By David Cordova
As the upcoming season approaches, teams and players are getting ready for the grind by playing in fall tournaments. One of the premier tournaments in New York City has been the Tru Ballaz Pre-High School Classic, which takes place at Frederick Douglass Academy III in the South Bronx, and is run by legendary streetball coach and CEO of the Bingo’s All-Stars program, Maxwell “Bingo” Cole.
Now in its ninth year of existence, Tru Ballaz has been a breeding ground for not just some of the best high school teams in the Bronx, but also teams from Brooklyn, Long Island and Westchester County.
This fall started out with twenty-four teams at Tru Ballaz. But when all was said & done, only two remained. For the championship game, it would be two teams from the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) that would do battle against each other for the trophy. The teams were Mount St. Michael Academy of the Bronx and Iona Prepatory School of New Rochelle. This game would be no easy contest, as it would be a slugfest throughout, but in the end, there was and could only be, one winner.
Mount St. Michael 67, Iona Prep, 65
In the beginning of the game, both teams were battling for every possession, whether it was a loose ball or a rebound, while also trading baskets.
In the beginning, Mount looked very aggressive, leading 10-6, in the first few minute of the first quarter. But the Gaels never stayed too far behind, only trailing by three early on.
In the second quarter, Iona tightened up their defense & took the lead, 26-24, on a layup by Bryce Wills with over four minutes to go. The momentum increased as they used their fast break to raised their lead to 33-24, with over three minutes left in the half. They ended up going into the half with a seven-point lead, 38-31.
The Mountaineers started out the second half on a mission, going on a run & tying the game at 42-42, with 5:31 left in the third quarter. Just like the first quarter, both teams stayed competitive, matching basket for basket. They then finished the the quarter strong on a buzzer-beater by Mike Krause, leading by four, 59-55.
The fourth quarter remained the same with Mount holding down the lead & capitalizing off the Gaels missed shots by playing smart. But Iona would not go down so fast, as late foul calls against Mount went in their favor as they sank free throws to cut their deficit to 66-65, with 55.6 seconds left. But Elijah Buchanan hit one of two free throws to seal the deal for the Mountaineers.
Buchanan led the champions with 22 points and was given the MVP award, while Krause added 14 points and Jacob Rodriguez added 12 points for Mount. For Iona, Soulemayne Kouriessi led with 18 points, while Bryce Wills and Nick Brennan both added 14 points in the loss for the Gaels.
The atmosphere in this game felt like it was a regular season game, with roaring fans and intense play from both teams. Who knows, it may be the same the next time these two teams play. But once the season starts, the ultimate goal for both teams is the CHSAA title. But for right now, one team will have to settle for the Tru Ballaz championship and the other will have to use this as preparation for the next meeting between the two. Either way, this is what pre-season tournaments are all about.