The Nike Tournament of Champions is the premier summer basketball event in New York City. Pitting the winners of the four major Nike NYC tournaments against each other, every year the TOC decides once and for all who truly runs New York.
Since its inaugural game just last year, the TOC has developed into the championship that everyone looks forward to at the end of the summer. Held at Goat Park (99th and Amsterdam) the TOC takes the champions from all Nike tournaments– Nike Pro City, Tri-State Classic, West 4th and Dyckman — and lets them have at it to crown one ultimate champion.
This year’s event had a buzz since the beginning of the summer and did not disappoint. A women’s game and youth showcase game were added to this year’s event. On the youth side, several top players in the high school ranks were on display, including the number one ranked junior in the country, Tristan Thompson of St. Benedict’s HS (NJ). In addition to great basketball, music was provided by Harlem’s own DJ Webstar and the event also had great eats.
Here’s what went down in the games:
Uptown Challenge vs. West 4th
Under the blazing mid-day sun, the women kicked off Championship Saturday with perhaps the most physical battle of the day. Without standouts Kia Vaughn (Rutgers), Epiphanny Price (Rutgers), and Erica Morrow (Syracuse) because of NCAA regulations, West 4th looked lost at the start of the game. Uptown rode the strong post play of Lilka Cedars (13 points), as she tallied six of her squad’s first eight points. And former Kent State Golden Flash Cherise George (14 points) slashed through the D, getting to the cup almost at will.
But West 4th turned up the intensity, as their press created turnovers and opened an opportunity to get back in the game. And as soon as they were in it, they blew it open. Former Ohio State Buckeye Lawanda Green (12 points) hit some clutch jumpers, swinging the momentum for West 4th. Danyel Critcher’s smooth lefty jumper off the glass was nearly unstoppable, as the majority of her 15 points came after the half. In the end, West 4th walked comfortably to the ‘chip 89-76.
QB vs. Money Train
For the first time all summer, Ron Artest wasn’t wearing the Jordan 23’s that have pounded the asphalt all over New York. Because of a fluid buildup in his knee, “Tru Warier” was relegated to Queensbridge’s bench, and his squad had to deal with Money Train’s top-notch backcourt of Jason “J-Hi” McLeish and Antwan “Anti-Freeze” Dobie (pictured at the top of the post) without him.
QB’s Jarrid Frye had to step in for Ron-Ron, assuming the tough defensive assignment of Corey “The Undertaker” Underwood. From the jump, Frye couldn’t do anything about Corey’s lefty baby hook from the block. He was killing it from the same spot on the floor. But the game went back and forth – with 25 lead changes during the first half – as Darryl “Showtime” Hill skated through Money Train’s D for sick bucket after sick bucket. “The Janitor” was face-guarding Showtime to no avail.
But eventually Train’s backcourt took the game over, as Anti-Freeze and J-Hi were taking turns giving QB fits. Freeze’s 23-foot trey with just over six minutes left gave Money Train a 93-86 lead, enough to break it open. Dobie (44 points) and J-Hi (31) combined for 75, while Showtime led QB with 28. With a 113-102 win, Money Train advanced to the ‘chip.
Bingo’s vs. X-Men
Goat Park was in stitches from the moment the Bingo’s All-Stars (representing Dyckman) vs. X-Men (representing West 4th) started, as Tri-State emcee Joe Pope showcased why he is one the best on the mic in NYC. The man Pope calls “I Robot 2,” Mike Glover (32 points), made it look easy in the early-going for Bingo’s as Mike “The King of New York” Campbell struggled to get his usually automatic jumper going.
John “The Only Man Still With an S-Curl” Strickland (14 points) was also busting his rear end on the block for Bingo’s. But X-Men’s big three of Campbell (26 points), Raphael “Daywalker” Edwards (20 points) and Tommie “Guns” Eddie (23 points) played picturesque team basketball to turn this contest into a blowout. At one point Edwards rattled off six straight points on tough takes in transition.
Kenny “Serious Satellite” Satterfield tried to bring Bingo’s back on his own, but even his five three’s (24 points) couldn’t make up the difference. X-Men came away with this one 108-94.
Championship Game: X-Men vs. Money Train
Plain and simple, this was one of the greatest battles in New York City basketball history. After Antwan “Anti-Freeze” Dobie left his Money Train squad at halftime of the inaugural TOC game last year to go overseas for his season in Turkey, he came out against X-Men determined to make up for last year’s shortcomings.
The game was deadlocked at the beginning as Corey “The Undertaker” Underwood and Tommie “Guns” Eddie went bucket-for-bucket early on. But some physical play and tough whistles changed the face of the game, as Jason “J-Hi” McLeish got hit in the face on a scrap and lost his cool with one of the officials. It might have been a quick trigger – but nonetheless, the ref hit J-Hi with quick T, and then followed it up by throwing him out of the game.
Without his offense, who was going to step in for Money Train? Rice high schooler Durand Scott got some burn, and fit in with the rest of the system well. But Anti-Freeze didn’t need any help that night. He became Train’s first, second and third options on offense, whapping deep three’s and then blowing by defenders when they tried to step out on him.
Anti-Freeze’s exploits forced X-Men to switch into a zone. Mike “The King of New York” Campbell’s length at the top of the zone forced Dobie to pass up shots, thereby creating an opening for X-Men to narrow the small margin. But Dobie wouldn’t be stopped. He sunk clutch shots from way out, slapping himself on the back as to say “I’m gonna do this on my own!”
But Mike Campbell (22 points) wouldn’t go quietly. He attacked the tin viciously, drawing foul after foul. Tommie “Guns” Eddie (15 points) hit a ridiculous step-back 27-footer, and Gary Plummer (18 points) also sunk a clutch corner trey to swing the momentum in X-Men’s favor. X-Men made their trips to the stripe worthwhile, while Money Train couldn’t put MC’s crew away.
With the sun tucked away behind the buildings, the game turned into a free throw shooting contest, and X-Men made enough to push the game into OT. And during that short OT, X-Men knocked down their first two shots, thereby knocking Money Train on their heels.
Despite Anti-Freeze’s legendary 44-point outing (matching his total from game one), X-Men did just enough to storm center court and earn the title of ’08 New York City Champions, 97-94.
X-Men run this city