Fusion Takes 17U Hoop Group Southern Jam Fest & Sunday Recap

East Coast Fusion 17U Southern Jam Fest Champs

Championship Sunday produced a number of memorable games at the Southern JamFest. From the tip-off of the quarterfinal round games to the buzzer of the last championship game, the day produced nothing but memorable performances.

The early session pitted the Fairfax Stars against Team Loaded and it’s phenom point guard, Tyler Lewis, in an exciting and hard-fought game. Fairfax started strong, lead by class of 2012 big man Mohamed Alie-Cox, getting out to a double-digit lead by halftime, but it couldn’t last. Instead, Fairfax escaped with a 68-66 victory.

The second half was all about Team Loaded. Lewis was a magician with the ball and had little difficulty driving into the lane and finishing. He scored 34 points in the contest and also had 8 assists to help his team claw back in the second half; tying the game up late.

Fairfax matched their intensity, and players like VCU target Alie-Cox lead the way, scoring 9 of his 15 points in that half. 2012 guard, T.J. Huggins also stepped up in the second half to score 10 of his 12 points there, and 6’7” forward, Matt Murphy also had 9 of his 14 points in the second half.

Fairfax looked dominant in the paint all game. Alie-Cox said, “We got that big boy, number 44 [Aaron Scales] in foul trouble and we just had to go to work from there.” It wasn’t enough to just get a tough opponent out of the game, however, as Cox noted, “We got a lot of offensive rebounds and knocked down our free throws most of the game.”

VCU, Wake Forest, Delaware, George Mason and Nevada are some of the notable schools recruiting Alie-Cox. Shaka Smart’s Rams are on top of his list right now, and were even before their recent Final Four run.

Ultimately, a late foul called against Loaded sent the Stars to the free-throw line, where they sank both with just a few seconds left on the clock. Team Loaded would get one chance at a buzzer-beater, and they put the ball in the hands of their point guard – whose attempt from beyond the arc bounced off the rim.

Team Russia opened the day on the adjacent court, building on Saturday night’s success, they took on a tough Team UBA, who had three players who have committed to play at ACC schools. Russia built a lead early on, and went on to win the game, 80 to 71.

The star of Team Russia was small forward Vlad Trushkin, a 6’7” Small Forward who showed great explosiveness and scoring ability. Trushkin plays with swagger and confidence, while exhibiting a great all-around game. None of the Russian players were on American college coaches’ radar, but a few of them seemed to be good enough to play at Division 1 schools. Trushkin’s skills would translate well at the highest levels of college basketball.

After taking care of UBA, Russia moved on to face the Fairfax Stars, whose Ali-Cox was charged with trying to match up with the Europeans’ size inside. Ali-Cox had 10 points in the game, which Russia won 68 to 55, but did most of his scoring in the first half, before Team Russia pulled away.

In the loss, 6’1” point guard Daniel Dixon showed off his shooting touch, connecting on four shots from beyond the arc and leading his team with 9 points in the second half.

Russia, with its fundamental soundness and beautiful ball-movement was just too much for the Northern Virginians. Gleb Goldyrev, a talented shooter, lead his team with 23 points – he was so effective in the second half, that his team was feeding him the ball as much as possible.

The win against Fairfax booked the Russian’s ticket to the championship final.

Playing for the other spot in the title game were Team Takeover and East Coast Fusion. As the tournament progressed, it seemed that ECF got more and more comfortable playing together, and things were starting to click in this game, a 63 to 61 victory for Fusion.

Fusion put the ball and their trust in the hands of their point guard Jerome Hairston, who had a string of great performances over the weekend. The class of 2012 player scored 20 points in a very up-tempo game against Takeover.

On his performance, Hairston stated, “Once we lost Jordan [Burgess], I figured I had to go from passing mode to scoring mode. He does a lot of our hustle plays and he makes a lot happen for us underneath, so I figured I had to pick up some of his points.” Burgess had been in foul trouble early in the game.

Hairston is hoping to sign in the early period, but he hasn’t made a college decision just yet. He has offers from Liberty and James Madison and has also heard from South Carolina, UVA, Boston College, Yale, Navy and Colorado.

On how they would handle Team Russia, Hairston said, “We’re just going to try to get them to play to our game.”

The 17U title game saw the Team Russia face some of its toughest opposition of the day in a game that energized and entertained the crowd. After building a small lead by halftime, it looked as if the Russians were about to settle in and run away with the game, but Fusion fought back to tie the game, and ultimately to win it 59 to 58.

Marshall Wood, a 6’7” forward, lead the team with a big second half performance, recording 16 points during the game. He was joined by Jerome Hairston and Chase Cannon, who scored 11 points, and by Wake Forest commit, Andre Washington, a 6’10” center, who scored 10 points.

Russia was again lead by Vlad Trushkin, who scored 13, as well as 2-guard, Gleb Goldyrev, who also had 13. Russia’s point guard, Maxim Sakharov, scored 11 points and showed off a terrific handle and a few moves that helped him set up his teammates to make big plays throughout the game.

Neither team knows the meaning of the word quit. ECF fought their way back to tie the game up at 58 near the end of regulation. The Russians, however, matched each increase in intensity.

It was again a late foul that made the difference. ECF’s Marshall Wood was fouled while grabbing a pass from his teammate. He went to the line for two free-throws. He made the first and missed the second on purpose.

With just seconds to get a shot off, Russia couldn’t recover.

Fusion guard Daniel Ginsberg, a pass-first guard, noted that the Russians, “were big and fast, they all could shoot.” He added that, “They were very physical, they have a lot of tricks that I guess they learn over there, that I had never seen before.”

Ginsberg believed that Fusion’s key to success was playing full court defense that threw off the Russian game and forced a few turnovers.

Teammate Chase Cannon added that, “they were crashing the boards pretty hard, and with them all being so big, it was tough to get a rebound from them.” Despite the challenge of matching up, “We just all wanted to win it pretty badly. We’ll remember this in July and we’ll know we can do it and we can win the whole thing.”

Cannon has heard from the coaching staffs at Princeton, Cornell, UNC-Asheville, Davidson and NC State, and he hopes that the East Coast Fusion’s momentum will bring more attention from college coaches.

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