I caught a great high school game tonight in a key 28-5A battle between SA Clark 23-4 (9-1 in district) & SA O'Connor 16-7 (5-4). Clark comes into the game ranked #4 in the San Antonio Metro area by The Express News.
I've seen Clark several times this season & they're as talented a starting 5 as most teams in the area with the exception of SA Madison. 2009 PG Jordan Brickman is a D-1 signee with the Naval Academy, and 2009 F Chris Blake is as talented a frontline prospect as the City of San Antonio has in the Class of 2009. I have not seen O'Connor play yet, so Coach mike Houlihan's crew are a mystery to me although I've heard they're blue collar & well coached.
The first quarter was a story of the respective Bigs, Blake & O'Connor's 2009 6'5' Travis Gipson. Blake had a layup, a 10 foot face up jumper and then stepped out to the arc and dropped a triple in one productive stretch. He's a long, athletic kid who can play on down the road. Not sure of his grades or recruiting situation but he can certainly help a JuCo, and then with maturity who knows. Gipson gives up about 2 inches in the post but I love the way he's battling. O'Connor is using a series of back and cross screens to get the ball in the low block and Gipson has 8 1st quarter points as O'Connor has a 14-11 lead.
Blake had his 2nd triple of the half, and got nice support from his mates, especially 2010 WF 6'3" Elhad Emerllahu who had 7 points for Clark. O'Connor has lost a little of their focus and turnovers and less careful shot selection have now allowed Clark to lead at the half 30-25.
Sometimes kids (and coaches) can make the game more difficult than it really is, but not O'Connor on this night. In the 2nd half O'Connor rededicated itself to it's patient offense and in a case of deja vu ten times over they were led by the decision making of 2010 G 6'4' Kurt Russell as he fed Gipson repeatedly with perfect timing off of screens and the occasional pick and roll. Russell had 6 points & 9 assists by my count and every one of them was to Gipson who flat out wore out the Clark posts in the low block, turning repeatedly to his right for the bank shot and drawing a couple of "and 1's" to boot on his way to a game high 23 points and 7 rebounds.
Emerllahu led Clark with 15 points while future Midshipman Jordan Brickman had an off night shooting the ball. He finished with 6 points. Sometimes Clark lives by the three and tonight they died by it. A combination of very good defense by O'Connor coupled by mediocre shot selection and a lack of offensive patience by Clark allowed O'Connor to notch the upset in a 46-44 squeaker.
I loved Travis Gipson's toughness down low. He caught several elbows during the course of the game and midway through the 4th quarter took a shot to the groin that caused him to grimace. It was during this stretch that he fought through the adversity and made a crucial bucket to put O'Connor in front. After the game I caught up with him and he informed me that he's not being recruited. I would encourage D-2 and D-3 schools to have a look at him. He's undersized in the post, but he's a hardnosed fundamental competitor.