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December 29, 2007

Bojangles: St. Benedict's does it again

WAXHAW, N.C. -- The champions have been crowned at the Bojangles Shootout and the nation's No. 1 team made sure everyone knew that they are the real deal.

Did it again

December has been good to St. Benedict's. The New Jersey powerhouse earned the top spot in the USA Today top 25 national high school basketball poll. The Grey Bees won the tough City of Palms tournament.

On Saturday night, Samardo Samuels and his crew won the Bojangles Shootout in Charlotte with a 56-45 win over Archbishop Moeller (Ohio).

One courtside observer said, "I thought Jamaican guys were chill," after Samuels scored on a mean bucket down low against the physical Moeller club. The future Louisville big man is far from chill. He's a tough guy and nimble on his feet.

Samuels scored 23 points (9-11 FG, 4-8 FT) and grabbed seven rebounds en route to his second MVP performance in a major event.

"My pops always told me that if aren't going to go hard, you aren't going to like the result," Samuels said. "Every game you have to play like you practice for games. You have to go hard all the time."

St. Benedicts also had a good game from it's backcourt, something that isn't always the case. Junior Tamir Jackson enjoyed a strong second half and scored 14 points while Scott Machado was brilliant in the backcourt, scoring nine points and handing out nine assists.

Queen City clash

Before the Victory Christian-Charlotte Christian game tipped off, a song called "This is it" blasted over the sound system and judging by the capacity crowd the song was a great preview for what was about to come.

Two of the top four teams in the Queen City gave the capacity crowd a game worth remembering as Charlotte Christian held on for a 66-54 win. Once again, it was a formula of skilled guards, tough grit and a selfless bench. The victory marked the fourth time the program has claimed the local division of the tournament.

For the second night in a row, Liberty bound guard Seth Curry paced the Knights in all aspects of the game. The three-star guard scored 26 points (9-17 FG, 3-5 from 3, 5-7 FT), grabbed six rebounds, handed out three assists, swiped two steals and a recorded a block.

"In the first half I was trying to set up the rest of the guys and get everyone involved in the game," Curry said. "I got confidence in my shot early in the quarter and let it go from there."

Curry let it roll, scoring 14 points, including all three of his threes, in the third and broke the game open. His defense on Cornelius was even more impressive. Curry's length bothered the future George Mason guard. Cornelius shot a cold three of 23 and had six turnovers in the game.

Carson Sullivan, the local MVP of the tournament, scored 18 points (7-14 FG, 1-4 from 3, 3-4 FT) for Charlotte Christian and used the event as a spring board onto the national stage. He's a crafty and gritty kid that plays with some toughness that exceeds the face value. His perimeter game is tough and his ability to put the ball on the floor is undervalued.

Sullivan, a great student, cemented himself onto the mid-major radar this weekend. Liberty, William & Mary and Charleston Southern are counted amongst those that are interested in him early.

Cornelius was limited to eight points for Victory Christian. Big man Shane Williams led the way with 14 points and 13 rebounds in defeat.

Comeback of the month

Nine times out of ten, hard work will outweigh talent. That was the case in a tremendous win for South Atlanta over Lincoln 68-65 in the third place game.

However, the score and outcome wasn't as easy as it looks. South Atlanta climbed out of an 18-point deficit to start the fourth quarter and fought back to win the game. Oh, and Derrick Favors, the most dominate player in the tournament field, was sitting on the bench after fouling out with five and a half to play.

The comeback was one of epic proportions. South Atlanta had a variety of players step up in the final minute and half to close out the win. Senior guard Deandre Robuck, who ironically played in Charlotte last year and had his former team watching on in the stands, blocked a Justin Greene shot attempt at the rim. On the next possession, he dove on the floor and forced a major steal on the baseline.

"When I was going back to the bench, I knew they would fight back," Favors said. "My man Robert Jones stepped up big. The whole team stepped up big."

Jones did step up big. The 6-foot-4 senior scored a team high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win. His inside presence late in the game made up for Favors' absence.

South Atlanta head coach Michael Reddick said he wasn't surprised about his team's comeback, even without Favors.
"When he was gone this summer playing AAU, we played almost 30 games without him and we were prepared for this kind of moment," Reddick said. "Our guys made shots and we defended. We beat a top ten team in the nation and we did it without Favors. Our other guys can't be overlooked."

Favors ran into foul trouble for the second game in a row and entered the fourth quarter with four fouls. Lincoln did a fine job of guarding him on the front side and back side throughout, limiting his effectiveness on the offensive end.

Favors finished with 12 points on five of nine shooting from the floor. The five-star big man was held to two rebounds. Favors also blocked seven blocks.

Lincoln had it's moments to capture the game. Lance Stephenson turned the ball over in a clutch moment with an errant pass inside. His last second shot rimmed out as time expired.

His fourth quarter was a disappointment simply because he was terrific in the third quarter, where he scored 12 points and broke the game open. Stephenson finished with 23 points (9-17 FG, 5-12 FT), nine rebounds, five assists and eight costly turnovers.

Other action of note

Tucked away in the middle school gym, Miller Grove (Ga.) and Jeanette (Pa.) slugged it out in the consolation bracket. A 31-point third quarter from Miller Grove was the difference as the Peach State kids came away with a 76-65 win.

Junior guard Mfon Udofia led the way with 25 points (7-16 FG, 2-5 from 3, 9-12 FT) and finished out a strong week's worth of ball. His speed to the hole drew the contact and Udofia did his best work on the foul line in the second half.

Udofia mixed his point guard skills with his scoring touch nicely. He's still stuck in the middle of both guard positions.

Terrelle Pryor is the nation's top dual quarterback and he's also one of the most versatile basketball players in the land. He showed the full array of moves in Charlotte.

National all-tournament team

Samardo Samuels, St. Benedicts (MVP)
Greg Echenique, St. Benedicts
Derrick Favors, South Atlanta
Mfon Udofia, Miller Grove
Quinn McDowell, Moeller

Local all-tournament team

Carson Sullivan, Charlotte Christian (MVP)
Seth Curry, Charlotte Christian
Andre Cornelius, Victory Christian
Shane Williams, Victory Christian
Nick Trull, Hickory Grove


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