LAS VEGAS - Who needs the No. 5 player in the 2013 class?
With Aaron Gordon sitting on the bench in street clothes after twisting his ankle Thursday in a loss to California Supreme, the Oakland Soldiers bounced back Friday afternoon with a 72-62 win over Louisiana Elite at the Las Vegas Classic at Durango High School.
The teams played to a 33-all tie through one half and it remained tight until the end.
Tied at 56 w/ 4 1/2 minutes to play, the Soldiers went on a 12-2 run over the next 2 1/2 minutes ignited by the play of Jabari Bird. The 6-6 wing snapped the tie with a dunk off a lob pass and then came down in transition for a layup on the next possession to start the Soldiers' game-winning push.
"It was a real big game for us coming off that loss yesterday," Bird said. "We got back to the hotel yesterday and we just told each other we're not going to lose anymore."
After scoring a team-high 24 points in the loss to Cal Supreme, Bird dropped in 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the winning effort. He also added three assists, two of which came in the behind-the-back, wrap-around bounce pass variety.
Soldiers teammate Stanley Johnson turned in an all-around performance with 10 points on 4 of 7 shots, five assists and two steals.
Louisiana Elite big man Jarell Martin paced his team with 15 points.
Okafor gets aggressive
After facing double and triple teams almost every time he touched the ball in the post the previous day, Jahlil Okafor looked like a young man unleashed when BTI Double Pump elected to play him straight up Friday.
BTI Double Pump opened the contest against Mac Irvin Fire's center with just Aaron Liberman defending, and Okafor went to work. The No. 2-ranked 2014 prospect made seven of his first nine shots and finished with 16 points to lead Mac Irvin Fire to a 73-50 rout.
Mac Irvin Fire had a 31-point cushion at the half and never looked back.
"I wasn't that much aggressive yesterday," Okafor said. "We got down early (today) so I was aggressive."
"I was just being physical, more physical than they're trying to be with me … and finish above them."
No Frazier, no problem, Houston
Houston Hoops and Arizona Select engaged in a back-and-forth first half and were just separated by a point at the break.
But Justise Winslow and Brian Bridgewater combined for 25 points as Houston Hoops overcame the absence of Keith Frazier in their early game to defeat Arizona Select, 66-60.
Payton Dastrup scored 19 in a losing effort.
Cal Supreme suffers letdown
Less than 24 hours removed from pulling an upset, Cal Supreme was unable to keep the momentum going into its next game. Seattle Rotary Select I trailed by a point at the half but pulled out a 62-59 win.
Down 3 with less than four seconds to play, Kris Yanku's full-court pass attempt stayed in the air a bit too long and was intercepted to end the game.
Night session at Centennial Hills YMCA
GOAZCATS.com then took a trip clear across the other side of Vegas to take a look at some of the younger prospects.
Big man Cheick Diallo got off to a quick start in the second half to help Team Scan's 16s knock off Team Breakdown's 16s, 51-46.
Leading by three at the half, Diallo, a 6-9 prospect from the 2015 class, connected on his first four shots after the break as his teammates when to him early and often. Team Scan built its lead to as many as nine before Team Breakdown made a final push.
Team Breakdown took a brief 46-45 lead with 2:28 to play, but a minute later Team Scan retook the lead for good and held on for the win.
Team Superstar pulls out heated win
Tempers flared several times, an assistant coach was ejected and referees struggled to maintain control in the physical battle between Team Superstar and GAME Elite.
Despite a quiet night offensively from Malik Pope, Team Superstars maintained its 28-26 lead at the break to edge GAME Elite, 55-53.
Tied at 53 with less than 20 seconds to play, Braxton Huggins took two shot attempts in that short time before being fouled on a third attempts with 1.7 seconds to play. Huggins drained both free throws to provide the game's final margin.
Pope's biggest contribution was his 6-8 frame and long arms. With GAME Elite using a full-court press for most of the game, the 2014 prospect was able to handle the ball and help get the ball up the floor by seeing over the defense.
Point guard leads CBC to mercy-rule win
Derryck Thornton scored 13 points and California Basketball Club jumped out to a big lead and never looked back in a 56-27 win over Frenji. The game was stopped midway through the second half via the mercy rule.
CBC started the contest on a 22-9 run and led 36-14 at halftime.
Thornton, a 6-foot 2016 prospect, shot 5 of 10 from the field and played pesky defense in the victory.
Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor