S.C. Represents at Gibbons
Metro Atlanta has a larger population than the entire state of South
Carolina. North Carolina has double the population of South Carolina.
Some people may see these statistics and immediately say that the Palmetto
State is just too small to produce basketball talent.
Don't tell that to the local players and teams in this state however. They
let their talk speak for itself on the court. This weekend was a prime
example of how the in-state talent is more than capable of hanging with the
so-called big boys.
AAU organizations from across the Southeast turned out at the prestigious
Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions this past weekend at Suwanee Sports
Academy. Teams were matched up according to expectations and by the amount
of top ranked players they have. Florida Elite, Atlantic Celtics, Team
Charlotte, Nashville Celtics, and Atlanta Xpress were just a few teams that
figured to be in the running to take home the title.
By the latter half of the weekend, two South Carolina based teams, Upward
Stars and SC Raptors Elite, both were in contention to make a run at the
trophy and both turned the heads of college coaches all along the East
Upward started the event 2 and 0 with a blowout win over the Florida
Celtics and an eight point win over Team Impact before losing a Saturday
afternoon game to the Atlanta Celtics. Upward featured a balanced attack
all weekend long. Junior forward *Javis Howard* (Irmo HS) constantly
seemed to be on the receiving end of several highlight reel passes from
point guards *PJ Dozier* (Spring Valley HS), *Dantez Bennamon* (Goose Creek
HS), and *Keith Pinckney* (Miller Grove HS, GA). The Stars also had solid
weekend performances from* Demetre Rivers* (Stratford HS) and *Wesley
Johnson* (Eastside HS).
As strong as the Upward Stars started, it was the South Carolina Raptors
Elite team that ended up being one of the more pleasant surprises of the
entire tournament. The Raptors were coming off a tournament championship
at the King James Showcase event in Augusta just one week ago, but not many
expected them to have a repeat performance at Gibbons.
The Raptors began the Gibbons tournament with two fairly convincing wins
before having to edge it out against a tough Florida Gold Coast squad and
another nail-bitter against the Smyrna Stars. That put the Raptors at 4
and 0; setting up a semifinal matchup against powerhouse Florida Elite.
The Raptors looked tired and over matched in the first half. They trailed
throughout the half by double digits before guard *Alex Mills* (Kennedy
Charter) caught fire from three. After clawing and fighting its way back
into the game, sophomore guard *Gage Ellis *(Legacy Charter) knocked down a
jumper with under ten seconds left in the game to give the Raptors the
upset win. The Raptors ended up losing in the championship game to Team
Charlotte but by that point the respect had already been earned. Mills and
Ellis, along with sophomore phenom point guard *Jawun Evans *(Legacy
Charter) let others know that South Carolina basketball is here to make a