
Norman and Hastings get the most attention for Godwin, and for good reason. However, Kellah’s play on Saturday proved there is more to this team than these two. He had an excellent game, scoring 17 and garnering a number of assists. His threes fell and came at big moments. He mostly drove, though, and was very successful at it. He sliced through multiple defenders and put the ball off the glass in unconventional ways to score on so many drives. Most of his finishes were over taller defenders, but it didn’t seem to matter at all as he completed take after take. His driving also freed up his teammates a number of times, and he was able to dish or kick the ball out to them for some very nice passes. With his performance in this game, Kellah definitely looked to me to be a D3/NAIA caliber player.
Best Well-Rounded Performance: Markeese Hastings – 6’6 – SF (Godwin Heights)
This was my second time seeing the Butler commit this season and the second time I’ve put him in this category. Norman often steals the show with his elite-level handles, shooting, and athleticism, but Hastings always shows up and is always solid. From the get-go, he makes an impression with his imposing figure; he already looks like a D1 player. Add to that his stat-line and the numbers speak for themselves. He scored 21 points. Most of these were strong finishes on the inside where his strength makes him very difficult to stop. He got fouled on a lot of them and still finished. He also showed some creativity on the drive, switching hands mid-air or hitting a reverse. Finally, he stepped out and hit a three, another testament to his versatility. Outside of scoring, he handled the ball sufficiently well, sometimes even bringing it up, and he actively rebounded.
Best Point Guard: Ron Hill – 5’9 – PG (Pershing)
Though outsized in this game, Hill worked hard and made himself known. He opened scoring for the Doughboys by taking his defender off the dribble and finishing a difficult layup over him and the help defense. He is quick which, along with his ball-handling, made him very hard to stay with. With the rock he is shifty, changing speed and utilizing combination moves to get whoever is guarding him off balance and open up a lane for himself. Though he usually distributed, he brought the ball up every possession and was trusted to get it back to keep things under control. He struggled a bit from three, but he hit two big ones which maintained the threat and were really needed. He has NAIA interest and is definitely deserving.
Play of the Game: Lamar Norman Jr. – 6’2 – PG (Godwin Heights)
In a tight game like this one, every bucket counts, but some might have more worth than others. Norman’s poster jam in the first quarter was a MONSTER dunk and may have been worth more than two points. He received a long pass from David Kellah and elevated right over 6’8 Johnny Davis to throw it home. In addition to two points, this dunk made the crowd explode and was a major blow to the Doughboys’ morale.
Player I Want to See Again: Johnny Davis – 6’8 – F (Pershing)
Davis had three fouls in the first half, meaning he had to sit more than usual. However, I saw a lot of good things from him while he was on the floor. He was the tallest and longest player in the contest, and he used this length well in getting the ball and finishing in the post. He also rebounded pretty well and hit an open three. These skills, his build, and his hair reminded me a bit of Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, and I’m curious to see how Davis would perform on another day with fewer fouls and more opportunities to score.
Best Intangibles: Jamaal Bailey – 5’11 – G (Godwin Heights)
Though he played limited minutes, Bailey did a couple things that made him valuable to his Wolverines. He was actively involved in keeping teammates calm when things got really heated in the second quarter, and, without his intervention, things may have gotten worse. He also played a positive role on the bench and on the floor, being encouraging and getting excited for his team when they made big plays. Next year, he will be one of few returners with playing experience.
Biggest Takeaway: Both Teams
This game was loaded with talent and was also one of the most exciting I’ve seen all year. Both teams are considered top ten in their respective classes, and some might even rank them both top ten or fifteen in the state. This game proved that both deserve their recognition and that the hype surrounding each is real. It would not come as a surprise for either or both of these teams to continue to have success and end up at the Breslin in March.