McCallie Plays The Rock Hard, But Can't Match High-Octane Lions

Florida-Based Powerhouse Also Mows Down East Hamilton In Showcase

Sunday, January 20, 2013 - by Larry Fleming

Two more local basketball teams took their best shots at The Rock on Saturday in the Scenic City Showcase held at East Hamilton High School.

Neither had enough ammunition.

The talented, well-oiled basketball machine that is The Rock, a highly talented group based in Gainesville, Fla., headed back to the Sunshine State unscathed after beating East Hamilton and McCallie to finish the Showcase event with three straight impressive wins.

The Rock trounced the host Hurricanes, 76-38, behind the dazzling play of guard Pape Diatta, who scored 19 points and made half of the Lions’ 10 3-pointers.

The Lions (19-3) paced themselves and seemingly turned on their tenacious defense any time a quick offensive burst was needed against the Hurricanes. That strategy probably saved his players’ legs for the later game against McCallie.

“That can be dangerous because if you’ve got someone down you’ve got to step on their throat,” Harden said. “Sometimes we don’t always take advantage of that. Fortunately, our starters have separated themselves from the bench. They work harder and are a lot more talented. When the bench contributes it’s a seamless transition and we hope we can put teams away early.”

The Rock blitzed East Hamilton with a 22-6 first quarter and the hit cruise control with Diatta, an 18-year-old 6-foot-7-inch junior from Senegal, West Africa, who played soccer before taking up basketball, at the controls.

With East Hamilton out of the way, the Lions rested for a couple of hours and then returned to face McCallie, which was coming off a tough Division II-AA regional showdown loss against Ensworth on Friday.

The Blue Tornado (8-9) showed no ill-effects from losing to state-ranked Ensworth and played The Rock hard throughout the game.

“Our goal tonight was to stand up and compete, not roll over and let them just do what they wanted to do,” McCallie coach Dan Wadley said.

That was a tall order. The Rock’s answer to McCallie’s spirited play was tall, as well.

Seven-foot center Joel Embiid, who is from Cameroon and will play college basketball at perennial national title contender Kansas, came out blazing.

McCallie led once, at 13-10, midway through the first quarter.

But Embiid, tipped in two baskets and dunked once to power the Rock to a 20-15 lead. When Embiid got an apparent rebound dunk over a couple of East Hamilton players, he instead picked up his third foul with 2:55 left in the half and the Lions up, 32-28.

McCallie’s Creighton Moxey hit a bucket, but Diatta scored five points, including a 3, and The Rock led, 37-30, at intermission.

“Pape would be our sixth man if (senior) Alain Chigha hadn’t gone down with ankle surgery,” Harden said. “He’s a tremendous talent, a guy who can play all five positions and he’s already being recruited by some high-major schools like Florida and Texas.”

The second half was a barn-burner.

The Rock led 39-32 early in the third quarter.

Embiid, playing a bit cautious with three fouls, hit a bucket, Christian Benzon made a layup and Diatta and super reserve Soren Olsen rocked McCallie with back-to-back 3s, pushing the margin to 49-34.

That’s when McCallie started doing what it does best – bomb away from outside.

Especially, senior guards Jorden Williams and Jamaal Calvin.

Williams rattled The Rock’s cage with three successive 3-pointers and the Tornado trailed by 51-43 heading into the fourth quarter.

“They’re better than us at every position,” Wadley said. “They’re bigger and taller than us. The only way we could compete with them was to play as hard as we could and do what we do best, and that’s to go right after them.”

McCallie hit 11 3s, six by Williams, four by Calvin and one by Zak Hobbs.

“If you shoot well, you look good,” Wadley said of his team’s sterling perimeter shooting. “Our senior guards knew they had to do it and stepped up.

With Calvin’s 3 offsetting DeVaughn Jenkins’ bucket at the 6:50 mark of the final quarter, Olsen drove a stake in the Tornado’s heart, scoring eight straight points, including two 3s, and Embiid added his rafter-rattling dunk to cap a 10-2 run and give the Lions a 63-49 cushion with 4:22 remaining.

That was that.

“I’ve coached varsity ball for 30 years and that is the best team I’ve ever coached against,” the veteran McCallie coach said. “They’re a very deep team, but we didn’t want the game to get so out of hand they could go into that bench, and we did that.”

Olsen finished with 17 points, Embiid scored 16 and Diatta tossed in 10 for The Rock.

Williams fueled McCallie with a game-high 24 points and Calvin scored 14.

East Hamilton was victimized by The Rock’s aggressive pressure defense, which often lights a fuse to the team’s offense firepower.

Diatta was the catalyst, presenting the Hurricanes with a matchup headache no matter where he was stationed on the court.

Diatta, who picked up basketball at age 7 and also plays soccer, was masterful all weekend, averaging 12 points in three games. His 19 points against East Hamilton helped him score 36 in three Showcase games.

What brought him to America?

“We have a basketball school back in Senegal and they send players to the United States,” Diatta said. “We’ve had players in the NBA and several play in Europe professionally. That’s my desire – play in the NBA or Europe.”

Diatta said he doesn’t mind playing anywhere Harden puts him, but prefers the 2-guard slot.

“I do like to shoot the 3s better than going against the big men inside,” he said. “But, it’s up to the coach. Since I was young I knew I could shoot because I’d go to the gym and shoot by myself, work on my form.”

The Rock blitzed East Hamilton with a 22-6 first-quarter onslaught and was up, 38-24, at halftime. It pushed that lead to 55-35 to start the fourth quarter and then held the Hurricanes (13-5) to three points over the final eight minutes.

Christian Benzon led The Rock with 20 points and Embiid scored 15.

In three wins, The Rock’s average winning score was 71.4-41.0.

Cody Knox scored 14 to pace the Hurricanes and Tre Herndon had 10.

“This is why we schedule games like this,” East Hamilton coach Michael Stone said. “I think this kind of competition will really help us in our District 6-AA games coming up. I know when we play Brainerd on Tuesday, they won’t be taller of faster than the guys on The Rock.”

Central Park’s boys, who beat Hamilton Heights, 63-51, in the final game, also finished 3-0 in the Showcase. Central Park’s wins came by an average score of 64-54.

In girls, play Hamilton Heights won three times, beating Central Park, 51-23, and Athletic Leadership Institute, out of Florence, S.C., 73-55, on Saturday. The Lady Hawks leave the Showcase with a 17-3 record.

Also on Saturday, with two first-quarter three throws East Hamilton senior guard Jessica Caudle became the second female player in school history to score 1,000 points. Tiffany Lewis was the first to 1,000 points, but she transferred to Riverdale this season.

Caudle finished with 11 points and East Hamilton trounced Central Park, 61-34. East Hamilton lost to The Rock, 60-51, in Saturday’s first girls game.

Scenic City Showcase Summaries

 

Saturday, Jan. 19

 

Girls Games

 

East Hamilton                        11 12 15 13 – 51  

 

The Rock                               13 9 14 24 – 60

 

East Hamilton (51) – Jessica Caudle 16, Harp 6, Woods 5, K. Caudle 4, Alexius Zackery 10, Kaylee Moon 10.

 

The Rock (60) – Gerda Kruckauskaite 21, Bugarski 9, Aleksandra Trisic 14, Bosancic 2, Wall 6, Polinsky 4, Stiasna 4.

 

3-Point Goals: East Hamilton 1 (Woods); The Rock 7 (Kruckauskaite 3, Wall 2, Bugarski, Stiasna).

 

Central Park                          1 8 6 8 – 23

 

Hamilton Heights                   11 15 12 13 – 51

 

Central Park (23) – Long, Yow, Long 5, Dickey, Body 2, Boglin 2, Lena Niang 14, Williams.

 

Hamilton Heights (51) – Paulauskaite, Nwosu, Madzarevic 2, Akpan 9, Teodora Zagorac 15, Savickaite 2, Milica Savic 12, Augusta Kievisaite 11.

 

3-Point Goals: Central Park 2 (Long, Niang); Hamilton Heights 2 (Zagorac, Kievisaite).

 

The Rock                               6 15 12 11 – 44

 

GPS                                        4 4 14 21 – 43

 

The Rock (44) – Sharrock 2, Crownover 2, Akia Harris 12, Brianna Farris 16, Jackson 4, Williams 8, Ware.

 

GPS (43) – Gerda Kruckauskaite 17, Kristian Bugarski 10, Trisic 4, Bosancic 4, Polinsky 2, Stiasna 7.

 

3-Point Goals: The Rock 4 (Kruckauskaite 2, Bugarski 2); GPS 2 (Harris, Farris).

 

Central Park                          5 9 13 7 – 34

 

East Hamilton                        20 12 19 10 – 61

 

Central Park (34) – Baker 2, Long 7, Body 7, Lena Niang 18, Williams.

 

East Hamilton (61) – Jessica Caudle 11, Petitt, Juliette Harp 20, Stovall, Maggies Woods 10, K. Caudle 1, McCollum 2, Montgomery, Alexius Zackery 11, Moon 2, Giles 2, Wood 2.

 

3-Point Goals: Central Park 2 (Long, Body); East Hamilton 1 (Zackery).

 

South Carolina-ALI              21 12 10 12 – 55

 

Hamilton Heights                   12 19 24 18 – 73

 

South Carolina-ALI (55) – Victor, Cierra Miles 14, Ashley Sims 19, Amarah Green 12, Shontalene Trudeau 10.

 

Hamilton Heights (73) – Paulauskaite 4, Nwosu, Madzarevic 3, Ima-Obong Akpan 22, Savickaite 4, Milica Savic 16, Kievisaite 9, Teodora Zagorac 15.

 

3-Point Goals: South Carolina-ALI 7 (Sims 4, Green 3); Hamilton Heights 8 (Savickaite 4, Savic 2, Akpan, Zagorac).

 

Boys Games

 

Hamilton Heights                   8 12 10 12 – 42

 

Central Park                          15 16 19 8 – 58

 

Hamilton Heights (42) – Mandic 7, Osemwegie 4, Laurynus Vaikus 14, Haji 4, Monteiro 3, Reno 6, Janjetovic 2, Paulauskas 2.

 

Central Park (58) – Arnold 6, Harris 8, Xavier Williams 10, Hale 3, Nance 5, Dickey, Srdjan Budimir 17, Gueye 4, Iduwe 3.

 

3-Point Goals: Hamilton Heights 6 (Vaikus 3, Reno 2, Monteiro); Central Park 5 (Budimir 4, Hale).

 

East Hamilton                        6 18 11 3 – 38

 

The Rock                               22 16 17 21 – 76

 

East Hamilton (38) – Lowery, Powell 5, Bunton 2, Thomas, Tre Herndon 10, Wingard, Griffith, Cody Knox 14, Dennis 4, Watkins 3.

 

The Rock (76) – Wilbekin 3, Christian Benzon 20, Pape Diatta 19, Stewart 5, Olsen 3, Harrell 4, Bitondo 2, Jenkins 4, Ettiene 1, Joel Embiid 15.

 

3-Point Goals: East Hamilton 5 (Knox 2, Herndon 2, Powell); The Rock 10 (Diatta 5, Benzon 2, Wilbekin, Stewart, Olsen).

 

Faith Baptist                         19 10 11 16 – 56

 

Hamilton Heights                   13 15 14 19 – 61

 

Faith Baptist (56) – Evans 4, C. Bell 2, Marquise Chandler 29, Ulison 6, Ulysse 5, Jarrett 2, B. Bell 8.

 

Hamilton Heights (61) – Filip Mandic 17, Phillip Osemwegie 13, Vaikus 2, Monteiro 8, Reno 3, Rokas Paulauskas 16.

 

3-Point Goals: Faith Baptist 4 (Chandler 2, Ulysse, B.Bell); Hamilton Heights 2 (Mandic, Reno).

 

The Rock                               23 14 14 15 – 66

 

McCallie                                 20 10 13 11 – 54

 

The Rock (66) – Wilbekin 2, Benzon 8, Pape Diatta 10, Soren Olsen 17, Bitondo 2, Jenkins 2, Feidanga 9, Joel Embiid 16.

 

McCallie (54) – Fritz 6, Jorden Williams 24, Moxey 4, Jacobs 2, Jamaal Calvin 14, Hobbs 3, Wolf 1, Alford, Clark, Couch, Thomas.

 

3-Point Goals: The Rock 7 (Olsen 5, Diatta 2); McCallie 11 (Williams 6, Calvin 4, Hobbs).

 

Central Park                          21 16 15 11 – 63

 

East Hamilton                        11 21 8 11 – 51

 

Central Park (63) – Walter Arnold 12, Hale 5, Harris 6, Xavier Williams 14, Budimir 9, Abdoulaye Gueye 12, Iduwe 1, Nance 2, Grooms 5.

 

East Hamilton (51) – Dominic Powell 10, Kenny Bunton 12, Thomas, Herndon 5, Griffith 2, Knox 5, Dennis 4, Ladarius Watkins 13.

 

3-Point Goals: Central Park 2 (Arnold, Gueye); East Hamilton 7 (Bunton 3, Powell 2, Herndon, Knox).

 

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)

 



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