The Cleveland 216ers were back in action this past weekend for the first time in a month and back in grand fashion they were at the Ballin Under 1 Roof tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. The Sixers traveled south of the state to compete in the 11th/12th-grade division with a competitive and young roster. The Louisville roster was comprised of four juniors, four sophomores, and two freshmen.
With a loaded pool play schedule, the team knew there would be challenges ahead, but that’s exactly what coach Ben Gordesky says is necessary for the program.
“Playing in these live-period tournaments against this amount of top competition really does a couple things for us. The first, obviously, is making sure our players are playing against top competition to improve their skills and game-readiness. The second thing it does is expand the program. I’d put our competitive nature and the way we teach and play the game up against anyone. When programs see how we prepare and execute in games, it helps us in front of prospective players but most importantly, the college coaches who will be recruiting our guys.”
In pool play, the Sixers started out against an immensely-talented Central Kentucky Magic team that boasted at least five college basketball prospects. Leading the team in scoring was ’20 guard Kalil Camara (Westland HS). While it was not a great game, there were chances to be had for the next two days as there were another two pool play games plus a bracket.
On Saturday morning, two tough matchups were slated on the schedule with a game versus Ohio Varsity and a game versus Ranch Elite (CA). Up for most of the game, the Sixers weren’t able to pull it out as Ohio Varsity pulled it out in the end in a close one. Scoring was balanced nicely between five of the guys, including Camara, ’21 guard Jason McColl (Solon HS), ’21 guard Tyree Alexander (Willoughby South HS), ’20 guard Liam Keethler (Upper Arlington HS), and ’21 wing Andrew Butcher (Dublin Jerome HS).
The next game against Ranch Elite started out with an onslaught of transition points for the squad out of California. After a fiery timeout and down 18-2, the Sixers stormed back on a 17-0 run to take the lead at 19-18. What followed was a full game of eight-to-ten-point runs. With a minute and a half left and a chance to take the lead, a three-point shot rimmed out and Ranch Elite capitalized on their free throws, eventually winning the game. Behind 21 points from Camara, nine from Keethler and eight from Alexander, the scoring was starting to spread out a little more and put the team in a good position for Sunday moving forward.
After the tough pool play round, the 216ers were slotted in the bronze bracket for Sunday’s games. Slated to play the Clarksville Snipers (IN) in the bronze semi-final. Good first halves from Camara and Alexander kept the Sixers within striking distance. Coming out strong in the second half, the 216ers went on an 18-0 run to gain a 13-point lead. Finishing the game out, the Sixers were led to the bronze championship game with 24 points from Camara, 14 from Alexander, and strong overall games from ’20 guard Clint Younkin (Upper Arlington HS), ’21 guard Tyree Talley (Willoughby South HS), and ’20 guard John Basil (Upper Arlington HS).
Heading into the bronze championship game, a hot Sixers team was competing against a JSBA team coming off a tight win. Unable to stop Edward Wright, a tough ‘20 guard from Elyria Catholic High School, the JSBA guard scored a quick 10 points to open up the game. After a stale start, Talley helped the 216ers get on the scoreboard, scoring the first five points for the team and taking the lid off the basket. Team defense on Wright slowed the guard down and let the Sixers earn a 27-26 lead heading into the half with a three-point shot by Basil at the halftime buzzer.
What was about to come was a battle by the two best players on the court, Kalil Camara and Edward Wright. Behind 29 second-half points from Camara and 19 second-half points from Wright, the bronze championship went down to the wire. With a chance to go up three and almost put the game away, Camara had a shot at a dunk to seal it but missed it giving JSBA a chance to get it across and take a timeout to set up a play to win. A deflection by Keethler went under the basket and JSBA had 0.9 seconds to score. Amazingly enough with the missed dunk and the deflection, there was more that wouldn’t go the way of the Sixers.
A play right under the basket gave JSBA a shot at the win, but the shot was long off the opposite side of the rim and the Sixers held on behind a game-high 37 points from Camara, and nine points apiece from Talley and Basil.
“It was one of the best efforts I’d seen from anyone in a while,” Coach Ben said regarding the game from Camara. “No one could stay in front of him if they tried. They threw double teams at him, tried face-guarding him, nothing worked. Kalil Camara is a name that will be out there this year as one of the most athletic kids in the country.” Coach Ben also had this to say about the team defense in the championship game, “We were having a tough time guarding [Wright]. As soon as Clint (Younkin) checked into the game, he was able to draw three or four offensive fouls. That made [Wright] less aggressive attacking the rim going forward. Even with the huge game from Kalil, I’m not sure if we pull it out without the defense from Clint. One of the best attitudes I’ve ever coached. Clint always does exactly what’s asked of him plus more, which showed in this win.”
All three Cleveland 216ers teams are back in action this upcoming weekend in Columbus in the Nike Summer Championships.
*Team photo taken by Dawn Anderson-Butcher