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January 21, 2012

Locals fight strong at Hardaway Hoop Fest

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MEMPHIS - A new event entered the fray on Friday night as Penny Hardaway's Hoop Fest tipped off on the campus on White Station High School in Memphis. On Friday night, local teams Craigmont and White Station took national powerhouses Oak Hill and Montverde to the wire during an entertaining opening night. But Jordan Adams and Kasey Hill led their squads to late victories over the locals.

Craigmont takes Oak Hill to the wire

For the better part of three and a half quarters, it seemed as if Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill was in total control of the action against defending Tennessee state champion Craigmont. Then, the assembled crowd realized that the scrappy locals were right in the mix.

In the end, Oak Hill made too many free throws down the stretch and held on to beat Craigmont 69-66 in a back-and-forth game.

Leading the way for Craigmont was tough 5-foot-11 junior point guard Sam Craft. A three-star prospect, Craft is a leader and winner at the point who keeps coming at his opponent on both sides of the floor. Craft knocked down important jumpers late and hassled ballhandlers during an impressive 18-point performance. According to Craft, he hasn't seen any schools come by to watch his games or practices recently but he's talked to Georgia Tech, Memphis, Tennessee, Tulsa and Ole Miss.

While Craft had a solid supporting cast around him, his biggest contributions came from quick guard Jordan Washington and athletic four man Darius Gipson. Washington hit some deep jumpers and attacked off the dribble while Gipson battled a much bigger Oak Hill frontline and showed the ability to play above the rim at 6-foot-6.

For Oak Hill, UCLA bound wing Jordan Adams was totally dialed in. The strong 6-foot-5 wing was never rattled by the situation and confidently hit on jumpers and used his broad shoulders to barrel through smaller defenders on a few coast-to-coast jaunts as he rang up a game high.

As one would expect, Tyler Lewis and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who tallied 14 apiece, were solid.

Hill turns it on against White Station

Host school White Station spent the entire night hanging around with Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Then with just under three minutes to go, White Station took a one-point lead. At that point Florida commitment Kasey Hill shifted his game into another gear and slammed the door shut on White Station's upset hopes.

Hill had been steady through the better part of three quarters. The 2013 point guard showed comfort navigating the high ball screen and he pulled up to hit jumpers in isolation situations. But, he wasn't really turning the corner and exploding into the lane off ball screens. When his team needed him the most, though, Hill kicked it into another gear, using his burst and ability to get by defenders off the dribble to make things happen en route to sharing team-high scoring honors with 21 points.

Earlier in the game, it was another Gator commit who set the tone for Montverde. Class of 2012 four-star shooting guard Michael Frazier stroked a trio of threes in the first quarter and used his added strength to finish through contact at the rim. Like Hill, Frazier scored 21 points.

Also effective for Montverde was Ole Miss-bound forward Anthony Cortesia. At about 6-foot-8 or so, Cortesia is a lengthy shooter with skill as a scorer and passer out of the high post. He finished with 18 on the evening.

For White Station, sophomore four-star forward Leron Black did all he could to will his team to victory. The 6-foot-7 tweener was an absolute monster on the glass and if he didn't get the rebound, he would tip it all over and keep it alive for his teammates. On the offensive end, he was a load to guard along the baseline thanks to a big-time first step and desire to get to the rim and finish through contact. He led all scorers and rebounders with 28 points and 13 rebounds.

Our Savior holds serve

There were times that Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior looked sluggish in a win over Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth Academy.

Not surprisingly, rapidly rising 6-foot-8 interior player Christopher Obekpa was a load in the paint. Though he wasn't always the focal point of the offense, he went and got balls off the rim, intimidated as a shot blocker and totally controlled the interior. The Rivals150 member was watched by Cincinnati on the night.

Also playing well for Our Savior was 6-foot-1 combo guard Nick Lewis. A senior, Lewis backed up an excellent performance at the Hoophall Classic by playing well again. A surprisingly good rebounder given his size, he has some bounce and is a very good jump shooter. He finished with 16 points and has been drawing attention from programs such as Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, Hofstra, Nebraska and Quinnipiac.



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