It’s been a long while (if ever) that we’ve been to the opening day of the Best High School Tournament in the Country, The City of Palms Classic. The first game of the event at Florida Southwest State College features Archbishop Stepanic out of White Plains, New York, just outside NYC against St. Louis Vashon from Missouri. Both teams started the season nationally-ranked and each like to play a pedal-to-the-metal style. Strap in. It should be fun!
Stepanic scored in the first fifteen seconds as 6’3 junior Boogie Fland hit a mid-range jumper. Vashon was quick to respond with a drive and score from 6’1 sophomore Trey Williams. The next few possessions were empty and it wasn’t until the 5:03 mark that Stepanic’s 6’5 senior Ben Lyttle scored inside. Danny Carbuccia, a 6’0 sophomore for Stepanic scored on the break to give the Crusaders a 6-2 lead. Vashon responded with a bucket inside from 6’6 senior Kennard Davis. Fland hit a three for Stepanic to increase their lead but 6’2 junior Andre Aaron scored on a drive for Vashon. Bland connected on one of two free throws but Davis scored again for Vashon to make it a one possession game. Just before the end of the first, Fland scored again, knocking down a three to make the score 13-8 in favor of Stepanic after one quarter.
The second quarter started just like the first. Stepanic got a bucket inside from 6’8 junior Jordan Gabriel and Vashon responded with a three from 5’9 junior Nic’Qwyon Kern. After a series of empty possessions for both teams, 6’5 Vashon senior Anthoni Sandford hit a mid-range jumper to bring Vashon to within 15-13. Fland hit one of two free throws for Stepanic but a pair of free throws from 6’0 junior Dierre Hill of Vashon brought the Cadets to within one at 16-15 with just over three minutes left in the half. Fland stopped that run with a pair of threes to push the Crusaders lead to 22-15. Vashon’s Davis scored in the lane but Stepanic ended the quarter with a floater from 6’ 3 freshman Hassan Koureissi and a driving bucket from Carbuccia to push Stepanic’s lead at the half to nine at 26-17.
Fland opened the third quarter with a three to increase Stepanic’s lead. Vashon’s 6’5 senior Jayden Nicholson hit a long two get Vashon on the board but 6’7 junior Braylan Reid cancelled that out with a transition basket. A three from Vashon’s Nicholson got the margin under double-digits but Stepanic responded quickly. Vashon would get to within eight, 35-27 with just over three minutes left in the quarter but they could not sustain that momentum. Stepanic was able to keep them at bay and entered the fourth period up 40-31.
Carbuccia hit a three to open the quarter for Stepanic but Vashon answered with a driving score from 6’6 senior Cameron Stovall and a three from Williams. Now, the margin was just seven, 43-36, and it looked like Vashon was going to make a run. It didn’t work out that way, as Stepanic went on a 6-0 run to push its lead to 49-36 with just over three minutes left. Vashon was unable to make another run and Stepanic advances to the quarter-finals with a 52-44 win.
Stepanic got 24 points from Fland and 14 points from Carbuccia. Vashon got 13 points from Davis and 10 points from Nicholson.