Reath’s Thunderous Jam Caps off Stunning Championship Comeback for CTA Academy
Canada Topflight Academy was rolling heading into the championship game against Father Henry Carr. Their three point shooting was clicking, led by sharpshooter Ankit Chaudhary. The defence, led by forwards like Enoch Kalambay, Tesloch Luk and Muon Reath, was zipping all over the court in terms of forcing turnovers and missed shots. And the offence was clicking, with balanced scoring.
But with 1:18 to go in the first half, Kalambay crumpled to the floor with a serious knee injury after a Henry Carr player landed on his leg. The crowd at Central Tech High School was hushed as there was a 30 minute delay before the CTA forward was wheeled off the court by paramedics.
“When Enoch went down, I was just shocked because he’s a fighter,” CTA forward Muon Reath said. “So I knew it was something serious.”
A visibly shaken CTA team was forced to complete the championship game without one of its best players and they were down by 14 early on in the third quarter against a hungry FHC team.
According to CTA head coach Tony House, one of two scenarios were going to play out.
“Either we can moan and cry for Enoch or we can play for him,” House said. “Either we’re going to get beat by 30 or we’re gonna actually compete and challenge every minute and have a chance to win.”
House sure was glad it was the latter scenario.
A thunderous alley oop slam by Muon Reath off of a pinpoint inbounds pass from Galdo Tutu with 3.3 seconds remaining capped off a remarkable 109-107 comeback win for Canada Top Flight Academy, who took home the first ever Hardwood Classix Invitational Presented by Tangerine title.
House was looking for a baseline triple on that offensive possession initially before having his team set a back screen for Reath to give him a mismatch. However, FHC did not switch defenders, leaving Reath wide open.
“The fact that he dunked it, I thought, was amazing,” House said, awestruck. “You can diagram it but to actually run it to perfection and to win the first Hardwood Classix Invitational like that… pretty crazy.”
“My mind was blank; I was just trying to execute the play right,” Reath said. “When Jo (Mulongo) was on my left, I was trying to sell it like I was going to give him a screen so I kept telling him to wait. Then I jumped towards him to make the defender think I was screening him. I saw Ankit coming to get my man so I started moving then looked at Galdo for the pass.
“When I saw the passing lane open, I knew either I’m dunking it or laying it in.”
Mulongo led CTA with 32 points, 25 coming in the second half. Chaudhry capped off an incredible shooting display over the weekend with 25 points on five made triples.
“These guys (CTA) came down to play,” Henry Carr guard Brendan Ocampo said. “They play hard and didn’t come here to lose so I give them respect for that.”
But it was Reath who took home the Hardwood Classix MVP, finishing with 14 points. He says that getting MVP honours was a shock to him, referring to performances from Chaudhry, Luk, and Mulongo.
“It’s crazy that I was named MVP. There were a handful of players on my team that deserved the title more than me,” Reath said. “We just have a team full of talented guys that do so much when they get on the floor.”
“Muon’s (Reath) the glue; he’s the Swiss Army knife,” House said. “He does it on both ends (and) when you say most valuable, he’s that guy.”
However, it almost never happened when Reath was forced to go to the bench with his fourth foul in the third quarter after receiving a technical foul for taunting after a made triple.
“When I was on the bench, the only thought was how (to) redeem myself because getting that tech was a selfish act on my end,” Reath said. “I could’ve been on the court still fighting but now I was on the bench with my fourth foul and gave the other team two easy free throws.”
Jalen Shirley had a chance to win the game for FHC but his wing triple went off the back rim as time expired. It was a disappointing end to the tournament for Father Henry Carr, who played without leading scorer Josh Morgan due to injury.
“We just grinded. When one person’s down, we don’t let it affect the whole team; we just come out hard with energy and full court pressing,” Henry Carr forward Caleb Johnson said.
“We’re waiting for our full roster to come,” Ocampo said. “We haven’t been playing all together (so) we’ll be alright.”
FHC was led by Johnson’s game high 39 points, who showcased his offensive talents throughout this tournament whether it was with thunderous jams, acrobatic finishes, or timely jump shooting.
“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and help my team get the win,” Johnson said of his performance.
Meanwhile, for Ocampo, he finished with 21 points as he surprised many of the coaches and fans here in attendance during this tournament with his finishing around the rim, whether it was acrobatic or through tons of contact.
“My coach loves to put us in the weight room every day. He tells me that when you get onto that court, stop playing so soft,” Ocampo said. “He tells me to work and play physical.”
Chaudhry and Luk each had eight points in the opening frame for CTA but Johnson’s 14 in the quarter had FHC up 29-28 after one.
In the second, it was Johnson and Noah Ngamga leading the way for FHC with nine points each in the quarter. CTA, meanwhile, struggled to generate offense in that frame with just 17 points as they trailed 58-45 at the half.
But Canada Top Flight Academy came out of intermission playing inspired, led by guards Mulongo (15) and Chaudhry (11). They outscored FHC, 39-28, in the third quarter and went into the final frame down by just two (86-84).
Offense from both sides slowed down in the fourth quarter as both teams were determined to get stops to pull away for the win. Mulongo had 10 in the quarter for CTA while Johnson had eight and Ocampo as well as Jahmyah Brown-Jeffers each had six for FHC.
Henry Carr was up two with 28 seconds to go before CTA tied it on a layup by WIlson Dubinsky off of a dump off pass. FHC then committed a shot clock violation on their next possession and House then called for time with 3.8 seconds left, leading to Reath’s heroics.
“Going into December, we still have the Sun Youth tournament in Montreal. But this is a game-changer,” House said. “I hope we get Enoch back and that it’s nothing too serious. If we don’t, we’ve got different guys stepping up. These guys are getting experience and god forbid, if injuries or foul trouble arise, they’re ready to play and step up. I’m so proud of them.”
ALL FOR ENOCH
Obviously, the storyline after the first half ended for CTA was to win this game for Kalambay, who went down earlier with a serious knee injury.
It hit especially hard for Reath, who had known Kalambay since Grade 7 and has been playing with him for around three years. Muon described what Kalambay has meant to him, calling Enoch his “big bro.”
“He’ll get guys hyped up and get them serious when it’s time too,” Reath said. “I’ve learned a lot from him on and off the court. He’s great, knows how to make people laugh, (and) just a humble guy that takes care of business.”
CTA, after the game, huddled up together around an emotional Reath, who had his thoughts for Kalambay, signalling how united this group was.
“That moment when we came together and decided to fight for Enoch, I knew this was a team I’d love to be a part of. They’re a team full of killers and they’d kill for each other no matter what it takes,” Reath said. “This tourney, we learned to push the gas on the opposing team and fight all the way through. Now we just gotta take this lesson and bring it on to the NPA season and have fun with it.”
Each Team’s Journey (Men’s Bracket)
Canada Top Flight Academy
CTA, in their earlier two games, faced off against two tough and gritty teams in TBA Prep Friday night and TRC Academy Saturday morning. Luk scored 26 to lead all scorers for CTA in a 104-84 win over TBA Prep; six players scored in double figures during that game.
“When you’re playing prep basketball, you want to compete against the very best. And in this tournament, other than Orangeville Prep, all the best teams were here,” House said. “Our road was tough. Every game you play (here) there’s a bullseye on your back and we get everybody’s best shot.”
They were then up by as much as 29 in the second half before TRC Academy made a furious rally to cut the lead down to single digits.
“My guys gotta understand (even though) you’re up 30, that’s (TRC) a very good basketball team,” House said. “They’ve got a lot of pride and they’re gonna come back. But we held them off.”
CTA hung on to win that game by a score of 107-100, led by Chaudhry’s game high 30 points on nine made triples. The sharpshooter hit a total of 19 three pointers during the tournament.
Father Henry Carr
For Father Henry Carr, making it to the championship game almost didn’t happen. In fact, their tournament looked like it was going to end at the hands of Bill Crothers in the quarterfinal as FHC was down by as many as 22 in the second quarter.
“We need to come in more aggressive and be ready to fight,” Caleb Johnson says of the slow starts that his team endures.
However, it was a 41 point turnaround as Brown-Jeffers and Johnson each had 27 to lead Henry Carr to a 105-86 win over Crothers. Johnson had 19 and Brown-Jeffers had 18 in the second half alone.
The next day, in the semifinals against Crestwood Prep, both teams started off on fire offensively as Crestwood was up 30-29 after one quarter. But Henry Carr tightened up defensively after that and eventually pulled away in the fourth quarter, winning by a score of 105-91.
Ocampo led five FHC players in double figures with 23 as his finishing around the rim was something to behold. Brown-Jeffers and Johnson each had 21 as Henry Carr’s work in the paint offensively proved to be the difference.
It was a tale of two games offensively for Crestwood Prep. The quarterfinals saw them go up against Southwest Academy and they absolutely shot the lights out from downtown, hitting 20 triples in a 140-98 blowout victory. A total of six Crestwood players scored in double figures, led by Elijah Fisher’s game high 33 points. Dezayne Mingo was a flamethrower off of the bench, nailing six triples and finishing with 24.
But the script was flipped the next day in the semifinals against Father Henry Carr in which Crestwood missed numerous looks from three, hitting just three triples that game. Crestwood’s tournament ended with a 105-91 loss to Henry Carr.
Kobe Antwi finished with a game-high 36 points and Fisher chipped in with 20 but they were the only two players to score in double figures for Crestwood.
TRC Academy, in this tournament, had their hopes dashed at the hands of Canada Top Flight Academy in the semifinals but not before they made noise throughout their two games.
In the quarterfinal against Thornlea, TRC was in full control from the second quarter onward as they outscored Thornlea, 35-17, and eventually won the game 106-83.
Dawson John led four TRC players in double figures with 26 points as he hit a total of five triples in that game. Bryant Selebangue did the dirty work on the inside as he dropped 22.
Against CTA, it was a struggle defensively for TRC as they allowed 29, 29, and 31 points in three quarters. Meanwhile, TRC struggled to score in the first half, scoring just 28 as they were down by 30 at the half. They did get it going in the third quarter, scoring 38 but were still down 23 heading into the fourth quarter (89-66).
But something clicked in that fourth quarter for TRC Academy on both ends of the floor as they outscored CTA, 35-18, in the frame. However, it became too little too late for TRC Academy as they fell 107-100.
Majambu Mbikay scored all 27 of his points in the second half to lead TRC while Selebangue had 24.
It looked like it would be Bill Crothers, who would face off against Crestwood in the semifinals as they dominated the better part of the first half against Father Henry Carr, going up by as many as 22 in the second quarter. Crothers, led by Kobe Elvis, were getting to the rim at will and finishing.
But FHC cut the lead down to a manageable 10 at the half and the numerous turnovers leading to scores as well as cold second half shooting led to a 105-86 defeat for Bill Crothers as their tournament came to a disappointing end.
Five players scored in double figures for the team. Tyson Dunn scored 21 of his team-high 25 points in the second half while Elvis finished with 22 and Marcus Barnes had 17.
A subpar first (39-16) and third quarters on both ends of the floor in their 140-98 quarterfinal loss against Crestwood Prep proved to be all she wrote for Southwest Academy, who played without big man Brock Newton.
A bright spot for Southwest was the play of Kuol Kuol, who dropped 21 of his team high 29 points in the second half and made all eight of his free throws.
Jaleel Hilts had 14 of his 17 points in the first half while Tariq Armstrong and Ethan Butler each had 14 and Ziphion Grant dropped 12 to round out Southwest Academy’s double figure scorers.
Thornlea faced off against TRC Academy, without UConn commit Javonte Brown, in what was the first quarterfinal of the day for the men’s bracket.
Although they hung in there during the duration of the first quarter, a 35-17 edge in the second quarter for TRC spelled doom for Thornlea’s chances to win this game as they fell, 106-83.
Ben Li returned to Thornlea with a bang, finishing with a game-high 28 points in the loss while hitting five triples and scoring 11 in the final frame. Dominic Mudihy had 18 while Adrien Husic and Khalid Long each had 10.
TBA Prep, led by first year coach Yusuf Ali, had the final quarterfinal match of the night but were in tough as they were playing a well-rounded CTA team.
CTA nearly ran away with it early on but a timely timeout got TBA Prep settled down and they started chipping away, cutting the CTA lead down to three at the half (45-42).
However, TBA had a poor second half on the defensive end, allowing 58 points on 10 made triples. They were able to pull away in the fourth after extending their lead to a dozen during the third frame.
TBA weren’t able to keep up with CTA offensively and their tournament ended after one game, losing 104-84. CTA hit 15 three pointers during the game; TBA hit just six.
Five players scored in double figures for TBA Prep, led by 25 points from southpaw Jasha’juan Downey while Jesse Okeke had 16.
Written by Kajan Thiruthanikasalam Check out Kajan on Twitter
Photo by Mustapha Youssouf. Check out Capturedbyma on Twitter