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May 13, 2011

iS8/Nike Playoffs: Friday

The NJ Playaz sophomores and juniors both sought to make the most of their interstate commute by running their Brooklyn opponents out of the gym and living another day.

The upperclassmen will live to fight another day, as the juniors staved off a feisty Brooklyn Ballers unit. However, the sophomores went home, as they were squeezed by the Juice All-Stars.


Playaz Sophomores don't have the juice to stop Juice All-Stars

The youngest Playaz contingent in the playoffs put up a fight, but ultimately had no antidote for the Juice All-Stars' hustle in the paint and back court speed. Led by Isaiah Whitehead's 21 points and Jordan Parks' 18, the Brooklyn-based squad lived to fight another day with a 69-55 victory.

Juice's early dominance was capped by a crafty spin and double-pump move from Whitehead to give them an 8-1 lead. The seven point cushion remained when Parks came off the bench and joined the fray with some inside buckets at the end of the quarter, but the Playaz' Joel Hernandez phoned in with a trey to let the New Yorkers know the Garden State team was alive.

The Playaz' buzz didn't last long though. Juice's allegiance to defense afforded them a 22-11 run, powered by Parks and Justin Jenkins (8 points). The Playaz' failure to box out cost them inside buckets, which were scored in abundance by Parks in the second quarter. Their second wind didn't come until late in the third, when they began to turn Juice over. A runner in the lane from Kavon Stewart cut Juice's lead to five, and that lead would eventually shrink to two on a goal tending call, 44-42. A pair of Hernandez threes kept the Playaz in the mix, but the Jersey squad couldn't get over the hump and never lead at any point in the game. The ability of Whitehead and PG Jevon Thomas (15 points) to get to the stripe helped Juice pull away, although as a team Juice was sour from the charity stripe (they shot a rickety 9-17 in the fourth quarter and 19-36 for the game).

Mike Young led the Playaz Sophomores with 15 points, while Stewart added 11 and Hernandez, 9.

Juice will face New Heights (K) at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday.


Playaz Juniors Hold off B'klyn Ballers

The Ballers put up a fight through the final minutes of action, but ultimately didn't have the ammo to get past the Playaz. The B'klyn representatives were in turn eliminated in a 59-48 Playaz victory.

The early back and forth action foreshadowed a possible dogfight, as each team had an answer for their opponents' assault. While Kyle "Slo Motion" Anderson (who scored a game high 27 points and dished out 5 assists) made smooth offense look extremely easy and Chris Jones (17 points) punished the Ballers from deep, the Ballers' Rakim Lessane (who scored a team high 17 points) kept his team alive with a one-man show. Lessane scored the Ballers' first nine points in a variety of ways, and when he got some help from Malik Gill (12 points) with a trey, the game was tied at 12. However, as close as the game remained until the final period, the Ballers only led once - on a Bolade Akingboye bucket that gave them a 16-15 advantage.

The Playaz would maintain a seven point lead for much of the second period, thanks to a 2-3 zone that perturbed the Ballers. The long arms of Anderson disrupting the passing lanes didn't help the Ballers' cause either. That lead entered double digits when Jones sledgehammered a vicious and poster-worthy dunk on a Ballers' head to end the half.

The excitement of the dunk didn't transfer over to the Playaz' second half energy, though, as they were out-hustled by the Ballers for much of the remaining game time. Gill led the Ballers in a 12-8 third quarter scoring advantage that cut the Playaz lead down to three on two occasions. The Ballers' formidable hustle kept them alive and close by, but it wasn't enough to clear the hump. If a key steal by Sekou Harris with 1:15 left to play that the Playaz up, 52-48, wasn't the deathblow, his ability to break down the Ballers' defense and expand the Playaz' lead to six points with under a minute left was. Anderson was sent to the line numerous times with time running out, and he made the most of his trips to seal the win.

The Playaz Juniors will face New Heights (Art) at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.















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