Although the Lehigh Valley’s two summer boys basketball tournaments, the Cedar Beach Showcase and A-Town Throwdown, were won by Berks Catholic and Sankofa Academy of Philadelphia, both events brought their share of positive moments for the area’s teams and fans.
What did we learn from the two tournaments that featured eight days of hoops filled with more than 100 games featuring more than 80 teams?
Here are 10 takeaways from the summer’s two major basketball events:
1. Mother Nature cooperated.
After a harsh winter and brutal spring, the weather allowed all eight days of the two tournaments to go on as scheduled with only a batch of Saturday games at the Cedar Beach Showcase delayed by rain. Although both had contingency plans, a shift indoors wasn’t needed by either tournament for the first time in several years.
2. Fans love watching Division I recruits.
Glens Falls, N.Y., standout Joe Girard III became the top attraction of the Cedar Beach Showcase, bringing in big crowds whenever he played. Girard is being recruited by Duke, Penn State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Boston College and Michigan after averaging 50 points per game. He scored 40 in a game against Emmaus, but his team still lost.
3. Stars don’t always appear.
Even though both tournaments were positioned in nonlive periods for recruiting, several top stars didn’t show. Abington, the District One champ last year, didn’t have its two Division I recruits in Allentown for the Throwdown and even Bethlehem Catholic was nowhere near full strength because of the absence of key players.
4. Not everyone knows the rules.
Lincoln of Philadelphia was thought to be one of the top contenders in the Throwdown, but Lincoln played several guys who were seniors on last year’s state runner-up team in its first and only tourney game. Two of them are evidently reclassifying and may be back this winter, but two who played are not. Lincoln assistant coach Jamel Lindsey apologized for the error, but his team never returned after Friday night’s win over Whitehall was overturned by the tournament staff.
5. Not everyone likes the music.
The Throwdown tried to create a different vibe by playing music throughout the games on Courts 1 and 2. Some really enjoyed it, some didn’t. But as staff members pointed out, if you don’t like music mixing with basketball, don’t attend an NBA game because the biggest arenas always have the volume turned up as the game is going on.
6. Appreciation expressed.
Both tournaments had special ceremonies. The Showcase saluted former Central Catholic standout Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman on his superb career at the University of Michigan that culminated in a Big Ten title and national finals berth. The Throwdown began a Doug Snyder Community Service Award by giving the first award to the Allen coach himself. Both have made their marks in different ways and deserved the accolades.
7. Threes and dunks delight.
No single game in either tournament drew as many people as the 3-point shooting and slam-dunk contests at the Throwdown on Saturday night. The crowd went four and five-deep and made a lot of noise as Allen freshman Nate Ellis unseated Northwestern’s Sam Yadush as the 3-point champ and Eastern Academy’s Jabril Bethea outlasted Emmaus’ Mark Swedberg, Central’s Chad Kratzer and others for the slam-dunk crown.
8. Nazareth on the rise.
Several teams provided evidence of improvement. The biggest jump may come from Nazareth, which advanced to the quarterfinals of the Throwdown. Jahan Dotson’s cousins, Stephon and Kenyon Sheard, made their presence felt after transferring from New Jersey. The Blue Eagles may not be the top contender to win the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and District 11 6A, but they figure to be much better than last year’s 11-13 mark.
9. Emmaus may be the team to beat.
By making the finals of both tournaments, the Green Hornets have established themselves as one of the favorites in the EPC and District 11 6A, and Swedberg has emerged as a potential star. Not getting either title could only fuel their hunger.
10. There’s still room enough for two.