- National Teams
By Joe Hewison
Team Black 76 Team White 68
Team Black came up big in the third quarter to recover from a slow start and triumph 76-68 in the under-16 All-Star Game at the inaugural Hoopsfix All-Star Classic at Brunel University.
MVP Jelani Watson-Gayle was the catalyst on both ends of the floor as Team Black outscored their opponents 25-13 in the third period to take control of the game having previously looked second best.
Team White raced into a 7-1 lead early on thanks to a big three-pointer from Luke Mitchell before Thai Lodge and Gedi Juozapaitis twice combined well to stretch the gap at 15-6, and set the tone for the half.
Juozapaitis then beat the first quarter buzzer to curtail a Team Black fight-back and close the period 20-12 in front.
This sparked Team Black into life however and they started the second stanza with fresh aggression, Dominic Scott-Robinson getting to the basket and Watson-Gayle to driving his team forward as they pulled it back to 20-16.
Team White were able to keep their opponents at arm’s length as strong moves at the rim from Evan Walshe and Tolu Babalola were finished well.
That is until Freddie Ratliff and Theo Cohen connected on three quick baskets and Watson-Gayle hit a pull-up three to cut the lead to 36-32 and get the crowd on their feet.
But Juozapaitis repeated his buzzer-beating exploits of the opening period to make it 39-32 at the half.
Team White began the second half in equally entertaining fashion as Sam Japhet Mathias took full advantage of a back door screen to rise up for an emphatic dunk.
But this was followed by an 8-0 Team Black run, punctuated by a nice one-on-one move from Carl Wheatle which gave them their first lead since the opening stages, at 49-48.
Team Black pressed on from there and, thanks to some effective offensive rebounding, went into the final quarter up 57-52.
The tide had turned the way of Team Black and when Ayo Nuwe followed a deep three-pointer with an explosive drunk to open up a 68-52 with three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, it seemed they had secured the win.
But Team White continued to battle and Walshe brought them back within eight after going coast to coast, taking the foul and making the free throw.
They got back within six but Team Black’s control of the boards helped them see out the final few minutes and make sure of their success as both teams demonstrated that the future of British basketball is bright.
The game was supported by ESPN Player, 2tall.com, Molten, Amaechi Performance Systems, Reach & Teach, Sportserve, 5or6, Wilkie TV, Always Ballin’, Let Me Play, Seenit and Nando’s.
Image Credit: Abdul Kassim Photography