The opening day of the 2017 Slam Dunk to the Beach lived up to the event’s storied legacy. Although five of the day’s six games ended with double-digit margins, the Slam was a feast for basketball junkies and casual fans alike. Dozens of Division I talents showed off the skills and athleticism that have landed them scholarships and, in some cases, the attention of NBA scouts. Four players ranked in ESPN’s Top 100 for their respective classes took the floor at Cape High, as did several of the nation’s most powerful programs. Fans fired up three-pointers for prize packages, chowed down on Grotto’s and Kick n’ Chicken, and danced to a courtside DJ. The highlights:
Smyrna (Del.) 86, Howard (Del.) 53: The First State’s top-ranked team looked the part in Slam Dunk’s opening game, as junior forward Jaymeir Garnett scored 30 points and senior guard Caleb Matthews recorded a triple-double to lead the Eagles to a runaway win. Matthews, a sharpshooting two-guard, racked up 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for 7-0 Smyrna. Andrew Mears’ squad used a strong second-quarter spurt to take command and never looked back. Senior guard LaMar Woody paced Howard (4-3) with 18 points and four assists.
Eleanor Roosevelt (Md.) 76, Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) 55: Junior guard Cameron Brown scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half, and the Raiders’ suffocating defense forced 30 Lions turnovers in the rout. Senior guard Jaden Faulkner added 16 points and five assists for Roosevelt (4-2), which shot 53 percent from the floor. Junior guard William Lee poured in a game-high 19 points and went 5-for-9 from three-point range for Loughlin (4-5). The Raiders outscored Loughlin 29-11 over the final 11 minutes of play, forcing 12 Lions turnovers during that stretch.
Saint James (Md.) 74, Caravel (Del.) 36: Behind 16 points and four three-pointers from junior guard Callum Baker, the Saints outclassed the Buccaneers from the opening tap. Pittsburgh commit Bryce Golden notched 13 points and nine rebounds for Saint James (6-2), which used its distinct size advantage to hit 56 percent of its field goals and outmuscle Caravel on the glass by a 45-23 margin. The Bucs (2-2) got 16 points from junior guard Trevon Alderman.
Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) 68, Bishop McNamara (Md.) 53: Harvard-Westlake began its four-game, three-day tourney journey the right way, wearing down Bishop McNamara with its size for the win. Sophomore center Mason Hooks led the way for the Wolverines with 21 points and 13 boards, scoring almost at will under the hoop. Four other players reached double figures for Westlake (10-1), as senior guard Spencer Hubbard added 12 points and three assists. Senior guard Nigel Marshall tallied 11 points for the Mustangs (7-4).
Roselle Catholic (N.J.) 82, Gray Collegiate (S.C.) 76: LSU-bound senior forward Nazreon Reid scored 23 points and snagged 12 rebounds as the Lions denied a late rally by the War Eagles. Gray (9-3) was carried by junior forward Juwan Gary, who exploded for 37 points on 15-for-21 shooting and corralled 14 rebounds. Roselle (4-1) led 46-25 early in the third quarter before a furious flurry from the Eagles, who cut their deficit to one with 3:21 left. The Lions scored the next seven points – four from Reid – to put the game away. Junior wing Khalil Whitney added 15 points for Roselle, which shot 52 percent from the floor.
Vermont Academy (Vt.) 71, Sidwell Friends (D.C.) 51: High-flying point-forward Simisola Shittu scored 21 points and snagged 11 rebounds to help the Wildcats to a win that was never really in doubt. Vermont Academy (5-4) led from start to finish thanks in large part to the senior wing’s dominance on the glass and dynamic play on the fast break. The Wildcats also got 16 points and eight boards from sophomore guard Symir Torrence, who shot 56 percent from the floor and collected 19 assists on 27 buckets. Junior guard Jason Gibson led the Quakers (4-3) with 17 points.
To stay up-to-date on the Slam Dunk to the Beach action, check www.capegazette.com for photos from Day 2 and 3 of the tournament.