Bill Crothers Invitational
Written by Jas Grewal
The bitter cold didn’t prevent seats from being filled Saturday, February 28th at the Bill Crothers invitational in Markham, Ontario. There were ten teams in action throughout the two day event with St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, New Jersey), Wasatch Academy (Mt Pleasant, Utah) and Orangeville Prep highlighting the top teams at the event.
In a tournament that looked to advertise some of the top prospects in Canada – with special interest on Orangeville Prep’s Thon and Matur Maker, as well as the always cerebral Jamal Murray – fans were able to get a glimpse of the sheer intensity and competitive fire played by each and every team that stepped foot on the court.
Wasatch Academy Tigers vs. Athlete Institute Bears
The first quarter seemed to be a telltale sign of things to come as the Wasatch Academy Tigers- who have six Canadian born players on their roster- duked it out with the Athlete Institute Bears in the opening game of Saturday’s session.
After a struggle-fest for the Bears, where they found themselves down 28-9 after the opening frame, the uphill battle continued as the Tigers, behind a stellar scoring display by Canadian native Koby McEwen, put the pedal to the metal against a dazed Bears club.
Much of McEwen’s scoring tirade came in the first half where the Bears had no answer for the athletic, versatile play that the 6’3” point guard fosters. Cody John was also in full form against the Bears as he poured in 21 points to compliment McEwen’s scoring output.
In short, the game was out of reach by the start of the second half where the Tigers carried a 25 point lead.
The Wasatch Academy Tigers were able to take the 103-70 win over the Athlete Institute Bears.
Mcewan led all scorers with 28 points.
Russell Baker led Athlete Institute in scoring with 17 points in the loss.
Bill Crothers Colts vs. Ottawa Next Level
The Bill Crothers Colts were in full gear against an undersized Ottawa Next Level club. What seemed to be a promising game after the first ten minutes of action turned into the total opposite in the latter three quarters.
The first quarter – which was essentially the most competitive and entertaining point of the game – saw both clubs exchange baskets almost unceasingly. Whereas Ottawa Next Level showed more signs of being a perimeter oriented team, the Colts focused much of their attention towards the paint and making sure to take advantage of the substantial size difference. By the end of the frame the Colts saw themselves up three, 20-17, against a gritty Ottawa club.
The final three quarters – almost all similar in result- was all Colts basketball. Deandre Bernard was a stud down low as a he presented a heap of matchup issues for Ottawa; not only did the 6’8” forward score most of baskets in and around the paint, but his defensive presence inside was extremely impressive. His ability to block shots on one end and to finish with authority under the basket on the other, in addition to his knack for offensive rebounds, is a quality that not a lot young high school players possess, and it’s partly what separated him from other big men at the tournament.
The three point line was the primary x-factor in this game, especially in the third quarter where the Colts connected on countless trifectas to eventually build a commanding lead. Elijah Green was hitting on all cylinders throughout the game as he tallied seven three pointers to lead all scorers with 25 points.
By the end of it the Colts were able to take home the 20 point win, 91-71, over an undersized but tough Ottawa Next Level squad.
Deandre Bernard poured in eight points to go along with four blocks, including a ridiculous ally-oop slam dunk in the fourth quarter, while Tyrell Lewin and Jacques Lukusa chipped in with 18 and 15, respectively, for the Colts.
For Ottawa Next Level, Abdul Mohamed led his team in scoring with 11 points.
Bill Crothers Colts (Jr.) vs Notre Dame Cougars (Jr.) (Ajax)
It seems as though the Bill Crothers Colts junior team followed suit with their senior squad as they blew the Notre Dame Cougars out of the water in Saturday’s matinee. The entire team – filled with smart, talented and athletic players – set out as though they had something to prove over an overwhelmed Cougars club.
The first quarter proved to be a sign of things to come as the Colts – led by their floor general MiyKah McIntosh – put the hammer down against the Cougars. The energized Colts were able to score much of their baskets in transition off of turnovers and forced, contested perimeter shots. Notre Dame didn’t have many opportunities to run their sets as their inability to disengage the Colts’ full court press caused a sense of panic amongst the team. The Colts were able to keep Cougars in single digits after the first quarter, and, unfortunately for Notre Dame, things didn’t change much from there on forward.
Much of the Cougars’ inability to score was attributed to the Colts defense both inside and on the perimeter. At the same time, the Colts weren’t doing any favours for Notre Dame as they connected on several long balls, particularly in the second and third quarter, to eventually split open the lead.
By the end of the third quarter it was pretty evident that no comeback was going to be made. As a result the Bill Crothers Colts were able to pick up a big win over the Notre Dame Cougars, 93-51.
MiyKah McIntosh led his squad in scoring with 24 points, including five three pointers, while Eghosa Odiase led the Cougars with 11 points.
Orangeville Prep vs Thetford Academy
Thetford made it a mission early to try to nullify Thon Maker on the inside with a bombardment of double-teams and unyielding full court pressure that prevented Orangeville from establishing their half-court offense with any type of fluidity. Thetford also displayed a remarkable amount of energy in the opening half with stifling defensive pressure that seemingly didn’t let up. Whether it was full court pressure to get the ball out of Murray’s hands, or trapping the corners and baseline anytime Orangeville had the ball, Thetford made sure their defense was sharp and effective. After a strong first half by Thetford, Orangeville saw themselves down eight at halftime, 32-24.
The second half, which seemed to be the polar opposite of the first 20 minutes of action, saw Orangeville completely turn the tide and increase their defensive intensity. Not only did Maker and company force countless contested inside and perimeter shots, but their transition offense – through the leadership of Murray – was key to their big scoring run and, as a result, a victory over a heady Thetford Academy squad.
Thon Maker – who mostly struggled to find any semblance of his perimeter game – was a force to be reckoned with on the inside, especially on the defensive end. Despite swarming defence that hovered Maker all night he was still able to pour in 16 points and help his team pull out the 15 point win, 74-59, over Thetford Academy.
Jamal Murray led Orangeville Prep in scoring with 22 points, including a few timely three pointers to ignite a furious comeback, while Thetford’s Narcisse Kalamba had a team high 14 points in the loss.
St. Benedict’s Prep vs Wasatch Academy Tigers
Perhaps the most competitive and closely-contested matchup came at the end of a great day of basketball between two American high school powerhouses: St. Benedict’s Prep versus the Wasatch Academy Tigers.
The first quarter was a heated battle as the Tigers – behind a first quarter scoring surge by Koby McEwen where the 6’3” guard knocked down two three pointers- were able to build a sizeable lead and ended the quarter with a four point advantage, 25-21.
The second quarter saw the Tigers maintain control of the game and extend their lead to double digits. McEwen and sharpshooter Cody John led the charge in the second frame as the duo combined for 17 points to help the Tigers gain an 11 point lead, 49-38, going into the half.
The second half, and more importantly, the third quarter, turned out to be the most entertaining quarter throughout any of the games at the day long event. St. Benedict’s combo guard Tyrell Gumbs –Frater and the Tigers’ Cody John exchanged – in total — four three pointers amongst them near the end of the quarter where John, in dramatic fashion, hit a buzzer-beating trifecta to end the frame.
Despite a 14 point fourth quarter from St. Benedict’s Trevon Duval – where the 6’3” combo guard hit on two long balls as well as a horde of baskets in the paint- the Tigers refused to let up as John and company were able to take home the 93-82 win.
Cody John exploded for 36 points in the 11 point win while his counter-mate Koby Mcewen chipped in with 27 for the Tigers.
Trevon Duval led St. Benedict’s Prep with 24 points in the loss.
As a bonus Saturday’s festivities featured a Dunk Contest before the Wasatch/St.Benedict’s game. The Bill Crothers crew brought out some firepower to judge the contest as Phil Dixon, Martin Keane and Gary Durrant were on hand to bring a bit of history to the event. The dunkers didn’t disappoint, as St. Benedict guards Marcus Ottey and Tyrell Gumbs-Frater and Jamal Murray made the final round very memorable. Ottey won out in the end with some incredibly difficult dunks but Gumbs-Frater and Murray were highly impressive as the fans roared their approval after every dunk, whether made or missed.
Overall the Bill Crothers Invitational was a sensational 2-day basketball event that brought the basketball community together to celebrate the growth of the sport here in Canada and the plethora of Canadian ballers who are plying their trade in American Prep Schools. Every Canadian baller, whether playing in America or at home, put on a show for their friends and family in attendance. Special thanks goes out to Bill Crothers Sr. Boy’s Head Coach Bill Hantoumakos and the Crothers Athletic Program staff for their hospitality.
Written by Jas Grewal
Photos Courtesy of Reel Motion Imaging @RonnieMexx
Edited by Drew Ebanks