NORTH AUGUSTA — Five teams came out of pool play at the EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam with identical 4-1 records. Since four of them were set to square off in a pair of quarterfinals Saturday evening, at least two were guaranteed to go home earlier than they’d like.
In one game, the NJ Playaz held off the Texas Titans for a 66-59 victory despite a rough patch at the free-throw line in the second half.
After building a 54-46 lead, head coach Jimmy Salmon’s team missed four of a group of six free throws. Meanwhile, the Titans’ Tyler Davis scored eight consecutive points at the other end, including six shots from the charity stripe, to cut the lead down to two.
“We had a tough stretch the entire tournament as far as free throws, so the fact that we were able to make some ... I’m happy,” Salmon said.
Those big shots came from Temple Gibbs Jr., who accounted for the team’s last eight points from the free-throw line and scored 16 points in the game with a 9-for-11 effort at the line.
DJ Hogg tried to make it interesting with 38 seconds left. His team trailing 60-54, the 6-foot-7 small forward came off a screen and nailed an off-balance 3-pointer, on of five on the night and part of a 27-point effort.
The Titans weren’t able to cut it any closer from there, but head coach Scott Pospichal said his team was able to battle in the big game because the players have grown accustomed to such situations.
“Our kids have been doing that since they were in the third grade,” he said.
Hogg, one of the top 30 recruits in the country, wasn’t the only Titan shouldering the load.
Davis ended the night with 20 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks after his late push to get his team back in the game.
“He generally gives it to us like that every night,” Pospichal said.
Salmon said his players were having a hard time finding a way to keep Davis from scoring.
“Well, it wasn’t easy. We got called for seven off-the-ball fouls defensively,” Salmon said. “Nothing worked. The kid is real good.”
To respond, Salmon’s squad spread the ball around and scored at the other end. While Davis and Hogg were the only Titans with more than six points, the Playaz got four in double digits.
Isaiah Briscoe led the way with 18 points, followed by Gibbs and Shakur Juiston with 16 and Trevon Duval with 10. The 6-foot-3 Briscoe also had nine rebounds, while the 6-7 Juiston had eight despite squaring off against the 6-foot-10 Davis and Marques Bolden, also 6-10.
“That’s been how we’ve played all year,” Salmon said of the balance.
In the other battle of 4-1 teams, Team Penny ensured there would be a new champion this year by knocking off defending champ E1T1 93-76.
In doing so, Team Penny eliminated one of the most talked-about recruits at the event, Ben Simmons. The LSU commit, ranked No. 1 in the country by Rivals.com and No. 2 by ESPN.com, scored 24 points with six rebounds and three assists.
He was outdone by Team Penny’s Keelon Lawson, though. The Memphis commit led all scorers with 26 points, while younger brother Dedric had 23 points and 15 rebounds.
Fellow top recruit Ivan Rabb also got eliminated from the event, as his Oakland Soldiers fell to Boo Williams 64-53, with Rabb notching just four points. Boo Williams’ Justin Robinson and Christopher Clarke had 15 each in the win.
In the fourth quarterfinal, Team SCAN – the fifth 4-1 team – got four late points from Cheick Diallo to turn a tied game into a 66-61 win over Houston Hoops. Diallo had 15 points, and Tyus Battle led the way with 21.
Today’s semifinals kick off at 9 a.m. with Team Penny vs. Boo Williams, followed at 10:30 a.m. by Team SCAN vs. NJ Playaz. The winners will play for the championship at 3 p.m.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Trevon Duval, right, of the NJ Playaz drives past the defense of the Texas Titans' DJ Hogg during Saturday's quarterfinal game.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Ben Simmons of E1T1 Elite shoots against Team Penny during Saturday's quarterfinal.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman DJ Hogg of the Texas Titans (1) pulls up for an early 3-pointer against the NJ Playaz during Saturday's quarterfinal.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Villanova head coach Jay Wright takes in the quarterfinal action at the EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam on Saturday.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Texas Titans forward Tyler Davis (34) drives through the NJ Playaz defense during Saturday's quarterfinal.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman Alabama coach Anthony Grant takes in the quarterfinal action at the EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam on Saturday.×