E1T1 108, CP3 ALL-STARS 102
By KYLE DAWSON
Special to the Aiken Standard
NORTH AUGUSTA — E1T1 Elite couldn't have picked a better time than Sunday's title tilt of the Nike Peach Jam at Riverview Park Activities Center to start making 3-pointers.
After struggling from beyond the arc through much of the tournament, E1T1 caught fire when it counted; 12 3-pointers in the finale propelled E1T1 to a 108-102 championship victory over the CP3 All-Stars.
“I've been going through all the games and we've been shooting bad at the 3,” head coach Edward Francis said. “I always point it out to them. I say, 'that game where we hit 3s is going to be a special game.' I'm glad it was the championship game.”
The title caps an undefeated run through the Peach Jam for E1T1, who won seven of its eight games by double digits. Its last game was the most dramatic, as Francis' squad had to hold off a late surge by CP3. With the stakes raised, the two teams collaborated to produce the highest-scoring game of the week.
“It's a feeling of, just, relief,” said Francis after the trophy presentation. “It was a long time to get here, but we got here.”
Early on, the championship game looked like it was headed toward another E1T1 blowout. Answering the opening bell with menace, E1T1 raced to an early double-digit lead.
The early deluge was supplied by E1T1's three leading scorers, D'Angelo Russell (22 points), North Carolina commit Joel Berry (22) and Boubacar Moungoro (21).
E1T1 maintained its advantage throughout the first half, entering the break up 53-43. CP3 closed the deficit to as few as two points in the opening frame, but E1T1 kept finding ways to widen the gap.
CP3 clawed back in the second half primarily at the free throw line, attempting 34 of its 50 free throws after intermission. North Carolina commit Theo Pinson led the way for CP3, scoring 16 of his game-high 23 points at the charity stripe.
Another key to CP3's comeback was the post presence of Gary Clark, who posted a double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds and presented a match-up nightmare down low.
“I told my guys before we came in that (Clark) was going to be a monster,” Francis said. “He's always been a monster. I told them just to buckle down and man up.”
Francis turned to Alex Owens and Travon Reed to combat Clark in the paint, and they answered the call. Owens snared a game-high 16 rebounds in 24 minutes, while the 7-foot-1 Reed pulled down eight of his own.
Each time E1T1 appeared to close the game out, CP3 clawed back. The lead eventually dwindled to just two points with under 30 seconds to play, but Berry and Duke commit Grayson Allen iced the game with clutch free throws.
“In this thing, there's going to be ups and downs. Teams are going to make runs,” Francis said of his team's resolve. “We've just got to stay poised, stay positive and just stay together, no matter what the situation is.”