When sophomore guard Skylar Johnson drilled a corner three-pointer midway through the third quarter of the Cape boys’ basketball team’s Slam Dunk To The Beach showdown with California power Harvard-Westlake, giving the underdog Vikings a 26-21 lead, the Cape faithful began to weigh the possibility of a program-defining win. Maybe, just maybe, the Vikings could upend one of the Golden State’s most respected squads. Maybe, just maybe, they could overcome the fact that the Wolverines' starting lineup featured 6-foot-10 center Mason Hooks, 6-foot-7 forward Truman Gettings, 6-foot-5 forward Brase Dottin and 6-foot-7 wing Johnny Juzang, ESPN’s 15th-ranked sophomore nationally. Maybe, just maybe, the tournament hosts could earn their first victory at Slam Dunk since its rebirth in 2014.
Then the Vikings went cold.
Harvard-Westlake embarked on an 18-2 second-half run and held Cape to one field goal in seven minutes of playing time after Johnson’s trifecta, gutting out an ugly 48-37 win over the Vikings.
Senior forward Ian Robertson scored a game-high 14 points and muscled down seven rebounds for Cape (4-2, 2-1 Henlopen Conference), which saw its four-game win streak come to an end.
The Vikings put forth a game effort in the first half, standing toe-to-toe with the bulky Wolverines and taking a 23-19 lead into the locker room. From that point, Cape couldn’t buy a bucket for all the Bitcoin in the world, as it shot an abysmal 6-for-31 from the floor (19 percent) in the second half.
“We struggled with their zone in the second half,” said coach Steve Re, whose team couldn’t find clean looks over Westlake’s imposing front line in the game’s late stages. “Moving the ball against their length was a problem. Going inside was a problem. What really hurt us is we just didn’t make shots.”
Senior wing Randy Rickards did all he could to keep Cape in contention, as he amassed 10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four steals. He hammered home two nasty dunks in the first half to fire up the hometown fans and give his team momentum. The Vikings also got seven points and six boards from sophomore guard Sh’Kai Chandler.
Robertson scored 10 of his 14 in the first half, but misfired on nine of his 11 field goal tries after intermission. Rickards experienced a similar second-half swoon, as he managed just two points on 1-for-6 shooting over the final two periods.
Robertson admitted that Harvard-Westlake’s size took its toll on Cape.
“Their length just caught up to us,” Robertson said. “Eventually, that changes your shots. It’s a different look on the shot [against taller defenders]. It’s a different feel in the paint when they’re so far above you.”
Re expressed great pride in his team and saw plenty of positives in the defeat.
“We battled,” he said. “[Harvard-Westlake is] ranked pretty highly in California, so we showed well for ourselves tonight … We made them work every possession. We took them out of everything [they wanted to run]. I think they maybe had one or two easy buckets … We battled like crazy on the boards and held them to one-and-done many, many times. We followed the game plan defensively.”
Robertson, like his coach, was encouraged by the Vikings’ effort.
“We were moving the ball on offense [in the first half] and had high energy the whole time,” Robertson said. “We ran what we wanted to defensively and held them to, what, 45? Offense is the last thing to come in the season, and it’ll get there. We have to score more than 35 points in a game if we wanna beat any team, but it’ll come.”
Hooks, a top-200 player in the sophomore class, led the Wolverines (11-2) with 12 points despite being saddled with foul trouble most of the night. Cape limited Juzang, a sophomore blue-chipper being pursued by UCLA, Miami, and others, to nine points on 3-for-18 shooting.
The Vikings couldn’t find the range from long distance, connecting on just four of their 23 three-point tries (17 percent). They had been on a tear from beyond the arc coming into Slam Dunk, canning 30 of 75 threes (40 percent) over their previous four games.
“We didn’t knock down shots, but it bodes well for us,” Re said. “In the state, you’re not gonna see that kind of length.”
Cape was set to close out its Slam Dunk slate with a Dec. 29 visit from Caravel, which dropped a 74-36 decision to Saint James (Md.) on the opening day of the tourney. For photos and game story, go to www.capegazette.com.
Day 2 roundup
#13 (MaxPreps) Gonzaga College (D.C.) 62, Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) 42: The loaded Eagles, the highest-ranked team at this year’s Slam Dunk, were never threatened in a wire-to-wire victory. Gonzaga moved to 8-0 on the year behind 19 points and 4-for-6 three-point shooting from sophomore forward Terrance Williams. Senior wing Myles Dread added 12 points and dropped a pair of bombs, while sophomore guard Chuck Harris chipped in with nine points and five assists. The Eagles took a 27-13 halftime lead and waltzed to the win from there. Sophomore center Mason Hooks recorded a 15-point, 11-board double-double for Harvard-Westlake (10-2), which went a paltry 2-for-19 from three-point land.
Immaculate Conception (N.J.) 62, Saint James (Md.) 56: Syracuse-bound senior guard Jalen Carey poured in 33 points on 5-for-8 three-point shooting and added six rebounds to carry the Lions across the finish line. Carey broke open a close game by scoring 13 straight Immaculate Conception points in a three-minute third-quarter burst, knocking down three long-balls in the process. The Lions shot 51 percent from the floor and canned 9 of their 16 three-pointers in one of the most efficient offensive performances of the tourney. Senior big man Bryce Golden netted 19 points and grabbed six rebounds for Saint James (6-3). Immaculate Conception (2-1) got 12 points off the bench from freshman guard Jayden Brown.
Roselle Catholic (N.J.) 87, Smyrna (Del.) 69: Four players reached double figures in scoring for a balanced Roselle side, as junior forward Khalil Whitney set the pace with 26 points and knocked down four three-pointers. Smyrna, the defending DIAA state champion, acquitted itself well against one of the nation’s premier programs, pulling to within 12 points midway through the fourth quarter before the Lions pulled away. Junior forward Jaymeir Garnett scored 19 points and ripped down 12 rebounds for the Eagles (7-1), who also got 19 points from senior guard Caleb Matthews. Senior blue-chip forward Nazreon Reid logged his second double-double in as many days for the Lions (5-1), finishing with 16 points and 12 boards, while senior big Alanzo Frink contributed 15 points.
St. John’s College (D.C.) 75, John Carroll (Md.) 70: St. John’s dug out of a nine-point second-quarter hole and pulled away from Carroll thanks to white-hot second-half shooting. Five Cadets scored in double figures on the night, as sophomore guard Ishmael Leggett went for 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and tallied a team-best eight rebounds. Junior guard Casey Morsell added 16 points for St. John’s (8-3), while Carroll (9-3) stayed in contention thanks to 20 points and five assists from Kentucky-bound senior guard Immanuel Quickley. Senior guard Montez Mathis went for 19 points and eight rebounds for the Patriots, who struggled to contain the Cadets’ stable of dynamic guards down the stretch.
Westtown (Pa.) 72, Dillard (Fla.) 68: Senior forward Jake Forrester lit up the Big House for 25 points and senior wing Cameron Reddish added 24 as the Moose held off the feisty Panthers in a back-and-forth affair. Westtown (10-7) calmly sank all 16 of its fourth-quarter free throws, 10 of them by Reddish, to nullify an inspired effort from defending Florida 7A champ Dillard. Senior guard Bryce Oliver battled the Duke-bound Reddish all night and finished with 20 points for the Panthers (6-3), who also got 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting from junior guard Deshawn Bartley. The lead changed hands 15 times, and both teams shot 50 percent or better from the floor in what was, to this point, the Slam’s most entertaining and cleanly played game.
Vermont Academy (Vt.) 76, Gray Collegiate (S.C.) 59: Senior big man Daniel Schreier’s 19-point, eight-rebound night helped the Wildcats recover from an early injury to all-world forward Simi Shittu, who scored an effortless 17 points before leaving with an ankle injury in the second period. Vermont Academy, which boasts at least nine Division I prospects, dominated the War Eagles from the outset. The Wildcats (6-4) shot a blistering 56 percent from the floor and assisted on 18 of their 25 field goals. Junior forward Juwan Gary paced Gray Collegiate (9-4) with 21 points and six boards, while junior guard Khalil Robinson added 16 points.