Things learned, observed on Day 3 of 7th New Year Classic
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer once more thinks he needs a holiday break from his holiday break:
Perhaps the most underrated, yet most important moment of host Yokota’s drive to its second New Year Classic high school boys basketball tournament title came before the championship game, during the closing moments of regulation time in the Panthers’ 56-55 semifinal win over Nile C. Kinnick.
Yokota trailed the Red Devils by 14 at halftime and any chance the Panthers had of reaching Saturday’s final appeared doomed. But behind tournament Most Valuable Player, senior guard Morgan Breazell, the Panthers chipped away at the lead. Then with time running out in regulation, Breazell launched a three-point attempt that missed, but he was fouled on the play.
If, as former major-league baseball infielder Ray Knight once said, concentration is the ability to think about nothing, then Breazell was the very picture of it when he stepped to the line and sank all three foul shots. Yokota then barely held off Kinnick in the extra period and advanced to the final, where the Panthers had to rally late once again for a 49-47 win over Christian Academy Japan.
Keep in mind, the foul shooting in the entire tournament was atrocious at best, 352-for-651, just 54 percent, which would undoubtedly make basketball purists cringe. That pretty much qualified Breazell’s clutch foul shots as an utter opposite of that which we saw last week. Some examples:
-- In that semifinal game, the teams combined to go 21-for-49, 43 percent. And they went a robust 0-for-11 in overtime.
-- People made much of how much time actually remained in that Kadena-Kubasaki quarterfinal game, which the Dragons won 49-47 on that buzzer-beating three-pointer by DeQuan Alderman. Lost in all the talk about splitting seconds was the fact that Kadena shot 1-for-11 at the foul line in that game.
-- Best combined free-throw percentage by two teams in one game occurred in a consolation-bracket game, with Robert D. Edgren and St. Mary’s International going 13-for-15, 87 percent. Edgren won 48-37.
-- The most unlikely twosome was CAJ and St. Mary’s in their pool-play game on Friday, in which the Knights shot 13-for-16 … and the Titans went 0-for-6, the second of their two games without making a free throw.
If there’s any team that qualifies as a sleeper where next month’s Far East Division I tournament is concerned, look no further than CAJ.
This was a team expected to be in full-blown rebuilding mode after losing cornerstone players such as Justin Barber and Charlie Hancock (graduation) and Eli Peterson (playing in Colorado this year).
But behind seniors Miles Miller and Eliot Reasoner, the latter arguably one of the best guards and sharpshooter sin the tournament, the Knights closed out the tournament at 7-3 overall. It will be interesting to see if that progress carries over to their regular season, which resumes next Tuesday when American School In Japan (8-1) pays a visit.
Aside from Breazell, one Yokota player to watch for this season is freshman guard J.J. Henderson. I’m told that he’s likely leaving after this school year, though.
Arguably the tournament’s best big man was Kinnick’s DeAnthony Evans. Manchild is the term that comes to mind when watching him play. And that Red Devils team is totally different when guard Malik White isn’t on the court (he fouled out against Yokota in that semifinal).
Losing Jacob Sterry and Malcolm Mack was significant for Edgren, but they’re still a contender at the Far East D-II level thanks to the athletic Khalil Williams and Louis Murphy.
Alderman launching two three-point goals in the final seconds of Kubasaki’s win over Kadena. What are the odds of being that clutch? And what are the odds Kubasaki plays in the final if Kareem Key makes the trip?
Maybe the best collection of guards in the tournament belonged to Kadena (Andre Chilton, Jalen Creer-Amos, Josh Ward). But unsung Brett Garick, who definitely merited All-Tournament consideration, kept Kadena in a great many of its games.
To whichever school holds the 8th New Year Classic next January: Find a way to have a girls tournament as well. The one held last year at Yokota was a resounding success and drew plenty of fans, particularly Kinnick’s uber-vocal group. Girls teams need love, too.