LAS VEGAS — The easiest basket of the defensive slugfest that was the adidas Uprising 17U championship Sunday was the game-winner.
Kiyon Boyd’s breakaway layup with 30 seconds remaining was the difference maker in Team Loaded Virgnia’s 54-52 victory over the New England Playaz at Cashman Center, which was a sign against the norm for the Alexandria, Va., squad throughout this tournament.
“When you have so much talent, all on one team, some guys tend to go back to their natural reaction, saying, ‘Hey, I can make that shot by myself,’” said coach Michael Blackwell. “They just trusted each other these last couple of days in making this run, and that was the difference.”
Coming into the championship round, Team Loaded won four of its first five games by double digits, the average margin of victory being 18.2 points. That included an 80-59 victory in the semifinals over Compton Magic Elite just hours prior to tip.
New England nor Team Loaded led by more than two points the entire game, which featured 29 lead changes.
With New England leading 52-51 and holding possession, guard Tyson Walker took a contested 18-foot shot that went off the front rim. The ball took an unlucky New England bounce and ended up in the hands of Boyd, who sprinted to the basket to make the go-ahead bucket.
Boyd finished with 12 points for Team Loaded.
“It was one of those things where (Walker) took the shot and they were off balance on their defensive rotation,” Blackwell said. “They didn’t have a guard rotating back, and we took advantage of that.”
New England big man Chris Doherty, who led the Playaz with 14 points and six rebounds, was called for an over-the-back foul with 5.6 seconds left.
David McCormack, the No. 2 center in the 2018 class, finished with seven points and four rebounds for Team Loaded, but was very active around the basket and endured a physical battle with Doherty.
“I like playing against other big guys,” McCormack said about his battle with Doherty. “I embrace (the challenge). His game bettered me.”
The 290-pound McCormack — the No. 2 prospect in Virginia — did not give a commitment to where he’ll be playing his college ball. Duke, Georgetown and Kansas are among the schools who have made him an offer.
New England shot 50 percent from the floor, but the Playaz missed eight of their last nine shots in the final five minutes, four seconds.
“We had to change up our gameplan,” McCormack said. “We knew the personnel, but we weren’t completely locked in as a team. Once we gathered ourselves, we slowed them down, and we were able to get the shots that we wanted.”
Blackwell said he wanted to keep the players focused on basketball while they were here. He said the players were told to stay away from the Strip and downtown, and the players had a curfew.
Team Loaded was on a mission while they were here, and they had to grind out a hard-fought championship win to put the stamp on a successful summer. That’s the best way Blackwell could think to send off his seniors, like McCormack.
“There’s not a lot of people in the country that can say they won their last AAU tournament,” Blackwell said. “This is something special for those guys.”