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Showdowns at the Showcase

By Rick Staudt, 07/29/17, 6:45PM CDT

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Hard to believe the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  One of the first events held was called the Super Showcase, then sponsored by Nike.  Different things have changed over the years, most notably the addition of the Jostens’ Center, but one thing hasn’t:  the quality of teams that come thru the Super Showcase Gold. 

This year there were several games in pool play that featured major shoe-sponsored teams from different circuits.  It’s rare to see this kind of “inter-circuit” contest, so we take advantage of it while we could.

Boo Williams out of Virginia took on the Houston Defenders in an early game on Thursday.  Through the first four minutes, the Defenders held a 9-8 lead but by the end of the quarter, Boo had tied the score at eighteen.  After Boo scored the first four points of the second quarter, the Defenders called a time out before things got too far out of hand.  It worked as the Defenders would go on a 14-5 run over the next four minutes to lead by five at 32-27 with three minutes left in the half.  The lead grew to as much as nine and would have been that at the half but the Defenders fouled Boo on a desperation heave just before the horn sounded.  Boo sank two of three foul shots and the score at the half was 41-33 in favor of the Defenders.

Boo must have gotten some momentum from that fortunate foul and they used it well in the third quarter.  They held the Defenders to just three points in the first four minutes and were now down only three at 44-41.  Boo tied the score at 46 with a minute left to play in the quarter and would find themselves up 50-48 heading into the final period of play.  In that final period, once Boo got a lead and with no shot clock, Boo slowed the pace and forced the Defenders to chase.  Eventually, the Defenders tied the score at 57 with one minute to play.  Boo then hit two free throws on their end and on the ensuing Defenders possession, Houston could only make one of two.  That sealed it as now the Defenders were forced to foul to get the ball back.  Both Zion Williams and Keldon Johnson each converted a pair to make the final score 63-58 in favor of Boo Williams.

Going into the game we were interested in watching the 6’5 Johnson as he has become one of the top players in the country over the course of the spring and summer.  We came away impressed with his ability to overpower opponents and score inside the three point line for baskets.  He was especially effective on the offensive glass and played with great energy on both ends.

Miller Kopp, a 6’7 wing for the Defenders, was the leading scorer in the contest with 22 points.  One of the top scorers in the Under Armor Association this year, Kopp displayed not only a lethal three point shot but a willingness and ability to challenge the defense by taking the ball to the basket.  He is also a better athlete than he gets credit for.

Next up we caught BABC taking on Team Felton out of North Carolina.  BABC held a 7-5 lead after the first four minutes of the opening period.  The game was tied at ten when BABC put together a 7-0 run to finish out the quarter up 17-10.  BABC was up eight 26-18 midway thru the second but Felton used a run to get within three, 28-25, with one minute to play.  Once again BABC closed out the quarter strong and at the half led by seven 32-25. 

In the second half, BABC would stretch its lead to double-digits and never look back.  At one point, Team Felton got to within nine points but it was too little too late as BABC would go on to win by ten 68-58.

Cole Swider, a 6’8 wing from BABC and verbal commitment to Villanova, showed why he was the target of all the high major schools.  Finishing with 24 points, ten in the first quarter, Swider was locked in from the three point line, and his range stretches well beyond that.  Also a productive driver and passer in the half court, Swider brings a lot of versatility to the game.

For Team Felton, Joey Baker, a 6’6 wing in the 2019 Class, was fun to watch.  Though he sat long stretches with foul trouble, Baker finished with 18 points.  The highlight may have been the play he didn’t make as he slammed a vicious dunk attempt off the back rim at the end of the break that surely would have sent that portion of Jostens’ Center into a frenzy.  Baker is highly skilled, has a high arching three point shot that is consistent, and makes a lot of plays for his teammates. 

We were excited to see All-Ohio Red play the DC Blue Devils in the next game.  However, this version of AOHR didn’t have the main guys that put together a 13-3 record in the EYBL this past season while the DC Blue Devils had been dominant the previous weekend at the Orlando Hoops Festival.

Consequently, after a sloppy first quarter that found DC up only 9-7, it was all Blue Devils.  Leading by eleven at the half and 22 at the end of the third quarter, DC showed their athleticism and size were too much for an undermanned team to handle, even one as good as AOHR.  The final score was 72-52 in favor of DC.

Once again it was the play of the Mitchell twins on the inside that carried DC.  Makhi Mitchell and Makhel Mitchell took turns scoring inside, blocking shots, and grabbing rebounds.  This allows the perimeter players on DC to use their length and athleticism to defend voraciously and get out in transition.

For AOHR, undersized but active 6’5 Vincent Williams stood out.  He didn’t back down from the twin towers and while most of his points came near the basket, he did show a nice shooting touch knocking down one of two three pointers late.