It was a wild afternoon at the Fullcourt Press Easter Classic last Sunday as the semifinals were decided in the final seconds, then Belmont Shore outlasted a deep group of graduating seniors from Stoneridge, 72-62, to win the 17-Under Platinum Gold title in Las Vegas. The 17-Under Silver title went to the Las Vegas Prospects over the Danny Granger Hurricanes 91-59 (Granger had a couple starters who had to leave early) in the other game in the Bishop Gorman Main gym.
The afternoon kicked off with two competitive semi-inals as Belmont Shore held on for a 53-52 victory over a surprisingly tough Branch West Elite squad on a free throw by 6-8 DeAndre Daniels with just 1.5 seconds to play. The game was close throughout, as it was tied on six occassions in the final ten minutes of play. Belmont was led by 6-foot-9 Grant Jarrett with 12 points, while 6-foot Cezar Guerrero chipped in with 11 points and Daniels added eight points. Branch West's top gun was 6-1 combo Askia Bowers with 23 points, while 6-8 Spencer Skylar and 6-6 Keith Taylor added 10 points each in the loss. It wasn't the only thriller for Belmont as they survived a match-up with the Belmont Shore Gold 87-86 in the quarters, overcoming a 31-point outburst by 6-1 Bruce Englis for the Gold.
Stoneridge featured a number of D-I signees headed by 6-7 Trevor Wiseman who's headed to Hawaii and 6-9 250-pound Chili Tzazenua who will sign with New Mexico State along with tireless 6-5 wing Steve Thornton, but it took a break or two (depending on which coach you asked) to survive the, 89-87, double-overtime thriller with Compton Magic. A game that saw Mark Jackson and David Franklin hit late free throws to give Stoneridge the lead, then 6-5 Jon Conley missed a 22-footer at the buzer for Compton as Stoneridge survived to head to the final. Stoneridge was led by Kevin Kaspar with 17 points, while Thornton added 16 points, Wiseman 15 points, Mark Jackson 14 points and Tzazenua chipped in with 10 points. Compton's top gun was Gabe York with 25 points, while Dominique Dunning added 12 points, Jahii Carson 11 points, and Wesley Saunders who chipped in with 10 points in the loss.
That led us to the final which was more a survival of the fittest game, as Belmont Shore held a 35-32 lead at the intermission. The game opened with the first 10 points of the game for Belmont being scored by our pick as tourney MVP DeAndre Daniels. He didn't score again until the beginning of the second half, as he led a 9-2 run early in the half to open a 50-41 lead with 10:36 to play. After that Stoneridge couldn't seem to find their shooting eye (or legs) and couldn't get closer than seven as Belmont Shore just out-quicked them down the stretch to win a 72-62 decision in the Championship game. Belmont was led by Daniels with 26 points and Guerrero with 20. Stoneridge was led by Mark Jackson with 15 points, while Steve Thornton and Trevor Wiseman added 13 points each.