2016 Jerry Tarkanian Classic: Championship Day
by Dinos Trigonis
(December 22, 2016)

 The 5th annual Jerry Tarkanian Classic Finals were held on Tuesday December 20th for all bracketed Divisions.

In the Platinum Division Championship Game, it was Chino Hills (CA) breaking open a close game early and answering every Mater Dei run to beat the Monarchs 84-73.  Tourney co-MVP Gelo Ball (UCLA signee) scored 25 points (18 in the 1st half) while fellow co-MVP Eli Scott (Loyola Marymount signee) had another highly productive game (10 points/14 rebounds) to anchor the Huskies.  Three other Chino Hills starters scored in double figures with Melo Ball (21 points/12 assists), Oneyka Okongwu (14 points/14 boards) and Phaquan Davis (12 points; 4/5 3FG) all making major contributions for the Huskies.  Mater Dei’s Justice Sueing did all he could to keep the Monarchs in contention, scoring a game-high 27 points and grabbing 11 boards.  Mike Wang added 17 points and Spencer Freedman dished out 10 assists.

In the Platinum Division 3rd Place Game it was 6-2 freshman Noah Taitz driving the lane and hitting a bank shot to push host Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas NV) past Roosevelt (Eastvale CA) 66-64.  Bishop Gorman’s 6-6 senior Charles O’Bannon led all scorers with 29 points while Roosevelt’s Matt Mitchell led Roosevelt with 27 points.

In the Eastbay Division Final, Godby (Tallahassee FL) knocked off ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch CO) 62-53 as Monte Edwards (14) and Corbin Merritt (13) combined for 27 points.  ThunderRidge’s Corey Seng had a game-high 26 points.

In the Orleans Division Final, Sheldon (Sacramento CA) defeated Lone Peak (Highland UT) 59-49 as Isaiah Duplechan scored 22 points (including 6 threes) to lead the Huskies.

In the Gatorade Division Final, Grandview (Aurora CO) edged fellow in-state foe Fort Collins (Ft. Collins CO) 50-48.

In the Nike Division Final, Timpanogos (Orem UT) knocked off Maranatha (Pasadena CA) 57-46 as Justin Beus led the way for the Timberwolves with 17 points.  Maranatha’s Chris Austin topped the Minutemen’s scoring with 17 points of his own.

Below are several of the top players that rose to the occasion on Day 5:

Eli Scott                                6’5”     2017   Chino Hills (Chino Hills CA)

Scott followed up a monster semi-final effort with another double-double (10 points on 5/6 FG and 14 rebounds) versus Mater Dei in the Platinum title game.  Scott is the ultimate glue guy for any championship squad.  He rebounds, He defends. He scores when necessary.  He competes on every play!  That type of effort was prevalent all tourney long and was a huge reason Chino Hills survived every round of play in Las Vegas and came away with the 2016 Platinum crown. Scott grabbed a share of tourney MVP honors (along with teammate LiAngelo Ball).

LiAngelo Ball                       6’5”     2017   Chino Hills (Chino Hills CA)
Gelo started off the championship game with Mater Dei strong and was the offensive spark that propelled Chino Hills to a 1st half lead they would never relinquish.  Gelo led the Huskies with 25 points (10/23 FG; 5/11 3FG) in the Final and his impressive variety of buckets, both from posting up defenders in the paint as well as NBA-type 3 point bombs were main factors in Gelo being named tourney co-MVP (with fellow Husky Eli Scott).

Justice Sueing                    6’6”     2017   Mater Dei (Santa Ana CA)
Sueing was Mater Dei’s driving offensive force in the title game – going for a game-high 27 points (11/17 FG; 3/6 3FG) to go along with 11 boards.  Utah and Cal were among the schools checking out Justice here and his impressive tourney play (averaged 26 points and 11.5 rebounds during his last 2 games) earned him all-tourney honors.

LaMelo Ball                          6’2”     2019   Chino Hills (Chino Hills CA)

Melo is a very confident and competitive young scoring lead guard and although he was not very efficient in title game (8/32 FG; 3/19 3FG) he was able to churn out 21 points (including a few of his trademark deep 3’s) but more importantly was terrific distributing the rock (handed out 12 assists) as well as directing a very balanced Chino Hills attack (all 5 starters scored in double figures).  Melo’s impact on each game earned him a well-deserved spot on the all-tourney team.

Spencer Freedman            6’1”     2018   Mater Dei (Santa Ana CA)
Freedman had a great Tarkanian Classic – leading Mater Dei to the Platinum title game and earning all-tournament honors.  Spencer displayed his sharpshooting skills here, scoring 26 twice versus Desert Pines and Bishop Gorman and his passing skills were on full display in the  title game (10 assists vs. Chino Hills).

Mike Wang                           6’9”     2018   Mater Dei (Santa Ana CA)
Battling the flu, Wang battled all-tourney long and was a very valuable member of the Mater Dei squad that reached the title game.  Scored 17 points versus Chino Hills, two of which was an impressive dunk in traffic.  Expect Wang’s recruiting to pick up as more and more high-major programs are becoming aware of his high skill set. 

Oneyka Okongwu              6’9”     2019   Chino Hills (Chino Hills CA)
The Tarkanian Classic Platinum title game was just another day at the office for “Big O.”  Okongwu produced a double-double (14 points on 6/9 FG; 14 rebounds) for the 2016 tourney champs.  Chino Hills’ current 46 game winning streak would not have been possible if Oneyka wasn’t protecting the rim and patrolling the paint for the Huskies.

Phaquan Davis                   5’10”  2019   Chino Hills (Chino Hills CA)
Small guard came up big in this tourney, playing great defense and he could be counted on to knock down crucial perimeter shots.  His 12 points (all from beyond the 3-point arc - 4/5 3FG) in the title game were instrumental in helping Chino Hills get past Mater Dei.

Charles O’Bannon             6’6”     2017   Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas NV)
Chuck had his perimeter stroke in high gear in the 3rd place game of the Platinum Division, resulting in a game-high 29 points and a spot on the all-tourney team.

Matt Mitchell                        6’6”     2017   Roosevelt (Eastvale CA)
Cal State Fullerton signee continued his impressive play in the Platinum 3rd Place Game – erupting for a team-high 27 points and earning an all-tourney selection.

Bryce Hamilton                   6’4”     2018   Pasadena (Pasadena CA)
Bryce has rapidly become one of the hottest names in California’s 2018 class and his talents are attracting the attention of more and more college coaches and scouts.  Pasadena’s last game in this year’s Tarkanian Classic was a memorable one.  Dueling with one of Nevada’s top juniors Maka Ellis (Sierra Vista/Las Vegas NV), Hamilton took matters into his own hands, pouring in 35 points including 6 straight free-throws to seal Pasadena’s win over Sierra Vista.  Assistants from Virgina, Nevada, Boise State and Santa Clara watched the Hamilton/Ellis match-up.  Hamilton averaged 28.8 points per game during the Tarkanian Classic.

Maka Ellis                             6’5”     2018   Sierra Vista (Las Vegas NV)
Maka had his smooth & deep 3-point stroke on point in his final game of the tourney versus Pasadena/CA - exploding for 35 points (9/16 3FG).  That was his 2nd straight 30-point game (had 31 points versus Villa Park/CA the previous night).  Ellis (one of the best shooters in the 2018 class) averaged 23.3 points per game during the event.

Noah Taitz                            6’2”     2020   Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas NV)
Young but confident scoring guard only made 2 buckets in the Platinum Division 3rd place game but they were huge!  First one was a corner-pocket 3 late in 2nd half and second, an exciting game-winning bank shot off a sizzling “shake & bake” move and drive!  Noah’s game-winning, buzzer-beating shot was his second this year.  Taitz also made a game-clincher as time expired in the Las Vegas Junior Fab 48’s 14u title game last July.

Andre Ball                            6’7”     2018   Chino Hills (Chino Hills CA)
Very underrated junior has tremendous potential to be a high-flying forward at the next level.  Andre’s rate of development would be accelerated if he had the opportunity to see more time and touches on the floor for the Huskies. Like teammate Eli Scott, one of the most undervalued prospects on the West Coast.

Christopher Duarte            6’7”     2017   Redemption Christian (NY)
Crafty and skilled swingman with great all-around skills.

Thank you all for making the Tarkanian Classic another great event! See you next year.

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