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Once again, the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions featured a game-winning buzzer-beater between two of the nation’s high-school powerhouses. On Friday night, rivals Montverde and Memphis East squared-off for the third time in less than a month. In late December, Montverde defeated Memphis East 63-54 at the “City of Palms Classic” in Fort Meyers. 17-days later, they met again at the “Penny Hardaway National Hoopfest” in Memphis, where Coach Hardaway’s Mustangs defeated the Eagles with a last-second dunk from Chandler Lawson. 6-days later, they were at it again at the 33rd annual Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. The Semifinal was the game of the tournament, featuring 12 lead changes. In the end, Alex Lomax sunk a long-distance 3-pointer as the horn sounded, delivering the decider to Memphis East 59-56.
Congrats to Madison Prep’s Josh LeBlanc who won this year’s Great Southern Bank Slam Dunk Contest. He earned it with a ‘tween-the-legs right-handed hammer. Oddly enough, it was a dunk he hasn’t successfully thrown down since he was in 8th grade. Are you kidding me?! Congrats to runner-up Donyae McCaskill of Kickapoo; he showed-off some impressive elevation Saturday afternoon. Check out the video above. Hillcrest’s Tyrenn Freeman and Willard’s Huston Johnson rounded-out the top-4 in the final round.
Records were broken this year. The Championship Game between Sierra Canyon and Memphis East Saturday night included the largest single day attendance in Bass Pro Tournament of Champions history. 10,729 fans were on-hand to see Sierra Canyon capture their first Bass Pro Tournament of Champions title. Nearly 27,000 fans spent the weekend at JQH Arena; an impressive turn-out considering Thursday’s ice storm. The championship win was redemption for Sierra Canyon, who fell to Oak Hill last year thanks to Ty-Shon Alexander’s buzzer-beater in the final game.
While we didn’t have any Bass Pro Shootout winners this year, we had an absolute blast on-court between games and during halftimes. Springfield’s Tyler Gentry did sink a half-court shot, but only after I gave him a fourth attempt when time had expired (You can see the video in the tweets to the right). 12-year-old Clay Henderson from Purdy came close, as well. In 30-seconds, he sunk the lay-up, free-throw and three-pointer and nearly nailed the half-court shot. Before we started the clock, he said he didn’t have a girlfriend but was open the idea. My guess is he left with a phone number or two. During halftime of the championship game, Hunter Huett couldn’t hit a single foul-shot…so instead, he brought the house down with several spectacular dunks. Cool moment.
On Day-2, the Cardinals Caravan had to cancel due to the weather, so I welcomed two families to the court for the first-ever Bass Pro Tournament of Champions “Family Invitational.” Maddie, Page and dad Steve from Clever took on Ava’s Drew, Jackson and dad Mike. It was a blast. The kids showed-off their dribbling and passing skills while two proud fathers anchored with assists from the top of the key. We’ll have to do this again – it turned into a crowd pleaser showcasing four “future” future stars of the sport.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari was there on Thursday, watching one of his recruits – P.J. Washington of Findlay Prep – who scored 21-points in their opener versus Madison Prep.
It was great to have NBA Legend and Olympic Gold Medalist Perry Hardaway in town, too. I’m stoked that he got a chance to experience Southwest Missouri’s basketball IQ and witness first-hand the atmosphere we create for these kids, preparing them for the next level. In 2010, Penny took-over coaching a middle school ball club in Memphis as a vow to a dying childhood friend. In Penny’s words: “I promised my grandmother that if I ever made it, I would never forget where I came from, and I’m holdin’ to that.” He’s followed these kids to the Memphis East program, a team that includes his son Jayden. His buddy, Coach Desmond Merriweather passed-away in 2015 after a 6-year battle with colon cancer. Penny continues his inspiring run with Desmond’s kids…Desmond’s vision.
This was my fifth year as on-court emcee for the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. Originally, I saw this as memorable three-days in my own backyard to witness outstanding greatness before exposure to Division-1 NCAA hoops and the NBA. Since moving north to New England, I have to confess: It’s bigger than that. The Bass Pro Tournament of Champions is travel worthy. Why do you think top-scouts and NCAA head coaches like Kentucky’s John Calipari make the trip?
Regardless of where you live, make plans now to visit Springfield, Missouri in early January of 2018. Be a part of the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. Just a few years down the road, you’ll brag about witnessing greatness like Marvin Bagley III and P.J. Washington, before that greatness was ever exposed to college or the pros. You’ll never forget the hospitality, the authenticity, the fun you had with the entire family in a small town smack-dab in the middle of the country; a community that proudly hosts the highest attended high-school basketball tournament in the nation…all to benefit the athletic programs of its public schools.
RESULTS. Day-1: 2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions
Findlay Prep def. Madison Prep 77-50
Sierra Canyon def. Republic 72-54
Montverde def. Kickapoo 74-40
Memphis East def. Greenforest 63-56
RESULTS. Day-2: 2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions
Madison Prep def. Republic 43-39
Greenforest def. Kickapoo 56-52
Sierra Canyon def Findlay Prep 76-47
Memphis East def. Montverde 59-56
RESULTS. Day-3: 2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions
Kickapoo def. Republic 64-61
Greenforest def. Madison Prep 53-41
Montverde def. Findlay Prep 79-65
Sierra Canyon def. Memphis East 75-59
2017 All Tournament Team:
- Marvin Bagley III (Sierra Canyon) MVP
- Alex Lomax (Memphis East)
- Chandler Lawson (Memphis East)
- Cody Riley (Sierra Canyon)
- Remy Martin (Sierra Canyon)
- Josh LeBlanc (Madison Prep)
- R.J. Barrett (Montverde)
- Andrew Nembhard (Montverde)
- Lamine Diane (Findlay Prep)
- Ikey Obiagu (Greenforest)
- Jared Ridder (Kickapoo)
- Ty Stevens (Republic)
2017 Slam Dunk Contest:
- Josh LeBlanc (Madison Prep)
- Donyae McCaskill (Kickapoo)
Other Slam Dunk Finalists:
- Tyrenn Freeman (Hillcrest)
- Huston Johnson (Willard)
THE TEAMS: 2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions
Findlay Prep (Las Vegas, NV)
- MaxPreps Independent #2 / USA Today #4
- P.J. Washington (Kentucky). Ranked #16 player in the nation (ESPN)
- Justin Roberts (DePaul)
- Donnie Tillman (Offers from six Division-1 schools)
- NBA alumni include: Avery Bradley, Anthony Bennett, and Tristan Thompson
Greenforest (Decatur, GA)
- MaxPreps National #22
- Victor Enoh (Memphis)
- Ikey Obiagu (Florida State)
Madison Prep (Baton Rouge, LA)
- MaxPreps Louisiana #1
- Josh LeBlanc, Kobe Julien and John Anderson (Western Kentucky) all ranked in the top-60 (ESPN)
Memphis East (Memphis, TN)
- Coached by former NBA great and Olympic Gold Medalist, Penny Hardaway
- MaxPreps National #6 / Fab50 #3
- Alex Lomax (Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year 2016)
- Chandler Lawson. Ranked #18 in the nation as a sophomore
Montverde (Montverde, FL)
- Champions 2014. Finalists 2013.
- MaxPreps Independent #3 / USA Today #4
- Marcus Carr (Pittsburg)
- Cameron Healy (Albany)
- Sean Mobley (Virginia Commonwealth)
- NBA alumni include: Ben Simmons (2014) now with the Philadelphia 76ers
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, CA)
- Finalists last year. Fell in a buzzer-beater to Oak Hill Academy
- MaxPreps National #3 / USA Today #2
- Marvin Bagley III – Top-ranked player in the nation as a junior
- Cody Riley (UCLA)
- Remy Martin (Arizona State)
- Adam Seiko (San Diego State)
- Alumni include: Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner and Willow Smith. Okay.
- 17th appearance. 2005 Champions
- Missouri Class 5 State Finalist last year
- Jared Ridder (Xavier)
- Cam Davis (Navy)
- NBA alumni: Anthony Tolliver
- 2nd appearance. 7th-place finish in 2005
- Won the Blue Bracket at the 71st annual Blue and Gold Tournament a few weeks back, posting wins over Mount Vernon, Marshfield, Parkview and Glendale