Posted On: 03/8/18 9:00 PM
SALINA, Kan. — There weren’t many surprises on Friday in the opening round of Class 4A Division I tournament on Friday at the Salina-Tony’s Pizza Event Center.
In the first game, Bishop Miege ran away from Labette County (15-8) and improved to 20-3 in the process. The Stags will play Andover Central who held off Piper, 68-60, in the day’s second game.
Top seeded McPherson improved to 21-1 with a a runaway win over Spring Hill, while Arkansas City put together a big fourth quarter to knock off Wamego in the nightcap, 45-29.
Here, Prep Hoops Kansas takes a look at the day’s top performers.
MVP: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Bishop Miege). A 6’8 2019 forward, Robinson-Earl couldn’t be stopped in a first-round contest against Labette County, going for 31 points and 11 rebounds on 14 of 20 shooting from the field. He threw down dunks, cleaned up misses and showed off the kind of all-around game that has made him one of the most sought-after prospects in the state.
Best Offensive Performer: Ben Pyle (McPherson). A 6’8 2018 wing, Pyle went for 26 points in a runaway win over Spring Hill, and it felt like it could have been twice that many. The Western Illinois recruit can do a little bit of everything at the offensive end of the floor, but on Friday he was working over Spring Hill defenders by moving without the ball and finding seams in their defense. He capped the third quarter with an impressive two handed slam over a pair of Spring Hill defenders on a lob ops an inbounds pass from Mason Alexander under the basket. A well-rounded player, Pyle added 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals in the contest.
Best Offensive Performer Part II: Cevin Clark (Arkansas City). Even with the Wamego defense focused on slowing down Clark, the 6’0 2019 guard put points on the board, going for 14 in the first half, then adding 15 more in the second half as Arkansas City pulled away from Wamego. Clark is a terrific perimeter shooter, but has a well-rounded offensive game and the ability to score at all three levels. He can pull up pff the bounce for mid-range jumpers, get all the way to the basket and has a scorer’s mentality.
Best Defensive Performer: Mason Alexander (McPherson). One of Kansas’ premier point guards, Alexander was all over Spring Hill guards in the backcourt and forced several turnovers that led to easy buckets. The William Jewell recruit finished Friday’s game with four points, five assists and two steals in 20 minutes of play as he largely looked to defer to teammates throughout the contest.
Best Shooter: Tanner Russell (Labette County). A 5’11 2018 guard Russell and his Grizzley teammates ran into a Bishop Miege buzz saw on Friday as the Stags pulled away for a big win, but Russell put together a solid game, knocking down six 3-pointers and finishing with 18 points. He showed a unique combination of form, balance and elevation on his outside shot.
Best Rebounder: Joshua Earley (Bishop Miege). You got the feeling while watching Bishop Miege’s win over Labette County that the only thing keeping Jeremiah Robinson-Earl of Joshua Early from getting more rebounds than they did was that one of the two players got to the ball first. There wasn’t much keeping the two from garnering more rebounds as they combined to haul in 21 boards, two more than Labette County had as a team. A 6’7 2019 power forward, Earley is a strong, physical interior player with a lot of bounce and the ability ti throw down nasty dunks as well as post up and score on the block.
Best Passer: Doc Covington (Piper): A 6’2 2018 point guard, Piper’s Doc Covington probably doesn’t get the attention he deserves despite putting together a terrific career at Piper. He is a talented lead guard who plays with a high basketball IQ and combines good leadership qualities with terrific physical tools. Covington is a terrific ball handler who can get where he wants on the floor, can score when needed and is a pest as an on-the-ball defender. He went for 10 points on Friday, but added seven rebounds and seven assists.
Best Youngster: Xavier Bell (Andover Central). A 6’3 2020 guard, Bell is a player and shows a lot of upside. He blends good size, athleticism and an all-around skill set with a cool, calm demeanor on the floor. He handles the ball a lot on the perimeter for Andover and helped the team get into its offense, but can also take his game into the paint where he posted up smaller guards throughout the second half of Friday’s game against Piper. He finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and was 9 for 10 at the free throw line.
Best off the Bench: Tamar Bates (Piper). There were times on Friday when Bates, a 6’3 2021 guard, was the best player on the floor in the Pirates’ loss to Andover Central. He is a long, rangy, silky smooth guard who is going to be an offensive force in the future. On Friday, he went for 18 points in 16 minutes to lead Piper, including eight points late in the court quarter.
Most Underrated: Branden Belt (Andover Central). A 6’1 2019 guard, Belt is slight of build, but don’t let that fool you, he is a terrific all-around player, capable of shooting from the outside, getting to the basket and finishing tough chances around the basket. He went for 18 points on Friday in a win over KC Piper, including 4 of 5 shooting on 3-pointers, and was big on the defensive glass, hauling in eight rebounds.