I am at the “Birthplace of Basketball” – Springfield, Mass, where James Naismith first hung his peach basket – literally a few blocks away from where I am as I write this story. It is my annual trip up North, fighting the bitter cold, huge snow flakes, and obnoxious Patriot fans, to enjoy basketball nirvana.
The HoopHall Classic brings in elite high school teams and players from around the country to participate in one of the great high school hoop events in the nation. And wherever this elite group of talent goes they are followed by excited fans, eager journalists, and salivating college coaches.
There were three local games before to get the crowd warmed-up. The only one I caught was a thrilling 75-73 victory for Albany Academy over Springfield Central. Albany climbed back from a 10-point deficit with 1:28 left to play to win. Senior Matt Knezovic drilled a deep three pointer with less than 4 seconds to go to tie the game for Albany. On the ensuing in-bounds, Springfield Central attempted a long pass that hit the ceiling – giving the ball back to Albany under their own hoop. Albany coach Brian Fruscio got the ball back in Knezovic’s hands. The senior guard gave a good ball fake and drove baseline for a short jumper that he missed but a foul was called with .4 seconds left. Knezovic stepped to the line and nailed both free throws to give the Cadets a most thrilling ”W.”
Next up was a great match up of two of the best perimeter players in the country. Louisville signee Shaqquan Aaron lead his Rainier Beach Vikings onto James Naismith Court to battle Bishop O’Connell and elite point guard Romelo Trimble. Aaron helped guide his team to a 65-60 victory and he did not disappoint despite having trouble finishing early. He showed great athleticism, the ability to score inside and out, tremendous length, as well as strong ball handling and passing skills. He even had some amazing blocks. My one criticism of his play would be that he relied solely on his athletic ability on defense. He has the ability and I am sure the Coach Pitino can mold him into an elite defender. Aaron finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 5 assists.
Future Maryland Terrapin Romelo Trimble played as well as anyone I saw today. The silky smooth guard is sneaky quick. Routinely navigating the rock through multiple defenders on his way to the basket. Trimble finished with a game high 26 points despite going 0-6 from 3 point range. Trimble is known as a good shooter. I expect him to eventually be an elite guard in the Big 10.
Lincoln (NY) 90, Yates (TX) 66 Even with a below average scoring night for Lincoln’s Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall), the Railsplitters beat down Yates. Whitehead was frustrated by 2 early 1st quarter fouls but rebounded with a solid effort. HE finished the game with 12 points, 7 boards, 6 assists, and 4 steals. His unselfish effort aided Desi Rodriquez’s 25 point effort and Elisha Boone who finished with 26 points and 11 boards.
St. John Bosco (CA) 63, St. Frances (MD) 60 Bosco was with out Tyler Dorsey but they got enough out of Daniel Hamilton ( 25 points and 9 boards) and Vance Jackson (26 points and 8 rebounds) to beat UNLV commitment Dwayne Morgan’s St. Frances team.
Huntington Prep (WV) 52, Prime Prep (TX) 48 The main event of the night featuring 2 of the nation’s top basketball programs. The game was dead even at 16 at the end of the 1st quarter but Huntington won the 2nd quarter 15-10 and never looked back. Even with only scoring 52 total points, Huntington had 4 players score in double figures.