The Vegas trip was a whole new experience for this young and talented team, especially since a majority of the squad had never seen Vegas' bright lights. It took a few days for the boys to settle in, this was evident after an embarrassing double digit loss to M33M- CIA Bounce.
Once the fellas did settle down they proved how good they can actually be! The Stangs fired back with back to back pool play wins in dramatic fashion. The first against DC Assault. After trailing the complete first half the Stangs went on a 15-3 run in the second half to take their first lead of the game with six minutes left on the clock. The run was keyed by the defensive pressure from Mustang guards Lee Bailey, Brandan Kearney, and Christian Vaughn. Bailey completely took DC's point guard out of the game, coming off of a first half where the speedy guard killed the Stangs. Kearney also came up with key plays on the offensive end with a 3-pointer that was followed by a drive and dish to teammate Matt Poches, finished DC off with a 62-53 Stang win.
Everything was up for grabs in the final pool play game. With the pool be so competitive a win would guarantee a #2 seed but a loss could have faltered the Stangs to a #3 or #4 seed. The Stangs went right inside to their workhorse Percy Gibson who produced and got his team the early lead, but the Oakland Rebels weren't going to go away so easily. In the second half the two teams traded the lead as time ticked away. Kearney and wing forward Tommie McCune carried a bulk of the second half scoring for the Stangs but it was Gibson's running hook shot that tied the game with less than a minute to go. Neither team was able to knock down a hero's shot so the game was sent into overtime.
In OT Oakland struck first, but Bailey was able to tie the game with a floater in the paint. The overtime turned into a defensive slugfest and again neither team could control a lead forcing a second overtime.
In the second OT the Stangs went right inside to McCune. McCune's first attempt was off but the active wing was able to scrap for the tip back to give the Stangs a two point lead. A pair of free throws from Kearney stretched the lead but still Oakland wouldn't go away as they as they connected on a 3-pointer. With eight seconds to play- Bailey's free throw made the score 56-54. Oakland took the inbounds the length of the court but their shot attemp fell short giving the Stangs the double OT win and a 2-1 pool record.
In the first round of bracket play against IEBP, the Stangs quickly built a double digit lead behind the play of wing Denzel Valentine and Poches. Valentine's ability to rebound and push the ball allowed the Stangs to get out and run. IEBP could never recover as the lead got to as many as 30 points and the Stangs settled for a 66-48 win as the starters sat a majority of the second half.
Next up was the Stangs biggest rival of the summer- Ohio Basketball Club. This time the Stangs were better prepared as Tommie McCune took the Chane Behanan match up personally and went right at the nation's top forward. McCune started the game like a mad man as he was all over the floor blocking shots and tipping in missed shots. Kearney jumped into the scoring act and the Stangs were quickly up 8 points. The two teams fought on to show why they are considered two of the top 15-u teams in the country. Play after play, players from both teams answered with big shots and defensive stops. But in the end turnovers would be the downfall of the Mustangs as they were forced to foul in the game's final minute. OBC went on to take a 70-59 win.
The Mustangs came back home with a 3-2 record but both losses were to teams that advanced into the final four. On a positive note the Mustangs proved that their players can be mentioned with the nation's best and the Stangs proved that they have three players worthy of being top 100 players nationally.
Check back tommorow on NGS' original homepage to read a complete evaluation of player performances from the 15-u Mustangs.