Last night's highly anticipated contest between 43 Hoops and Minnesota Pump N Run brought all the intensity and physicality that one would expect. The game truly separated the men from the boys with every shot a contested one, every drive met with strong help defense, every rebound had to be ripped away from an opponent, and every turnover meant an easy score for the opposition the other way.
The game lost some luster when fans realized that the Minnesota Pump N Run was without half of their regular roster and 43 Hoops was missing a couple players as well. Pump N Run standouts Kyle Noreen, Shelby Moats, and Joel Lindberg are on college campuses for visits and/or camps while Eric Robertson and Estan Tyler were missing as well. In there place stood last year Pump N Run 17s players Carlos Emory and John Crockett (this is a pro/am league when it all comes down to it). 43 Hoops was without Jordan Smith and Jameson Parsons because of injury.
In what was a physical test of the player's masculinity it was Marquel Curtis of 43 Hoops and Jonah Travis who stood out the strongest. Because of the rivalry that has been built between these teams ball pressure was a constant and any penetration was met with a help defender or two. Simply put, if one was able to get past the first line of defense there was always a second player waiting to deflect. There were players quick enough to penetrate but the only guy that had regular success for either team was Marquel.
Curtis had the first step burst to surpass Pump N Run defenders and then the explosiveness and skill to score 21 points on 7 of 17 shooting from the field and 6 of 6 from the foul line. With the exception of one three point make, the rest of Marquel's points were scored off the bounce where he ran into contact and then adjusted. It was tough right hand finishes when needed, left hand finishes from either side after absorbing contact, and he had some late open floor dunks that put the game away. Marquel also grabbed six boards and dished out a pair of assists.
Jonah scored 18 points for the Pump N Run on 5 of 8 shooting from the field and 6 of 8 shooting for the foul line. He also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots. When it came to toughness around the rim nobody in the contest could deal with Jonah. He had one post up that saw him easily fight through a double time for a drop step dunk and four times he was hacked (the officials sent him to the foul line) after gaining position to score at the rim. Jonah's toughness was apparent as was his three-point stroke. In the middle of the game Jonah nailed a pair treys with a stroke one may label as refined. The follow through looked picturesque and he nailed the shots with confidence. A comment after the game from a 43 Hoops coach said it all, "Jonah was a man, we knew that. But now he's stepping out and hitting threes in a hotly contested game like this? No question is he one of our top division one guys in this state."
Other standouts for 43 Hoops included Ross Travis, Jake White, and Raijon Kelly. Travis scored all of his 12 points in the second half and it was as if he just flipped a switch. Ross did little in half number one but in half two his basket attack was more aggressive, he nailed a three, threw down a highlight dunk, and overall Ross asserted himself and became a factor. After missing his first four looks of the game Ross finished shooting 5 of 10 from the floor, grabbed six boards, and overall he used his length and athleticism to become the factor he's capable of. Ross also played point for some time as he does have the handling skills to be trusted as the lead guard for portions of the game.
Jake White's shot attempts were always met with the contesting bodies of Emory, Jonah Travis, and Roosevelt Scott. Jake had a few shots blocked but he also put himself on the foul line for six free throw attempts and he made every one of them. White also made a mid-range jumper and a contested lay-in for ten points total with seven rebounds. Raijon Kelly made 4 of 9 attempts plus a couple free throws on his way to a 13 point effort for 43 Hoops. Kelly nailed three triples over the span of six possessions in a late first half momentum turning stretch.
In this game it felt like you needed athletic ability combined with a lot of toughness to compete at the right level and the Pump N Run received that from Scott, Emory, and Crockett in addition to Jonah Travis. The 43 Hoops defense made every shot a tough one for Scott and Emory as they respectively shot 3 of 11 and 5 of 12 from the field. Roosevelt had eight points total including a pair of corner jumpers that saw him clear space with his dribble drive and then step into the open space to hit. While his shooting percentage was low it's easy to see that Scott has relentlessly worked on clearing space with his dribble to step into for jumpers.
Emory and Crockett were the fill-ins who supplied physical play and toughness. Carlos used his athletic ability to score 16 points to go with five rebounds but he had several late game turnovers as he penetrated into collapsing 43 Hoops help defenders that did their job perfectly. Emory was able to throw down a couple monster jams and hit a few treys as his physical tools were obvious. Crockett scored nine points with six rebounds.
For 43 Hoops, Freddie Young made 1 of 6 shots for his two points but his speed was able to get him to the lane on a regular basis. The size of the opposition forced him to take difficult shots or move the ball to the wing. At the midpoint of the game 43 Hoops put on some full court pressure and Freddie's speed caused all sorts of havoc. William & Mary commit Thomas Schalk made 1 of 3 shots for three points to go with six rebounds. Alex Richter was limited to 1 of 8 shooting from the floor for a total of four points for the Pump N Run.
43 Hoops won this contest 63-55 showcasing a hard working team defense that forced the Pump N Run into difficult shots and turnovers way more often than coach Jeremy Miller would have liked. These teams could play again in July as they are both in a Chicago tournament and may face off in Las Vegas if the Pump N Run are playing in the Super 64. If the teams face off on the road it's likely that most of the team regulars will be present for both squads.