Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Plagued by hip and left toe injuries, Aaron Gordon estimated he was at about 60 percent coming into the finals of the Peach Jam.
But the 6-foot-9 small forward out of San Jose Mitty labored through two tough injuries and helped carry his Oakland Soldiers team to its first Peach Jam championship with a 51-50 victory over CIA Bounce on Sunday afternoon despite a game-high 23 points from Andrew Wiggins.
“Man, this is the first tournament I’ve played in in six and a half, almost seven weeks, and to come out and win a big one like this, it just means a lot,” said Gordon, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“This team has a whole lotta heart. We’ve been talking about it all week long. This team got a bunch of heart and it means a lot to me that we can come out here and finally put a West Coast team on that banner.”
The Soldiers finished a perfect 8-0 in the Peach Jam.
With Oakland trailing 50-49, Jabari Bird made the decisive play when he was fouled shooting a 3-pointer by Wiggins with 1.9 seconds left.
He made the first to tie the game before missing the second. Bounce called a timeout to ice him, but he made the third for a 51-50 lead.
Asked what he was thinking before the final free throw, Bird said, “I gotta make this last one. If I miss it we’re going to go to overtime and win. But I made it and we didn’t have to go that far. I’m just happy we got the championship.”
Bird finished with 9 points and Stanley Johnson added 15.
The loss was the second in a final in eight days for Wiggins and the Canadians, who lost last Sunday to the USA Midwest team in the Nike Global Challenge final in Washington, D.C.
Gordon, who told SNY.tv Saturday night that his top three are Washington, Arizona and Kentucky, said it was tough getting through the week with his injuries.
“It was a struggle, man,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you guys. It was a struggle.”
Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar, Arizona’s Sean Miller and Book Richardson and Kentucky’s Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne all sat courtside.
Gordon has visited Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and Stanford, but said, “I’m going to visit Oregon, Kentucky and Kansas probably.” He said he will visit Arizona for the Red and Blue Game.
“I’m definitely going to go up to Kentucky to see what that’s about,” he added.
Still, Washington remains the favorite, with Arizona in the mix.
“I really like the West Coast, but it doesn’t matter,” Gordon said. “Wherever I want to play basketball, it’s OK with me.”
Gordon said he will watch the NCAA Tournament and then likely decide in the spring.
In the second semifinal, the Soldiers beat CP3, 55-53, behind 17 points apiece from Stanley Johnson and Jabari Bird. Gordon added 12 points and 9 rebounds.
Theo Pinson of CP3 was fouled shooting a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds, but missed the first foul shot. After making the second, he intentionally missed the third. CP3 had a chance at a game-tying putback but it didn’t fall.
CIA Bounce advanced to the final with an 81-67 victory over MoKan in the first semifinal.
Bounce overcame a sluggish start and won behind 22 points and 4 rebounds from Ennis and 20 points from Wiggins.
MoKan star Semi Ojeleye was limited to 10 points on 2-for-13 shooting with 1 rebound.
Austin Ruder paced MoKan with 18 points, hitting 4-of-9 from 3, Lourawls Nairn Jr. added 14 and Clayton Custer had 10.
TEAM TEXAS TITANS WIN 16U TITLE
Team Texas Titans won the 16U Peach Jam title with an exciting 66-65 double-OT victory over the hometown Southern Stampede, a team comprised of Georgia and South Carolina players.
King McClure led the Titans with 26 points on 8-for-14 shooting and Mickey Mitchell had 5 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 turnovers.
Soso Jamobo and Samir Sechic added 14 points apiece. Sechic’s layup at the end of the first OT to force the second.
Ahmed Hill had 18 points on 6-for-15 shooting and 6 rebounds for the Stampede. Elijah Staley had 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting with 5 rebounds, Jakeenan Grant scored 15 points with 8 rebounds and Marcus Stroman added 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
***Syracuse assistants Adrian Autry and Nick Resavy, Illinois head coach John Groce, Louisville assistant Kevin Keatts and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner were all on hand for Tyler Ennis.
The St. Benedict’s Prep guard said after the semifinal he plans to decide in August.
“I want to sign early,” he said, adding that he’s looking for a school that has “a lot of talent around me.”
“The more talent they have, the better it is for me,” he added.
**The Kentucky coaches also watched Andrew Wiggins, who may or may not reclassify to 2013 from 2014 and told SNY.tv Kentucky and Florida State are coming “after me the hardest.” Kentucky remains in the mix for Gordon, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, the Harrison Twins and James Young in 2013 and Wiggins in 2013/14. Something really special could be brewing. Again.
**N.C. State assistant Orlando Early and Indiana assistant Tim Buckley were among those watching Theo Pinson and CP3. Pinson recently picked up an offer from Duke to go with offers from North Carolina, N.C. State, Indiana and Georgetown, among others.
“I’ll hear a lot from local people telling you where to go now,” Pinson told FayObserver.com. “Now that you have an offer from everybody, they’re going to tell you where to go in North Carolina.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.