When Hamilton Heights and Central Park get together for a little basketball, fans should just sit back and enjoy what’s about to happen.
Seven-foot center Abdouleye Gueye scored nine of his 15 points in two overtimes and led Central Park’s Eagles to a spine-tingling, 79-78, victory over Hamilton Heights in a Scenic City Showcase semifinal showdown Friday at East Hamilton High School.
Gueye, who is considering scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Alabama-Birmingham, Memphis, Auburn and Tennessee, broke a 72-72 tie with five straight free throws.
Joshua Chairs added two in the second extra 4-minute overtime as the Eagles outscored the Hawks 7-3 in the final 81 seconds to clinch the victory.
“It was a tough loss, but my guys never quit and battled to the end,” Hawks coach Zach Ferrell said. “They got after it on every possession.”
Central Park advanced to Saturday’s championship game against New Hope A, having won five straight games in the Showcase, which debuted in 2013. New Hope A – the school also has a “B” squad in the\is year's tournament – defeated The Rock, 58-52, in the other semifinal that dropped the curtain on Friday’s action.
The Rock had won four consecutive Showcase games.
In other boys’ games, Tyner routed East Hamilton, 76-40, and Prominence, with Markell Lodge scoring 25 points that included seven put-back dunks, whipped New Hope B, 87-70.
The nationally ranked and undefeated New Hope Lady Lions stole a large portion of Saturday’s spotlight by outscoring East Hamilton 32-0 to start the game and wound up demolishing the Lady Hurricanes, 88-20.
The Lady Lions (22-0) led led 63-8, at halftime and their 88 points sets a Showcase record for girls, beating 76 put up by The Rock on Thursday..
The Rock’s girls beat Hamilton Heights, 51-44, on Friday.
Hamilton Heights’ Aleksa Jugovic, whose game-high 31 points it the second-highest in the Showcase’s short history, hit three free throws with 17.1 seconds left in regulation to tie the feature game at 60-all and send it into overtime.
Jugovic’s offensive production is second only to the 34 points by Cleveland’s Kendrick Thompson against Central Park in last year’s Showcase.
“He’s phenomenal,” Farrell said of Jugovic, who has signed with Tennessee Tech. “He’s relentless out there. He’s a clutch player that gives us so much offensively and defensively with his intensity and willingness to hit big shots.”
Eagles coach Donovan Broadnax could not fathom Jugovic exploding for the second time against his team.
“I don’t know how to say his name, but he’s good,” Broadnax said. “He lit us up at our place (35 points in the Hawks’ 93-88 win on Dec. 14). Tonight we had three guys playing man and two guys in a zone to work against him. I think that bothered him some.”
Central Park had a 59-55 lead with 45.8 seconds left in regulation.
Jugovic, a 6-foot-3-inch point guard whose season high is 37 points against Faith Baptist, hit an amazing fade-away bank shot to pull the Hawks within two points with 31.2 seconds left.
The Eagles’ Jinan Nance made 1 of 2 free throws.
Jugovic got the inbounds pass, raced down the court and launched a 3 from the left wing. It was errant, but Jugovic – he made six of Hamilton Height’s 13 3s – was fouled by Gueye.
Jugovic, who is from Serbia, calmly sank three free throws with 17.1 seconds remaining to set up the first overtime.
Central Park took a 65-62 lead on Gueye’s tip-in between Hamilton Heights’ 6-11 Abdulhakim Ado and 6-6 Ezekiel Balogun.
The Eagles were up by one point when Joshua Chairs made two charity tosses for a 69-66 lead with 35 seconds on the clock. Hamilton Heights worked the ball around the perimeter at the other end and Balogun wound up with it in the deep left corner.
Balogun, who is from Nigeria, put up a heavenly, high-arcing shot that hit the top corner of the backboard and banked right through the hoop, sending the Hawks’ players, coaches and fans into delirium.
“When it went through,” Balogun said, “I was like, ‘God is on our side. We still have a chance to win. I don’t know how it went in, but luck was on my side.”
Had Balogun ever made a shot like that before?
“I don’t think I have,“ he said.
Could he make it again?
“If I have the chance I WILL make it again,” he said.
Broadnax had to agree with Balogun on one aspect of the remarkable shot.
“That was one of the luckiest shots I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Farrell said he’s seen some shots hit the corner of the backboard and go in, but nothing like Balogun’s shot and “never in a clutch situation like that.”
With the score tied at 72-all, Gueye, who missed three straight free throws in the first overtime, hit 1 of 2 with 1:21 left. He then made two more 22 seconds later. And two more 17 seconds after that, pushing the Eagles into a 77-72 lead. Chairs' free throw added a point to the lead.
Then Jugovic drilled a 3 from the left wing with 15.8 seconds remaining. Chairs answered with a free throw. Jugovic dropped a long – real long – 3 from the wing to pull the Hawks to within 79-78 with 6.9 seconds showing.
Central Park’s Tyler Dickey missed two free throws, giving the Hawks one last crack at victory.
With 2.1 seconds left and with possession side out at the opposite free-throw line, the Hawks got the inbounds pass in, but Jugovic didn’t have that much magic left and his desperation shot from mid-court was off the mark.
“Lately we had been playing terrible,” Broadnax said. “(Thursday) and (Friday) it’s like we woke up. I knew we had it in us.”
Laurynus Vaitkus and Duram each had 15 points for the Hawks (24-2). Vaitkus hit three of his five 3s in the first quarter and added two more in the third period – four of the five shots coming from the left or right corner on the court.
“It was huge that he knocked down those shots for us,” Ferrell said.
C.J. Jones paced Central Park (7-9) with 20 points. Nance had 15 points and Chairs finished with 10.
New Hope A, which routed host East Hamilton, 92-62, on Thursday, had a 47-35 lead over The Rock with 5:52 left in the game.
The Lions scored five straight points to narrow the deficit to seven points. But the Phoenix’s Deivides Poguzinskas hit a jumper and added two free throws in a 20-second span to push the lead to 51-40. They led by 54-44 with 2:01 left and held on down the stretch for the win.
“We played really good,” Phoenix coach Mike Shaw said. “The Rock is always tough and they took us out of what we normally do. We scored 92 (Thursday) and they held us to 58. We had to fight this one out. It was ugly at times, but we got the win.”
Ryan Johnson again led the Phoenix with 19 points and JaQwan McCauley added 11 points.
The Phoenix (20-6) actually got the upper hand on The Rock (13-8) in the third quarter with an 11-0 run that turned a 28-27 lead into a 39-27 spread.
Pape Diatta led the Lions with 15 points and DeVaughn Jenkins closed with 11.
“Our inability to make layups really hurt us,” Lions coach Justin Harden said. “We shot 37 percent (14 of 38) on two-pointers and were probably only three jumpers outside the paint. We just didn’t finish around the basket.
“Defensively we were solid, holding them under 60. It didn’t help that we just got 50.”
In the girls’ headliner, powerful New Hope showed why it is ranked No. 6 by USA TODAY and No. 8 by MaxPreps.com this season.
The Lady Phoenix built a 32-point lead before East Hamilton scored on eight-grader Rhyne Howard’s 3-pointer with 1:35 left in the first quarter.
“I knew they were an elite team,” Lady Hurricanes coach Derek Morris said, “but I didn’t know they were that elite. That group is incredible. They play at another level of basketball.”
New Hope coach Delaney Rudd said defense is as much a key to his team’s success as offense. The Phoenix strive to hold each opponent under 40 points. Rudd said only three opponents have surpassed the 40-point mark against his team this season.
Offensively, the Lady Phoenix called off the starters in the second half and the fourth quarter was played with a running clock. Two weeks ago New Hope scored 99 points in a game, Rudd said.
“We usually have 12 or 13 girls score and our starters average around 10 points each because they don’t play that much,” said Rudd, who is 91-8 in his three seasons at New Hope.
Karima Dean paced New Hope with 16 points. Kat Harris scored 11 points and Nakiah Black had 10.
Rudd has four players that are at least 6-4. Three have signed college scholarships – 6-5 post Akela Maize to North Carolina State where she will play for former Tennessee-Chattanooga coach Wes Moore, 6-4 post Kristina King to West Virginia and 5-6 guard Harris to High Point (N.C.) University.
Howard scored nine points to lead East Hamilton (2-17).
Hamilton Heights 19 13 16 12 9 9 – 78
Central Park 11 16 17 16 9 10 – 79
Hamilton Heights (78) – Roknic, Joan Duram 15, Nauseda 2, Laurynus Vaitkus 15, Aleksa Jugovic 31, Balogun 8, Ado 7.
Central Park (79) – Jinan Nance 15, Joshua Chairs 10, P.J. Grooms 12, C.J. Jones 20, Dickey 2, Abdouleye Gueye 15, Dordevic 5.
3-Point Goals: Hamilton Heights 13 (Jugovic 6, Vaitkus 5, Duram, Balogun); Central Park 9 (Nance 3, Chairs 2, Grooms 2, Jones 2).
The Rock 11 14 6 21 – 52
New Hope A 19 9 16 14 – 58
The Rock (52) – M. Wilbekin 8, Baxter 7, Denzon 2, Akimov, Pape Diatta 15, Janjetovic, Hansen, A. Wilbekin, Harrell 6, Kelly 3, DeVaughn Jenkins 11.
New Hope A (58) – Shaw 9, Gathings 2, Ziberbs 1, Muhammad 5, Ryan Johnson 19, JaQwan McCauley 11, Gredratis 3, Poguzinskas 8.
3-Point Goals: The Rock 4 (M. Wilbekin, Diatta, Harrell, Kelly); New Hope A 4 (Shaw, Muhammad, Johnson, Giodraitis).
Prominence 23 21 18 25 – 87
New Hope B 6 14 26 24 – 70
Prominence (87) – Charles Norman 18, Dickens 9, Jahlil Rawley 10, Markell Lodge 25, Stavian Allen 15, Gaddy 6, Ogide 1, Ndiaye, Lewis 4.
New Hope B (70) – Morgan 9, Smith 7, Ben Maslauskas 23, Breyon Cuthrell 16, Warren 8, Sememobas 2, Edwards 2, Burdziag, Sow 3.
3-Point Goals: Prominence none; New Hope B 12 (Maslauskas 4, Smith 2, Cuthrell 2, Morgan, Sow).
East Hamilton 10 11 9 10 – 40
Tyner 23 20 20 13 – 76
East Hamilton (40) – Thompson 9, Jackson 1, Lowery, Kenny Bunton 13, Sparks, Chacko, Wright 6, Wingard, Griffith 4, Brower 6, Beach 3.
Tyner (76) – Sadik Spence 14, Alex Watson 16, Mastin 5, Kevin Cameron 13, Watkins 2, Jones 3, DeQwan Hardwick 12, Wilson, Bonds 4, Howard 1, Strickland 6.
3-Point Goals: East Hamilton 3 (Wright 2, Bunton); Tyner 1 (Jones).
East Hamilton 3 5 6 6 – 20
New Hope 39 24 17 8 – 88
East Hamilton (20) – Pettit, Woods, Caudle, Stovall 2, Rhyne Howard 9, Denton 2, Wood 2, Zachary, Black 2, Giles 3, Zeh, Maston.
New Hope (88) – Kat Harris 11, Byron, Cowles 2, Rudd 8, Chavis 6, Nakiah Black 10, King 6, Tarver 2, Karima Dean 16, Muhammad 8, Tate 8, Maize 4, Toure.
3-Point Goals: East Hamilton 2 (Howard, Giles); New Hope 8 (Rudd 2, Chavis 2, Tate 2, Black).
Hamilton Heights 19 6 10 9 – 44
The Rock 11 8 15 17 – 51
Hamilton Heights (44) – Paulauskaite 4, Balogun 9, Vukosavljevic 5, Monyei 2, Kamile Kasciunaite 17, Plentauskaite, Kievisaite 6, Hunt 1.
The Rock (51) – Ivanova 7, Trisic 5, Sirputyte 2, Sarah Sagerer 11, Pejcic 2, Katie Polinsky 15, Auleeva 9.
3-Point Goals: Hamilton Heights 5 (Kascivnaite 3, Balogun, Vuhosaljevic).
New Hope B vs. East Hamilton, 10:30 a.m.
Prominence vs. Tyner, Noon
Hamilton Heights vs. The Rock, 1:30 p.m.
Central Park vs. New Hope A, 3 p.m.
The Rock vs. New Hope, 10:30 a.m.
East Hamilton vs. Hamilton Heights, Noon
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)