For the second consecutive year, Whitney Young (Ill.) High is leaving the Myrtle Beach Convention Center without the Beach Ball Classic championship trophy.
This time it’s by choice.
The Dolphins had no claim to the trophy after losing in the semifinals in 2011.
They easily claimed the 2012 title Monday night with a dominating 58-37 win over Bishop O’Connell (Va.), but are choosing to leave the trophy behind with the family of Jeff Davis.
Davis and his late wife, Teri, who died in March at the age of 45, were the local team ambassadors assigned to Whitney Young last year and quickly formed a bond with the Chicago team’s players and coaching staff while spending much of the week with them.
When the team learned of Teri’s passing, they dedicated the tournament to her and wore black bars on the shoulders of their uniforms in her honor. The Davis’ son, Gage, a senior at St. James High, filled in for his late mom as a Whitney Young ambassador this year.
“We did it for him and his family. That’s something he’ll cherish for the rest of his life, so I definitely don’t mind giving him that trophy,” said 6-9 Whitney Young junior Paul White, the tournament MVP who tallied 14 points and seven rebounds in the championship game.
“It had something to do with the way we played the whole tournament. We had her with us, even though she wasn’t down here physically.”
Teri Davis wrote notes to each player as she was becoming ill, and her husband passed them out to the players in the locker room prior to the warmup for the championship game.
“It was a real emotional time for everybody because we care for him and his wife and family a whole lot, and on top of that we have our own lost loved ones, and it all kind of poured out right there,” White said. “It was just one moment that’s something you will cherish.”
Whitney Young’s championship was a rewarding end to a difficult year for Jeff Davis and his family.
“It’s a beautiful day, and I know that Teri is looking down and I know she’s smiling and she’s loving every minute of this,” Jeff Davis said. “She is so much a part of this team.”
Whitney Young returned to the Beach Ball this year intent on making up for last year’s semifinal exit in an epic double overtime game against Lone Peak of Utah.
“We feel like we’re a better team than we were last year and we had the championship set in our mind and luckily we followed through with it,” White said. “. . . We defended and we rebounded.”
The bigger and seemingly more talented Dolphins (10-1), who entered the tournament as the favorite as the fourth-ranked team in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 national ranking, took control of the game early and never relinquished it to hand Bishop O’Connell (11-1) its first loss of the season.
Whitney Young raced out to a 7-0 lead on a jumper by White, inside basket by 6-11 star Jahlil Okafor and 3-pointer by L.J. Peak, and extended the lead to 10-2 on a 3-pointer by White.
The lead was five at halftime and was quickly extended to 13 points 3:30 into the second half following a high-flying alley-oop dunk by Peak from Miles Reynolds. That was part of a 17-2 run early in the second half that determined the game’s outcome.
“Obviously they’re a great high school basketball team,” Bishop O’Connell coach Joe Wootten said. “I thought we got good shots, we just didn’t shoot it well, and they did and it’s a credit to them. . . . . I thought our guys played for four days and showed they belonged on the national stage.”
Senior 6-7 forward Junior Etou recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but was the only Knight with double figures in either category. Leroy Butts, a 6-7 sophomore, contributed eight points and eight rebounds and guard Romelo Trimble, who has committed to Maryland, added nine points.
White led four Dolphins in double-figure scoring. Reynolds and Peak added 13 and 11 points, respectively, and Okafor contributed 12 points, including three dunks, as well as three blocks and three rebounds.
“We know we always have the advantage inside,” Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “We have the best player in the country regardless of class. No matter how big and how strong everybody else’s big is, our big is bigger and better and stronger.”
Slaughter wanted to take advantage of his team’s size and athleticism by forcing the Knights out of the zone defense they played for most of the first half, leading to more than four minutes of inactivity at the end of the half.
Leading 18-13, Whitney Young chose not to attack the zone and held the ball at midcourt for four minutes. The Knights never came out to force the action.
The Dolphins began moving the ball with 15 seconds remaining in the half, leading to an offensive foul by Reynolds with 1.3 seconds left.
Bishop O’Connell played man-to-man defense for much of the second half and was exposed.
“I understand why they played zone, and they understand now why we want them to play man,” Slaughter said. “We would have played against their zone had the circumstances been different, but our guys had been on the floor the entire time and there was no need for us to go out there and expend that kind of energy playing against a zone with a five-point lead. . . . You play to your strengths and that’s what we tried to do.”
Bishop O’Connell plays in a league that features a shot clock – which the Beach Ball doesn’t – and isn’t accustomed to teams holding the ball. “I think all high school basketball needs a 35-second shot clock,” Wootten said.
The stall led to some contentiousness, as a spectator walked up to the Whitney Young bench and gave the coaches and players an earful, leading to a police officer standing behind the Dolphins bench early in the second half.
The Dolphins also had Bishop O’Connell supporters yelling at them as they exited for the locker room at halftime.
“It’s good to have people who are passionate about the game,” Slaughter said. “We were concerned about winning the basketball game, not about the fans in the stands.”BISHOP O’CONNELL (37) WHITNEY YOUNG (58) Halftime: 3-point goals: Team fouls: Fouled out: Technical fouls: Records: