Three things @JustinDYoung learned from the @HoopSeenWest Tip-Off
MESA, AZ - The inaugural HoopSeen West Tip-Off Bell Bank Park went live on Saturday and some of the top programs in the state of Arizona and beyond went to work. The point and purpose of the HoopSeen Tip-Off Series is to jump start the conversation. So, let’s see who was trending from the first day of action.
Three things I learned today…
LONG LIVE THE INDEPENDENTS
The story of March Madness is written by all kinds of authors. This year’s St. Peter’s team is the perfect example of players who took their own route to the Dance. Those players come alive at events like the HoopSeen Tip-Off on teams who are independently sponsored and directed.
In a pairing of some of the top independent teams in the West, Team Arizona Black and Factory locked horns on Saturday afternoon at the the HoopSeen Tip-Off for the best game of Saturday’s action.
Team Arizona Black, hailing from Phoenix’s East Valley, and Factory, based in the West Valley, are two of the very best programs in the state of Arizona. Both clubs are well-coached. Both clubs boast players with big-time post-season resumes. Both teams execute the game in a way that the purists love and smart college coaches recruit.
The first half was a bit of a struggle for both clubs as each group was trying to find it’s flow in the action. Shots weren’t quite dropping and neither team could find a rhythm to break the game open.
Then two things happened: Fast break offense broke loose for Team AZ Black and Factory went inside to their 7-footer Noah Amenhauser. That’s the strength for both teams. Which one would win out?
Ultimately it was playmaking from Isaiah Kai, shot-making from Cohenj Gonzales, fast break action from Noah Peterson and a balanced attack from the whole squad that allowed them to claim the 70-58 win.
For Factory, Amenhauser scored 12 points in the second half and had a day inside the paint. The future Grand Canyon big man is such a load to guard inside. You better believe Bryce Drew and his staff will pull some tricks out of the Matt Painter bag for 7-footers at the next level.
The score is deceiving in the end. This game was a possession battle for 90 percent of the action. It was great basketball in the month of March and certainly a stage setting for what should be a hot April for both clubs during the NCAA Live Period.
We will have much more from this action in our post-event coverage.
ON GUARD: A PAIR OF ‘25 GUARDS PUT US ON NOTICE
Factory 16U guard Kaleel Kelly of Willow Canyon (AZ) HS sure looked like a guy who will be on this website for years to come. The 6-foot-2 guard has some go in his game. He can power through the defense with a confident handle all the while be slippery enough to make defenders spin around and wonder where he went. He’s a big guard with big upside.
AZ Venom 15U guard DeNali McNeal was one of the standouts on Saturday. After a stellar year at Canyon View (AZ) HS, McNeal came to work in the travel season. At the 15 and under level, he just stands out as a playmaker and slasher. McNeal plays with no fear.
SUNSHINE STATE SQUAD EXPERIENCES THAT DRY HEAT
Florida Cherubim Elite made their way out to Arizona for the Tip-Off and brought a South Florida flavor to the hardwood. Big, strong and senior-driven squad had a couple of eye-catchers on Saturday morning’s opening games. Big guard Bryce Baez and athletic wing Randall Aguilar (both of Miami Prep’s 2022 class) stood out in their morning win over against a tough PAL Elite team. Both Baez and Aguilar warrant a look from two-year schools in the spring.