CHARLESTON, West Virginia – Team 23 took an early 5-0 lead, but that was quickly erased by Best Virginia as they entered a 13-2 run fueled by pressure defense and deep ball. Nathan Adrian, Tarik Phillip and Kevin Jones all hit a three during the run and as a team, Best Virginia hit five deep, leading them to a 20-17 lead after a quarter of play.
The biggest concern of this game for Best Virginia was the athleticism of Team 23 and the pace at which they want to play. In the second quarter, Team 23 controlled the tempo and took advantage of a field of Best Virginia gassed. Big man Raphiael Putney gave Best Virginia a ton of trouble on both ends of the floor, scoring seven points in the first half to accompany two blocked shots.
Team 23 dominated the paint, outscoring Best Virginia 22-10 on the inside and 27-17 for the quarter to maintain a 44-37 lead going into the break.
Eric Griffin scored the first four points of the half to take Team 23’s lead, but that was quickly erased with a massive 14-2 run from Best Virginia. Kevin Jones was masterful in the paint and contributed eight points during the race. Tarik Phillip tied the game with a three-point pointer just in front of the Best Virginia bench and on the next possession Kevin Jones landed a Dirk Nowitzki shot to the block which was the basket that gave them the lead, 51 – 49. Charles Mitchell swung back-to-back jumpers to tie the game at 53 apiece, but Best Virginia ended the quarter on a 5-0 mini run thanks to a layup from Tarik Phillip and a wide three from Nathan Adrian. .
Adrian continued to give Best Virginia great minutes collecting all free balls and playing excellent defense against the ball. He then hit a receding jumper who nearly ballooned into the rafters before entering. Jamel Morris added a free throw to increase the lead to eight, but Marcus Hall reduced it to just three with five points, including three from the corner. Minutes later, Hall drained three more, this time a highly contested shot to give Team 23 a 66-65 lead over the Elam Ending, setting the target score at 74.
Adrian made the first basket in the Elam Ending, but that was answered with five consecutive points from Marcus Hall. After a turnaround from Best Virginia, Eric Washington knocked down a tough shot under the basket to put Team 23 within a basket of the win. Adrian missed a three on Best Virginia’s next possession and across the field Daniel Ochefu scored the game winner to knock Best Virginia out of the basketball tournament.
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