Philly-Syracuse connection on display at The Basketball Tournament

Philly-Syracuse connection on display at The Basketball Tournament

In no world would anyone confuse the Gallagher Center with Syracuse’s 35,000-seat Carrier Dome.

But with several of the Orange’s best players in the last decade coming from the City of Brotherly Love — including Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Rakeem Christmas, just to name a few  — Philadelphia has become a hub for fans of the 'Cuse.

So, it was only fitting that when Boeheim’s Army took the floor for its second-round matchup in The Basketball Tournament, 100-plus Orange fans in attendance at Philadelphia University stood and applauded until Donte Green’s opening basket went down.

Despite a 39-21 run late in regulation from its opposition, No. 3 Boeheim’s Army eked past No. 11 Gaelnation 106-100 in double overtime, moving on to the Super 16 for a third straight year. Donte Green and Eric Devendorf shouldered the offensive load for the Syracuse alumni, combining for 55 points.

And although Neumann-Goretti alum Jardine was absent Sunday, his high school teammate Jackson and Wilmington, Delaware, native Trevor Cooney gave the winners plenty of local flavors.

“(Philly basketball) means toughness,” Jackson said. “I grew up playing in those outside leagues where if you fall, you’re going to be on concrete. That alone will make you a man.

“Being out there falling, you know the refs aren’t calling much because they want to go home so they’re letting guys play, and I think that’s where I get it from.”

Jackson’s double-double was one of two posted by Boeheim’s Army on Sunday, and the former Big East Defensive Player of the Year led his team on the boards. After graduating back in 2011, he’s bounced between seven different pro teams, never sticking in one place for more than two seasons.

For Cooney, it’s been a similar, albeit much shorter, road. The Sanford School (Del.) alum left upstate New York just a year ago, but he’s already played for a trio of different teams after going undrafted.

And like Jackson, Sunday was just as much of a homecoming for the 6-foot-4 sharpshooter.

“I started in Philly playing AAU when I was in fifth grade, coming up here all the time,” Cooney said. “There’s some good basketball in Delaware, but there’s some really, really good basketball in Philly. If you want to take your game to the next level, this is where you come to play.

“I’ve played most of the time overseas, so it means a lot for my family and friends to come out here and watch me play again.”

The toughness built by their Philly backgrounds certainly showed with the Orange alums nearly choking away a 16-point halftime advantage. Boeheim’s Army had chances to finish things off at the end of both regulation and the first overtime, but they couldn’t close it out.

And for Jackson, who started in Syracuse’s six-overtime epic back in the 2010 Big East tournament, it was yet another reminder of his collegiate days.

“Ever since that game, every time I go into overtime I get that flashbacks of that six-overtime game,” he said.

Unlike years past, the entire group of former Orangemen spent the week leading up to the start of TBT practicing on the Syracuse campus. Cooney said the team was able to spend some time with its namesake, Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim.

Now, they’ll have the chance to head back to the Empire State and play in front more raucous, orange-clad fan, as they are just four wins away from the $2 million prize.

“Every team, as you move forward, has the same guys. We’re all professional players,” Cooney said. “It’s going to come down to getting stops and playing well together.

“If we’re able to do that, I think we’ll win some games.”

No. 7 Team Fancy 82, No. 2 Supernova 74
No team playing Sunday featured as many recognizable names as Supernova. The group of former Wildcats, led by Reggie Redding and Corey Fisher, had no problem making it to the second day but looked as if they’d spent Saturday night in a freezer.

Supernova was ice cold from the get-go, hitting on only 11 of 34 shots before the break as they trailed 44-28. And the frustration flowed into the second half with Maurice Sutton and Jayvaughn Pinkston each picking up a technical foul.

Eventually, Supernova closed to within five of Team Fancy just under the five-minute mark. Redding then kissed a floater off the glass in the final minute, making it a four-point game at 76-72. But Sutton couldn’t finish a put-back jam off a missed triple that would’ve made it a one-score game and Team Fancy pulled off the shocker in the final game of the weekend.

No. 1 FCM Untouchables 91, No. 9 Paul Champions 57
The top seed in the Philly region had no issues for a second straight day. After winning by 25 Saturday morning, the Untouchables had their opponent in the rearview mirror by halftime. Baltimore native Marcus Hatten, who has played for 14 different overseas teams since graduating from St. John’s in 2003, led the victors with 25 points — including a stunning 7 of 12 effort from three-point land.

No one on Paul Champions — a team that featured quite the stark height difference between 5-5 Earl Boykins and 7-6 Mamadou N’Diaye — could muster double-figure points. The Untouchable defense held the Champions to just 37.3 percent shooting. Expect the Untouchables to be heavy favorites to win the region when The Tournament continues July 20 in Brooklyn.

No. 4 Team FOE 82, No. 12 Sideline Cancer 75
It was the second time in as many days that Team FOE found itself trailing at halftime. Sideline Cancer, led by former St. Joe’s shooting guard Aaron Brown’s 21 points, was looking to continue its Cinderella run and make another Super 16 appearance like it did back in 2015.

But FOE, coached by Philly natives and former Kansas standouts Markieff and Marcus Morris, would not be put away.

“Sometimes we don’t execute throughout the whole game, but that’s why the second half is always better than our first half,” Team FOE forward Sean Evans said. “We kind of clicked in that second half but we’ve got to play that same way — hard, effective — throughout the whole game.”

Trailing by as many as eight with just under 11 minutes to play, FOE (Family Over Everything) closed on a 30-15 surge. Former Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Mario Little were among the notable names that sparked FOE’s late offense, but they also got 21 combined points from Evans, a Northeast High graduate, and Drexel Alum Scott Rodgers. They’ll meet the Untouchables in 11 days.

Villanova's 2009 Final Four team reunites for big TBT win

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Joe Bloss

Villanova's 2009 Final Four team reunites for big TBT win

Before there was Kris Jenkins, Scottie Reynolds was the one who hit “the shot.” His last-second heroics in 2009 propelled ‘Nova to its first Final Four since winning it all in 1985. He was the beloved Villanova Wildcat and still is the second-leading scorer in program history. So it makes sense a Supernova team with Reynolds and four other guys from that Final Four squad would be the second seed in The Basketball Tournament's Northeast region, who went on to beat 15-seeded South Jamaica Kings, 97-72.

But seedings didn't scare the Kings one bit Saturday during the TBT first round at Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Center.

“Shock the world,” guard Cameron Tyler said on the bench during a timeout.

For most of the first half, it looked like the shock was possible. The game was tied at 24 with four minutes left in the first of two 18-minute halves. The offense was not there for SuperNova. Some early threes fell, but 40 points at the break didn’t equate to the well-oiled machine a Jay Wright-run offense usually shows.

Reggie Redding, a starting guard on that 2009 Final Four team who played last season in Munich, knew what the problem was. And it’s just what you’d guess.

“Man, how many years?” he said. “How many years since we've played together? Guys not in the best shape, you know.”

Redding said that some of the team practiced in Villanova’s practice facility against current players Thursday. Clearly, they needed a bit more time to get back to their old ways.

But once the rust came off, it was Villanova basketball at its finest. South Jamaica Kings actually took the lead with just under four minutes left in the first half, 26-24. Then Supernova turned the corner. Reynolds knocked in a three. Then he did it again two possessions later. And in the final minute, he really looked like the guy who owned the Main Line a few years ago.

After a timeout, Reynolds got a dish while going full speed from the wing. But when he reached the basket, he tossed to the corner for an open three. It fell for the last basket of the half, executed to perfection just like that layup to beat Pitt and send the ‘Cats to Detroit. The mood had shifted.

“We gotta adjust, they going corners now,” one King said on his way off the court at the start of halftime. 

And in the second half, the story went from close call to not at all. Up 15 early, Reynolds again beat his man and went to the rim. Again he dished, this time to Redding in the corner. He didn’t convert, but Mo Sutton sure did. Sutton grabbed the ball above the rim and emphatically slammed it down in one motion. There was plenty of time left on the clock, but everyone in the gym knew it was probably over.

It was. Supernova continued to make it ugly. Everyone on the team scored. Reynolds had 15, Corey Fisher contributed 16, and Malcolm Grant, who played his freshman season at Villanova in 2007-2008 before transferring to Miami (Florida), led the way with 21 of the bench. Down the stretch, the interior passing between Jayvaughn Pinkston, Isaiah Armwood and Sutton looked like keep-away against a frustrated Kings bunch. In the game’s waning minutes, the effort was gone. Supernova was just looking to get to 100. The Kings were just looking to leave.

By the time the lead was comfortable, any stress of an early-round exit — which Villanova basketball is all too familiar with — had turned to joy. 

“When we get back together, it's like we never left each other,” Redding said. “Everybody don't keep in contact that much, but … It was fun, man, it's like we were back in the locker room.”

There were seven other games northeast region games Saturday, with plenty of Philly ties in a handful of the matchups. Here’s a brief recap of the rest of the action:

No. 8 Talladega Knights vs.  No. 9 Paul Champions
The contrast of Paul Champions is something else. Earl Boykins, one of the NBA’s shortest players ever at 5-foot-5, took command in a 78-74 win with 25 points and five assists. But then Paul Champions comes at you with a 7-foot-6 tower in Mamadou Ndiaye and fan favorite Chukwudiebere Maduabum, who’s 6-foot-10. They’ll be fun to watch moving forward.

No. 1 FCM Untouchables vs.  No. 16 OPI
The Untouchables are the No. 1 seed because of results like this one. OPI was down just six at half, but was held to just 39 percent from the field after the break. Coached by Kevin Durant’s brother Tony, the Untouchables are pretty much loaded with former NBA guys and European league studs. They won, 92-77.

No. 4 Team FOE vs. No. 13 DC On Point
The Philly connection runs deep on Team FOE. The Morris twins coach. Markus Kennedy, who played one season at Villanova before transferring to Southern Methodist, started down low, and Scott Rodgers of Drexel played up top. But if you needed any more notice that the squad was somewhat local, the crowd made that clear. In an 80-75 win that was really close down the stretch after a Team FOE comeback in the second half, the FOE fans went wild.

No. 5 Zoo Crew (Pittsburgh Alumni) vs. No. 12 Sideline Cancer
Often as it goes during March Madness, that 5-12 matchup wasn’t a breeze for the higher seed. Led by Levance Fields, the Zoo Crew kept it close against Sideline Cancer for all 36 minutes, but in the end, even Fields’ 35 points weren’t enough. Zoo Crew lacked the defense needed to advance. Five of Sideline Cancer’s seven players scored in double figures, and both Duane (not The Rock) Johnson and former St. Joseph’s guard Aaron Brown notched 25 points in a 100-87 win.

No. 6 City of Gods vs. No. 11 GaelNation
The two teams matched bucket for bucket for all 36 minutes. City of Gods, with Drexel’s Phil Goss and Temple’s David Hawkins, looked to be distancing themselves late until Javier Carter of GaelNation threw down maybe the meanest dunk of the day to that point. The Gaels tied it up a possession later, only to foul while in the bonus at the other end. But once City of Gods missed both with 8.7 seconds left, Steven Burtt got the rock and sprinted for a layup at the other end. He drained it and City of God’s advanced to the front court with a timeout. They missed and that was it. GaelNation won, 88-86.

No. 3 Boeheim's Army (Syracuse Alumni) vs. No. 14 DuBois Dream
Boeheim’s Army was the only team to begin its blowout from the get-go. They shot 41 percent from deep in the first half and jumped out to a 14-0 lead. The gap was 20 at the half. In the second half, they changed gears and ran the break. DuBois Dream was small, with their tallest man at 6-foot-8, and that showed. Rick Jackson and DaShonte Riley had their way inside and it ended as a lopsided finish, 99-66.

No. 7 Team Fancy vs. No. 10 Rebel Riders (Rider Alumni)
The gym was rather hollow compared to earlier in the day, but the intensity wasn’t cut out. Things got chippy by the game's end, with the Rebel Riders losing, 77-70. However, two local guys put up notable efforts. Temple’s Ramone Moore posted 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting. And Jason Thompson, a 6-foot-11 Medford, New Jersey, native and Rider alum who spent eight seasons in the NBA, totaled 12 points and 16 boards. You might remember Thompson from a certain trade involving the Sixers a few years back (think: pick swap). He most recently played professionally in China. 

The Basketball Tournament again features plenty of local flavor

The Basketball Tournament again features plenty of local flavor

Two million dollars is up for grabs.

The winner-take-all, single-elimination, 64-team tournament known as simply The Basketball Tournament (or TBT) is back for its fourth year.

Final rosters were announced on Tuesday with the opening rounds set to kick off July 8-9 in Philadelphia and Charlotte. 

Philadelphia University will again be used as a host site. That's not the only Philly flavor as TBT is set to feature a variety of former NBA players and collegiate studs, many of whom starred for Big 5 schools and other local colleges.

Villanova will be well-represented in the tournament. Nine of the 10 players on Team SuperNova played for the Wildcats and will be led by former consensus first-team All-American Scottie Reynolds. Other members of the team include Reggie Redding and Corey Fisher, who helped 'Nova reach the 2009 Final Four, as well as 2016 national champion Darryl Reynolds. Team SuperNova will be coached by former Wildcats guard Mike Nardi.

Former Sixers and Villanova guard, Maalik Wayns, will try to push Philly-led Team FOE to the championship this summer. The squad's GM is Philly native and current Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris.

Eight-year NBA veteran and South Jersey product Jason Thompson will be suiting up in hopes of leading his team to the coveted $2 million prize with his squad of mostly Rider University products.

Players from just about every city school will be participating during TBT, including David Hawkins (Temple, City of Gods), Aaron Brown (Saint Joseph's, Sideline Cancer), Jermaine Thomas (La Salle, DC on Point) and Phil Goss (Drexel, City of Gods).

For a closer look at all of the rosters, schedule and other information, visit thetournament.com.