The AL.com Classic, formerly known as the Huntsville Times Classic, tipped off Monday morning at Mae Jemison High School. Despite a new name and a new venue, the most traditional tournament in Alabama did not disappoint on the opening day, as some of the top programs in the Huntsville area matched up to begin the 34th edition of the event.
KIRA LEWIS, JR. LEADS THE PACK
During Thanksgiving at the N2 Hoops Invitational, Bob Jones was able to defeat Hazel Green by a narrow margin after 2019 Hazel Green (AL) combo guard Kira Lewis, Jr. went down with an ankle injury. In the rematch, Hazel Green avenged their loss behind a huge performance from Lewis, as he posted 34 points to pace the Trojans to victory.
At 6-foot-2, Lewis (pictured above) can play both guard positions. He glides down the floor and utilizes his long strides to blow by defenders and make explosive plays at the basket. The sophomore had an efficient night from the field, making 11-of-18 from the floor and three 3-point attempts. With his skill-set, athleticism, and shooting ability, Lewis is a prospect that translates to the next level.
With scholarship offers in-hand from Auburn, UAB, Murray State, Middle Tennessee State, and more, Kira Lewis, Jr. is solidifying himself as an elite member in Alabama’s 2019 class, as well as a top 100 candidate nationally.
MOUNTAIN BROOK CONTINUES TO ROLL
Coming off a Steel City Invitational championship win last week, the Mountain Brook Spartans rolled into Huntsville on Monday looking to continue the winning tradition over the holidays. It’s safe to say they made their point, as they rolled past Madison County in the first round, 85-28.
Led out of the gates by 2019 forward Trendon Watford, the Spartans were able to jump out to an early lead on the Tigers and they never looked back. The Mountain Brook press smothered Madison County, leading to deflections and turnovers at a high rate.
Watford showcased his entire skill-set in the first quarter of the matchup, as he threw down a vicious dunk, followed by a 3 and a mid-range jumper. The versatile 6-foot-7 matchup problem also did a nice job of handling the basketball, too. Watford led the Spartans with 17 points.
2018 shooting guard Sean Elmore also did his part for the Spartans, as he made all four of his 3-point attempts to be a consistent threat from the outside. Elmore finished with 14.
JAMES CLEMENS OUTLASTS MUSCLE SHOALS
In what was one of the more intriguing matchups of the day, James Clemens and Muscle Shoals came down to the final seconds of the game. Led by tremendous guard play with Bradley Belt and A.J. McGinnis and Mark Sears, this game was circled as an intriguing day one matchup.
While those names did not disappoint, an unlikely hero came alive in the second half to lead James Clemens to a 55-54 victory. Senior Marcus Lacey was unstoppable on the low block down the stretch, as he scored the majority of his 15 points in the fourth to put the Jets on top.
Despite missing a free-throw to send the game to overtime, 2020 Muscle Shoals point guard Mark Sears had a phenomenal performance in front of a packed Huntsville crowd. The 6-foot lefty finished with 22 points on the day, as he played with poise and guts for a freshman. While it will still be a few years before our 2020 Alabama rankings are unveiled, Sears is one to expect at the top of the list.
JOHN COLE NORRIS SHOOTS HUNTSVILLE HIGH TO VICTORY
In a day where the gym lights randomly went out, they somehow remained to stay intact as 2019 combo guard John Cole Norris shot the top off of St. John Paul II’s defense en route to 17 points and a Huntsville High victory.
Norris did a nice job of spacing the floor, leading to open shots in rhythm for the 6-foot-1 combo guard. He also displayed a high IQ and a thorough understanding of the game. Instead of forcing shots, the sophomore let the game come to him.
Senior Daniel Saunders also had a productive day for St. John Paull II, as he proved to be a sniper specialist from behind the arc. He hit five 3’s and made some timely shots to keep the Falcons in the game.
GUARD PLAY LIFTS SPARKMAN
Each year, Sparkman head coach Jamie Coggins assembles a talented group of guards and convinces them to play as hard and as scrappy as they can. The always consistent result? The Senators find themselves at Wallace State-Hanceville in the 7A regionals.
It doesn’t look like anything will change this year. Led by a talented group of guards, Sparkman will be a contender going into the playoffs. While they had some rough stretches on Monday, there is a lot to like about this group.
Led by the senior duo of Maurice Anderson and J.P. Fletcher, the tandem worked well together against Columbia. Anderson has the ability to play on or off the ball, as he showcased throughout the game. Fletcher finished with 21 points, most coming off of 3-point attempts. The 6-foot-1 guard has a knack for hitting shots from the perimeter.
Junior Khaliq Green and sophomore Malik Tyson bring toughness and versatility to both ends of the floor. While they both translate as guards, the duo has no problem guarding post players with their strength and size. As underclassmen, they will lead the way in the coming years.