NEWARK, CA – The 13th Annual seven-game NorCal Tip-Off Classic at Newark Memorial on Saturday showcased a lot of talent, but it was a 14-year old 6-9 freshman center named Jalen Lewis from Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland that stole the show, and turned a whole lot of heads at the premier one-day event for boys basketball in Northern California.
The heads he turned were the almost 50 college coaches and two dozen media and analysts that observed the 12:30 pm game against Modesto Christian.
The numbers Lewis posted weren’t gaudy but very solid considering it was his first high school game and the O’Dowd 65-49 victory came against a Modesto Christian team that was ranked No. 9 in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason rankings while the Dragons were No. 26.
What was most impressive about his 17-point, 14-rebound, and four-block performance was his presence in the paint was dominating matched up against Modesto Christian’s 6-8 Cal State Northridge-bound senior Alex Merkviladze.
“When you have a senior big man going to a Division 1 university up against a freshman in his first varsity game what is supposed to happen?” queried BallIsLife.com National Grassroots Editor and FAB50 Compiler and Cal-Hi Sports Senior Editor Ronnie Flores. “He’s supposed to put it to him and introduce him to the big time, but the exact opposite happened as Lewis was the one that served notice to NorCal basketball fans and showed he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in what was a coming out party.”
It’s not like Lewis was an unknown in the California basketball recruiting community as Flores has him ranked as the No. 2 freshman in the state and conceded he might be the best after all is said and done this season.
Modesto Christian (1-1) led 8-4 early but O’Dowd (1-0) went on a 13-0 run and after withstanding a spurt by the Crusaders they still never lost the lead and although it got down to two points a flying tip-in by Lewis made it 44-41 and from there Cal-bound 6-5 senior forward Monty Bowser (12 points) got a key block and a three-pointer and the Dragons drew away.
“I’ve had experience from club ball of playing on a big stage but to do it here in front of all these college coaches in my first high school game was special,” said Lewis, who was named the Player of the Game.
Not only is Lewis solid on the court but according to O’Dowd Coach Lou Richie he has other attributes as well, and with his package the upside could be amazing.
“Jaylen is a great kid, never has an attitude and extremely coachable and hard working,” Richie remarked. “He can be as good as he wants to be if he continues to work hard and handles his business in the classroom and works on his weaknesses.”
The Crusaders, who were without a couple of key pieces due to transfer, got 15 points from senior guard Michael Pearson. Junior Chris Fan and sophomore Oziyah Sellers added 10 points apiece.
The victory by Bishop O’Dowd was just the latest in big win by the Dragons at the Tip-Off Classic.
In 2014, with current New York Knicks forward Ivan Rabb earning the Player of the Game, the Dragons pulled off a 63-55 upset of Nevada Bishop Gorman-Las Vegas in the best game ever player at the Tip-Off Classic, and then went on to win the 2015 state CIF Open Division title. In 2016 the Dragons were a 70-63 upset winner over a Bishop Montgomery-Torrance team that opened up No. 1 in the state and went on to capture the CIF Open Division crown.
Whether Lewis will be as good as or exceed the level of Rabb remains to be seen, and one game certainly does not make a high school career, but the way Lewis looked expectations are high.
Riordan-San Francisco 64, JSerra-San Juan Capistrano 59
The marquee Northern California versus Southern California matchup of the day went to a Crusaders team that came into the game ranked No. 14 in the preseason Cal-Hi Sports rankings and No. 5 in Northern California, but with two teams above, Modesto Christian and Weston Ranch-Stockton, both losing in the Tip-Off Classic, the top team from the West Catholic Athletic League and CIF Central Coast Section will likely be moving up the NorCal pecking order.
This was a game that featured two 7-footers, Elhadji 'Mor' Seck of Riordan, a 7-1 sophomore center that moved west from Florida, and San Jose State-bound senior 7-0 center Hugo Clarin of Cal-Hi Sports preseason No. 17 JSerra.
The game also featured three other D1 signees besides Clarin, Nevada-bound 6-3 guard Je’Lani Clark and Sam Houston State-committed 5-10 guard Bryce Monroe of Riordan, and Utah-signed 6-3 guard Ian Martinez of JSerra.
Riordan (1-0) trailed 32-29 at the half and only led 47-45 after three quarters of a game that was close throughout, but in the end and once they got really rolling it was too much of the backcourt duo of Monroe and Clark with Monroe, who was named the Player of the Game, throwing down the second most points in any of the seven games after going for 33 with Clark adding 12 points. Seck also had 12 points.
Martinez led JSerra with 24 points and senior Justin Williams added 16 points, but Clarin did very little, however, 6-11 center Francesco Borra, who recently arrived from Italy, looked solid and finished with 12 points.
The only negative in the game for Riordan Coach Joey Curtin is only five players scored of seven that played, and as the season moves along that lack of depth might be a factor.
Archbishop Mitty-San Jose 60, Campolindo-Moraga 58
No quit and defending CIF Division II state champion Campolindo was not quite able to mount a full comeback after trailing by 10 points early and 57-46 after a three-pointer by Mitty 6-3 senior guard Owen Browne with less than three minutes to play.
The Cal-Hi Sports preseason No. 21 Cougars closed to 59-58 with 6.4 seconds left on a three pointers by 6-3 sophomore guard Aidan Mahaney. From there Browne made the front end of a one-on-one but missed the back end, but Campolindo (0-1) could not secure the rebound. The Monarchs’ Mason Ryan then went to the line and missed the front end and Mahaney got the rebound with 2.9 seconds remaining and had momentum going towards his basket, but coach Steve Dyer had already signaled for a timeout. Following the timeout, the Cougars’ last gasp by Northern Arizona-bound 6-3 senior Carter Mahaney from near half court was not close.
Browne was named the Player of the Game after leading Mitty with 20 points. Ryan added eight points. Junior Mike Mitchell, who is committed to Pepperdine, added six points and eight assists.
Aidan Mahaney finished with 23 points. Sophomore Matt Radell, a 6-6 forward, was Campolindo’s second double-digit scorer with 12 points. Campolindo was missing some of its bench depth because its football team was playing for the CIF North Coast Section D2 title, which it lost to Clayton Valley-Concord.
St. Patrick-St. Vincent 93, Moreau Catholic 58
Early on in the 11:00 am game that kicked off the day’s events, the game was back and forth, and St. Patrick-St. Vincent (1-0) only led 23-21 after one quarter, but the duo of 6-1, senior guard Jalen Scott and 6-4 junior wing Jaden Alexander was just too much for a Moreau team playing without standout junior D’aunte Johnson.
Both Scott and Alexander finished with 26 points, with Scott, who was named the Player of the Game, doing it on six three pointers, and Alexander showing a variety of dunks and driving finishes.
The leading scorers for Moreau Catholic (1-1) were junior Jonathan Langford (15 points) and sophomore Trey Knight (14 points).
Dublin 76, Weston Ranch-Stockton 52
Weston Ranch was missing some starters but whether or not it would have made a difference in a dominating upset win by the Cal-Hi Sports No. 32 ranked Gaels over the No. 12 ranked Cougars is a question that can’t be answered, but nothing can be taken away from Dublin Coach Tom Costello and his boys in the victory.
Dublin (1-0) trailed early a couple of times but it was a 14-8 lead after one quarter and 34-19 at the half. Weston Ranch made a run in the third quarter to cut it to 55-44 going to the final period but by then was coasting behind a superb performance by Anthony Roy.
Roy, a 6-4 senior wing, was impressive in a 26-point performance that included 11-for-11 from the free throw line. He was a slam dunk for Player of the Game.
Senior guard Jaden Saunders added 13 points and Costello used everyone as 12 players scored.
Junior guard Donjae’ Lindsey led Weston Ranch (0-2) with 22 points.
Windward-Los Angeles 67, Clovis West-Fresno 62
This game was the only one that did not involve at least one team from the Bay Area but it did have the highest ranked Cal-Hi Sports preseason team in No. 7 Windward, and it was one of the best match-ups of the seven games contested.
Cal-Hi Sports No. 25 Clovis West led 17-11 after one quarter and 34-24 at the half after Windward (5-0) looked a bit sluggish like to start but it didn't last as the Wildcats sprung to life.
The result was the second half was a horse of a different color as high D1 prospect and 6-3 junior guard Dylan Andrews and his Wildcats teammates took over and held off a no quit Clovis West. Andrews finished with 25 points and was named the Player of the Game.
The game came down to the final moments as Clovis West 6-3 junior guard Cole Anderson nailed a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 63-62 with 20.9 seconds left. The Golden eagles had fouls to give and they fouled but both Brandon Richard and Devin Tills (21 points) converted both ends of the one-on-ones for the final margin.
Anderson had a huge game and the 38 points (12-of-12 FTs) was the top point total at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic. The only other double-figure scorer for Clovis West (1-1) was senior Max Phillips with 11 points.
Grant-Sacramento 58, Newark Memorial 55
NorCal Tip-Off Classic host Newark Memorial fell behind big early but fought to tie it at 40-40 at halftime, however after staying close the entire second half veteran Coach Craig Ashmore and his boys just could not quite get over the hump in a heartbreaking loss.
The Cougars were only down 53-52 with under a minute to go after a basket by AB Gilchrist, but Player of the Game AJ McGee nailed a three-pointer to give the Pacers some breathing space and a three-point shot at the buzzer by Gilchrist that would have tied the game bounced off the front rim.
McGee led Grant (1-0) with 21 points while McGee led Newark Memorial (0-1) with 11 points.