Overcoming a slow start, the Syracuse Select AAU boys basketball team went on to win the Under-15 National Championship Tournament, held July 28-31 in Hampton, Va.
The team’s roster included Connor Evans (Bishop Grimes), Jake Wittig (Fayetteville-Manlius), Tim Marshall (Baldwinsville), Keisean Scott (Henninger), Zach Gillard (Oswego) and the Westhill trio of Jordan Roland, Jeff Lobello and Tyler Reynolds. Bishop Ludden’s Zach Walser was part of the team, but was injured and did not play in the tournament.
Syracuse began with a narrow loss to the Westchester Knights on July 28. Now it had to win every remaining game on its schedule.
The rally commenced on July 29 as Syracuse beat Players, from Charlotte, N.C., by a 68-52 margin, but three more games would follow on July 29, and again Syracuse had to win them all.
Against the host Team 757 from Hampton, Syracuse rolled to a 67-39 win, followed by a 56-42 conquest of the Monroe County All-Stars from the Rochester area. Finally, Syracuse shook off any possible fatigue and beat Lehigh Valley (Pa.) 69-53.
On July 31, the top eight teams remaining in the tournament squared off in the elimination round. Syracuse drew Team Evolution, from Massachusetts, and won comfortably 57-41, leading to the semifinals, where it met Berks Red Storm, from Reading, Pa., and pulled out a 63-52 victory.
But it was the final against the South Side Flames, from Virginia, that proved most dramatic. The Flames roared out to a 13-point halftime lead, but Syracuse’s improved defense, combined with hot 3-point shooting, completely turned things around and led to a 76-62 win, along with the first-place trophy.
Roland led with 27 points, with Evans getting 15 points and Tim Marshall earning 14 points. At the point guard spot, Wittig managed 16 assists and 10 steals, a rare double-double, as Gillard picked up 15 rebounds. Lobello (eight rebounds) and Scott (six rebounds) led the defense as Reynolds earned a team-best five blocks.