It was an incredible day of championship basketball on Sunday at Royal Crown Academy for the 2nd annual Hardwood Classix. The event was presented by Hoopdreams, On Point Basketball & Megacity Basketball.
The day started with King’s Christian Academy taking on Royal Crown Academy in the women’s finals, and was followed by Royal Crown Academy against the London Basketball Academy in the men’s title game.
Royal Crown Academy was looking for a championship sweep on their home floor, but it wouldn’t be easy against two top-level opponents.
WOMENS FINAL: Royal Crown Academy 66 King’s Christian Academy 59
The first final of the day saw Royal Crown defend their home floor and defeat King’s Christian 66-59, in what was a scrappy battle that remained close to the end.
King’s Christian got off to a good start through Dominique Ennis amongst a few others; sharing the basketball and playing tough defence. Their 17-11 first quarter lead was erased quickly in the second however, as Royal Crown’s Alisha Murray began to take over the game. The score was knotted at 26 at the half, before an offensive-filled third saw Royal Crown open up a 6-point lead. The fourth quarter was defensive and hard-fought, with RCA making enough clutch baskets in the remaining few minutes to preserve their lead and become the 2021 Hardwood Classix champions.
Murray was the leader offensively for Royal Crown, winning MVP with 23 points on 10/26 from the floor. Emirson Devenie and Mikaela Parris provided big contributions as well, scoring 11 and 10 points respectively on route to victory.
Ennis led the way for King’s Christian, with 15 points, including 2 made threes. Abigail Jegede impressed with 13 points on 6/14 from the field, and Mackendra Konig had a big impact on both ends of the floor, eventually finishing with 10 points.
The win wasn’t easy for Royal Crown Academy, as King’s Christian refused to go away despite their shots not falling. It took a full team effort; something that the MVP Murray acknowledged post game.
“We had to keep the intensity up”, said Murray. “We got together, we talked, and we made a decision that it was defence first, whether or not our offence was working we made sure to give full effort on defence every possession”.
MEN’S FINAL: London Basketball Academy 62 Royal Crown Academy 61
Despite watching their girls team come through earlier in the afternoon, Royal Crown Academy (RCA) were unable to hold on in the men’s finals as London Basketball Academy (LBA) stormed back for a thrilling 62-61 win.
Royal Crown were hot early, getting good looks for Mamborou Mara and Michael Evbagharu within the flow of the offence, as they stormed out to a 27-15 lead. From that point on though it turned it to a complete defensive battle, with lots of forced turnovers that kept the pace of play quick. Despite the transitional opportunities, both sides struggled to shoot the basketball in the second frame, although London Basketball Academy made some timely shots through Cam Slaymaker and others and closed the deficit to 3 at halftime.
The third quarter was even more of a stalemate, as Royal Crown took a 51-45 advantage into the final quarter. As the clock ran thin, London Basketball Academy stayed in the game despite trailing for its entirety, and they finally took the lead with a few minutes to play. Their work on defence was overwhelming for Royal Crown, and they were able to fight off a late comeback attempt to hold on and escape with a 62-61 victory on the opposition’s floor.
The game was a dog fight until the end, eventually being won on the defensive end of the floor.
“The focus was to try and keep them out of the paint as much as we could”, said the LBA head coach Angelo Provenzano. “It’s not always perfect against them because they have such good players, but we stuck together as a team and got the important ones”.
LBA’s MVP in the game was Deng Majak, who’s work on both offence and the glass propelled his team to success in the second half, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The aforementioned Slaymaker made crucial shots throughout the game and finished with 15 points while Chikosi Boardi and Emmanuel Akot also shined with 12 points each.
Royal Crown Academy were led by Mara and Evbagharu offensively, who scored 15 and 13 points respectively. Theirno Sylla contributed an important 8 points as well, while guard Jahari Williamson impressed in his command of the offence, eventually finishing with 7 points on 3/8 from the floor.
The win meant so much to London Basketball Academy, especially due to the fact that it was won through a never-say-die attitude. They trailed for almost the entirety of the game, but kept it close, and pounced late in the game with suffocating defence and timely buckets.
Despite the odds, London’s Slaymaker had faith in his group the entire way down the stretch.
“Our teams super tough, we’re a bunch of underdogs.”, said Slaymaker. “We aren’t the biggest names, but we play hard and play together. We never gave up, that was the attitude no matter how much we got down.”
NEXT UP: Hardwood Classix All-Star Weekend February 19th & 20th, 2022
Photos courtesy Reel Motion Image