S.C. Pro-Am Day 7 (Playoff Round 1)
Palmetto Promotions vs. Coca-Cola Consolidated (Michael Carrera, Brian Steele)
Carrera continues to have an impressive Pro-Am. It’s like the memory of last season, which by his own admission was a lousy one because he couldn’t get out of his own way, has taken root in his brain stem and won’t let go.
He was the most aggressive since his freshman year, before the hip problem knocked him down. He went step-for-step on a fast break and blocked the shot, then blocked another one in the same fashion while leading 27 points with 8:27 to go. He also took off from the top of the key for a thunderous one-handed dunk early in the game.
He ended with 25 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. He was also a very nice 10-of-16 from the floor, making one of two 3-point attempts. Like I said in the last few updates, if he can keep this up while the Gamecocks get what they’re expecting to get from the three-guard lineup, this offense can be particularly dynamic.
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Steele, per his usual, hustled his tail off, having to play the entire game when only five players showed up. He scored 21, including four 3s, and had seven rebounds with two assists. When the kid from Wade Hampton gets going, he’s fun to watch. And you can’t ever tell him he’s smaller and probably less talented than anybody he’ll face. He believes in his heart that he’s the best basketball player that ever lived, and it’s helped him become a staple for the Gamecocks when – let’s be honest – we all saw “forever a walk-on” and looked forward to the day USC was leading by 30 so he could get a minute or two.
This was the worst game of the four. Coke throttled Palmetto badly enough so that the final 10 minutes was a showcase. Most of the guys did each other solids and stood out of the way while they perfected their dunks.
Coke 128, Palmetto 95
Bernie’s Chicken (Duane Notice, Laimonas Chatkevicius) vs. Javis Financial
The league MVP will get announced on Monday before the semifinals, and I have to think Notice will be a heavy candidate. He’s transformed himself this summer and shed the tentative, clunky play that hit him for a big chunk of his freshman year, becoming a takeover scorer when he needs to be.
Notice scored 24 with four rebounds and seven assists, saving his best for crunch time. He drained the tying 3-pointer with 5:15 to play, rammed a fast-break dunk for a two-point lead 20 seconds later and iced the game from the free-throw line. Whether he plays behind Ty Johnson or beside him this year, he’s going to be a star.
One thing to watch – if Bernie’s wins on Monday, Notice will be unavailable for Tuesday’s championship game. He’s going home to Canada for a few weeks (the last time he can before school starts) and his flight leaves Tuesday morning. He’ll be back in Columbia on Aug. 19.
Chatkevicius was matched up with ex-Clemson player Milton Jennings all night and couldn’t get a lot of room to operate. He ended with 11 points and nine boards. Jennings, one of the most maddening players I’ve ever watched because he’s got this NBA big-man body and plays like a two-guard, turned Chatkevicius inside out. Chat got Jennings good one time – he pinned him, hip-checked him and then jammed one-handed on top of him. But then Jennings got him with a dunk on the other end.
Chat did have a rebound and putback for a three-point lead with 1:53 to go, but Jennings immediately went right by him on the next possession to cut it to one. Bernie’s won because of Notice and former USC Upstate star Torrey Craig carrying the team. Chat has played pretty consistently throughout the Pro-Am, and since he stayed here this summer, I expect him to continue his end-of-last-year performance throughout all of this year. Perhaps it was just a bad game and a bad matchup on Sunday.
Bernie’s 91, Javis 88
The Wheat Farm (Sindarius Thornwell, Demetrius Henry) vs. Brookland Baptist (TeMarcus Blanton, Reggie Theus)
Really interesting game. If you would have told me that I’d be discussing Reggie Theus over Sindarius Thornwell beforehand, I’d have asked to see your ID. Yet, it was Theus who started the game-clinching run.
Theus is one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. I was coming back from halftime and he stretches his hand over the bench for a shake, wishing me a hello and good day. Hoping it works that he can really contribute this year.
Anyway, Theus rode the bench for most of the second half. He got in the last five minutes, in a close game. Devan Downey spied him in the lane, did that Downey assist from the top of his skull that we all love, and Theus threw it up and in with a one-hand flip. That started a 10-0 run to get the game under control. It was Theus’ only basket.
Thornwell again had a great game. He scored 23 with nine boards, but rookie Blanton edged him. While he was behind in points (19) and rebounds (five), he guarded Thornwell most of the game and Thornwell looked frustrated. Blanton blocked one of Thornwell’s shots and stripped him of the ball another time. He stroked four 3-pointers and was money from the line late. Not to say Blanton took Thornwell to school – there were times where Thornwell flashed the game of “Now you know who’s in charge” and Blanton was out-classed. But the freshman more than held his own, sinking his own 3 during the run.
Thornwell’s team was defeated (Henry had six points and seven rebounds) but Thornwell is leaving Wednesday for Europe anyway. He, Johnson and Frank Martin are all heading overseas EuroTrip.
Brookland 78, Wheat 66
Lourie & Bernstein (Mindaugas Kacinas, Marcus Stroman) vs. Honda of Columbia (Justin McKie, Austin Constable)
Good final game, because it showed the future. Stroman was the guy.
I’ve raved about his ball-handling ability and to see him do this against big-time competition was impressive. He’s simply unafraid. Always knowing what the perfect pass would be, yet willing to keep it for himself, Stroman is going to be quite a chore to guard over the next four years.
The newbie finished with 25, seven rebounds and eight assists, handling the ball on every possession of the final seven. Of those, he recorded: Basket, basket, assist, assist and was passed the ball on the final three to wait for the foul.
Kacinas had six with nine rebounds. He’s had a good summer, but on Sunday, he was the tallest guy on the floor and didn’t play inside. He has wanted to work on his outside shooting, though.
McKie showed his dad’s signature spin move on his way to 21 points and played solid defense. If he can just stay on the floor with his defense, he’ll contribute heavily to the offense. He’s the perfect guy to be a replacement for a Notice or Johnson – long-armed, quick, a blur to get in front of because you never know where the ball is. Constable had a solid game with three 3-pointers.
Lourie 93, Honda 92
Monday, Heathwood Hall
League MVP and all-league teams will be announced
Coca-Cola Consolidated vs. Bernie’s Chicken, 7 p.m.
Brookland Baptist vs. Lourie & Bernstein, 8:15 p.m.
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