Cactus Classic Championship Sunday

MVP Kemba Walker and the New York City Gauchos do it the cowboy way in the desert

May 21, 2007

By Van Coleman

Van Coleman

Van is one of the nation's premier recruiting experts.
E-mail here!

East met West in the finals of the Arizona Cactus Classic Sunday afternoon and the New York City Gauchos came away with the crown in Tucson. It was a survival of the fittest with the Gauchos up against a top Southern California squad in Belmont Shores.

The high scoring affair had all kinds of offensive intrigue as the Gauchos edged Belmont Shores by a 102-96 margin. The Gauchos got to the finals by knocking off the California Supreme and a tough Wisconsin Playground Warriors squad. Belmont Shore had a similar path upending two California squads in route to the championship game by ousting Double Pump Elite and the Bay Area Hoosiers.

It was another excellent day of club basketball, highlighted by some highly competitive games and some impressive individual performances at the McKale Center Sunday in Tucson. Here's a look at all the Championship Day action at the Arizona Cactus Classic.

Championship Game: New York Gauchos 102 - Belmont Shore 96

The Cactus Classic Championship Game was an uptempo affair that featured a plethora of gifted offensive talents. The final score was indicative of the quality of both the offensive talent and some tired legs on the defensive end of the court. The New York City Gauchos outlasted Belmont Shore 102-96 in a fitting ending to a quality weekend of hoops.

The first half opened with the Gauchos breaking open a close game behind the long range bombs of 6-foot 2 Chris Fouch, who hit four threes in a row to help the Gauchos open up an early 20-9 lead over Belmont Shore. Fouch continued to hit long range bombs throughout the game, sinking seven shots from beyond the arc.

Belmont Shore came roaring back behind the perimeter trio of 6-foot-6 Demar DeRozan, 6-foot-4 Roberto Nelson and 6-footer Brandon Jennings to close to within two at 30-28 with just under eight minutes to play in the half. Early foul trouble started to plague Belmont Shore, as Jennings and Nelson were whistled three times each in the early going. The Gauchos used that to their advantage slowly opening up a twelve point advantage, 46-34, before Belmont made another late charge to cut the first half lead to six on a Jennings steal and bucket that just beat the buzzer with the Gauchos up 53-47 at the intermission.

The second half opened with the Gauchos going on an 8-0 run to open up a 61-47 advantage over the Belmont squad as Tournament MVP 6-foot 1 Kemba Walker scored five quick points and Chris Fouch added one of his threes for the Gauchos. But, Jennings and DeRozan knocked down threes and Nelson added a couple quick hoops to right the ship for Belmont as they fought their way back over the next five minutes to close to within one at 71-70 with 9:04 to play.

It was still a one point game, 73-72, when the Gauchos started another run outscoring Belmont 18-9 over the next four minutes to go up 92-81 with 2:50 to play. Belmont went to trapping pressure and an extended zone on defense, but couldn't seem to muster a final run until the waning seconds as he dropped a 102-96 decision to the New York Gauchos.

The Gauchos were led by tourney MVP Walker with 24 points, five boards and four assists in the title game. He got solid support from Fouch, who finished with 21 points all on seven long threes. Athletic big man 6-foot-7 Kevin Phillips added 19 points and pulled down nine boards, while 6-foot-2 Darryl Bryant and 6-foot-2 Durand Scott added 15 and 12 points, respectively. 



Belmont Shore was led by Nelson, who finished with 27 points and five boards, and DeRozan, who chipped in with 28 points and 6 boards. Brandon Jennings was stellar throughout most of the weekend and finished with 24 points and nine rebounds.

Semi-finals: New York Gauchos 88 - California Supreme 76

This one was close throughout the first half as a tired California Supreme hung with the New York City Gauchos. The Gauchos opened up a 23-10 lead behind a 12-2 run led by Kemba Walker and Durand Scott, who combined for eight points in the run. The Supreme stayed within striking distance as 6-foot-9 freshman super Jeremy Tyler did some impressive work inside for the California squad. The half ended with the Gauchos on top 46-35 at the break.

The second half opened with the two squads trading hoops for the first couple minutes until the Gauchos went on one of their patented runs, outscoring the Supreme 21-6 over the next four minutes to open up a 72-49 margin. From there it was a coast to the finish as the Gauchos made their way into the final with a 88-76 victory over the California Supreme. Remember this squad, as the Supreme are primarily a freshman-and sophomore-laden squad that will be one of the nation's top programs over the next couple of years.

The Gauchos were led by Bryant, who had a big game with 23 points and seven boards. He got solid support from Walker with 20 points, while 6-foot 2 Jordan Theodore added 14 points and Phillips chipped in 10 points in the win. The Supreme's top scorer was 6-foot 2 Dwayne Baggsby who finished with 24 points. Jeremy Tyler added 16 points, while 6-foot-3 Gary Franklin chipped in with 10 points in the loss.

Semi-finals: Belmont 89 - Double Pump Elite 80

This was a SoCal war for some early summer bragging rights, and Belmont Shore with weekend addition Jennings had enough down the stretch to win a hard fought battle, 89-80, over the Double Pump Elite. The opening half was one of runs, as Belmont Shore opened up an early 12-3 lead. Double Pump came roaring back to take over with a 23-21 lead, but Belmont went into the half with a 39-35 as DeRozan scored the final five points of the half.

It was a real battle through most of the second half as the clubs traded leads. Belmont Shore opened up a 79-74 lead with 1:25 to go. But, Pump N' Run closed again to one down, 81-80, on a three by 6-foot 3 Dallas Rutherford. Belmont scored the last eight points of the game from the charity stripe (12 of their last 13) to ice the win in the final sixty seconds. It was one of the toughest fought games of the day.

Belmont Shore's top gun was DeRozan, who finished with 33 points and seven boards. Brandon Jennings added 21 points, while Roberto Nelson added 14 points for the Shore. Junior Bryce Cartwright and sophomore Darius Morris added 11 and 10 points respectively.

Double Pump Elite was led by 6-foot-7 blue collar forward Stefan Kaluz who finished with 24 points. 6-foot-4 Klay Thompson added 19 points including a couple from deep, while 6-foot 5 Wendell Wright chipped with 15 points and Dallas Rutherford added 11 points for the talented young Pump squad.

Quarterfinals: New York Gauchos 82 - Wisconsin Playground Warriors 77

This one was a war from the opening tip.  It was 70-all with 2:50 to play in the game when the Gauchos went on an 8-0 run over the next minute to salt this one away by an 82-77 margin over the Wisconsin Playground Warriors. The Gauchos were led by Kemba Walker with 23 points and 10 boards. Chris Fouch added 17 points, while Durand Scott chipped in with 15 points and Kevin Phillips added 10 points in the win. The Playground Warriors were led by 6-foot sophomore Nathan Zastrow who hit a number of long range bombs and finished with 25 points. 5-foot-10 point guard Johnnie Lacy added 17 points, while 6-foot-7 Jamil Wilson and 6-foot-2 Kwaim Mitchell chipped in with 12 points each.

Quarterfinals: California Supreme 42 - Houston Hoops 37

Speaking of survival games, the morning quarter between California Supreme and Houston Hoops was just that, as both clubs struggled to score and the Supreme held on for a 42-37 win. They scored the final four points of the game to salt it away as the Hoops just seemed to have a lid on the basket in the final minute. The Supreme was led by 6-foot-5 Tyler Lamb and 6-foot-3 Gary Franklin with nine points each. Jeremy Tyler chipped in eight points and seven boards in the win. The Houston Hoops' top gun was 6-foot 3 Jeremy Green who finished with a game-high 12 points and nine boards. 5-foot-10 Tommie Griffin added nine points for the Hoops.

Quarterfinals: Belmont Shore 93 - Bay Area Hoosiers 83

In one of the best of the quarters, Belmont Shore survived a valiant effort by the Bay Area Hoosiers to win a 93-83 victory. Belmont Shore broke open a 64-62 game with a 7-0 run midway through the second half, then survived a couple of Hoosier runs to close out the win. The star of this one was Brandon Jennings with 36 points and 10 boards. He was stellar at times, willing the Shore to the win. Roberto Nelson added 22 points and 11 boards, while Darius Morris chipped in 20 points in the victory. The Hoosiers got a stellar effort from 6-foot 5 Quentin Dailey, who scored 31 points and added six boards.

Quarterfinals: Double Pump Elite 79 - Vegas Rebels 53

This one was competitive early as Double Pump built a 39-31 halftime lead. Double Pump went on a 22-6 run to start the second half and never looked back as the Vegas Rebels struggled from the field to win a 79-53 decision. Double Pump was led by Klay Thompson with 19 points and eight boards. He got solid support from 6-foot-3 sophomore James Rahon with 17 points. Wendell Wright and Dallas Rutherford chipped in with 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Rebels' top gun was 6-foot 4 Juron Criner, who finished with 18 points. 6-foot Tarrance Cotton added 13 points for Vegas in the loss.

We'd like to thank Tournament Director Jim Storey and his Arizona Cactus Classic Staff for the great hospitality, and the quality event they ran the past weekend. It was first class all the way, and should continue to become one of the spring's premier must-see events. Great job guys!