NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The attention was set to focus on Jayson Tatum after the game ended, with the superstar stretch-four announcing his college selection. Instead, he made sure that he and his teammates had the spotlight throughout the second half of their Peach Jam semifinal, too.
Tatum’s St. Louis Eagles mounted a furious second-half rally to erase a 14-point halftime deficit and knock off Chris Paul’s Team CP3, featuring top-overall prospect Harry Giles III, by a score of 74-73 thanks to a buzzer-beating three from guard Jordan Barnes. The buzzer beater was actually Barnes’ second of the Peach Jam, and earned the Eagles a Peach Jam title matchup against the Georgia Stars, which cobbled together an impressive rally of their own to eke past D.C.-based Team Takeover in overtime in the tournament’s first semifinal.
“Jordan is a great player,” Tatum said of Barnes following his game-winning shot.
The Eagles’ victory was an impressive testament to their sticking to a game-plan. Despite early struggles, the Eagles continued to get Tatum the ball in space, where he could create for himself or drive and draw multiple defenders, then dish to another teammate. Tatum finished with a whopping 28 points, though he struggled to just 5 rebounds while matching up against Team CP3’s much taller front court.
Brown’s game-winner stole the thunder from Giles, who connected on what appeared would be the game-winner with 4.7 seconds left. Yet that bucket was one of just five for Giles, who finished with 12 points and struggled to 5-for-15 shooting from the field and just 2-5 from the free throw line. If any of those other three free throws had gone in, there would have been overtime. Two, and Team CP3 would still be playing.
Instead, Giles and Alterique Gilbert, Team CP3’s UConn-committed star point guard, faded in the second half and Team CP3 struggled to get a stop when it needed to slow the surging Eagles, setting the stage for Jordan’s heroics and an intriguing Peach Jam finale, albeit without a particular Clippers point guard on the bench as a celebrity assistant coach.