NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Don’t get Armando Bacot wrong, he loves to drain contested jump shots, throw down mind-boggling dunks, grab 15 or more rebounds, swat multiple shots and swipe steals in abundance as much as any other player; it’s just that he’s clear on which stat trumps them all.
“It’s all about the win,” Bacot said. “I don’t care about anything but winning. Keep the other stats give me the win.”
He made good on that proclamation Sunday afternoon, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead Team Takeover (Washington, D.C.) past Team WhyNot (Calif.) 96-78 and claim the Nike Peach Jam title.
Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, whose foundation sponsors WhyNot, and Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo, a Takeover alum, were both in attendance.
The victory was as sweet as the peaches the players and coaches devoured on the court after the game; Takeover fell in the Peach Jam title game last year to the Oakland Soldiers (Calif.).
Takeover last won a Peach Jam title in 2010.
“We learned a lot from that experience and we knew how to get it done this time,” Takeover center Hunter Dickinson said of last year’s loss. “It feels so great to get this win because we all worked really hard to get back here. To see that hard work pay off for us is a great feeling.”
Takeover used its size – 7-footer Dickinson and 6-10 Bacot – to tactically dismantle WhyNot in the first half, scoring 14 points in the paint to take a 26-16 lead midway through the first half.
Takeover led 37-31 at the half.
“They didn’t really have anyone down there that could stop us so we kept pumping it inside,” Dickinson said. “That was our plan, to work inside-out. It worked perfectly for us.”
Takeover went right back to their inside game early in the second half, finishing in the paint with Dickinson and Bacot owning the defensive glass and changing WhyNot’s players’ shots.
That dominance opened up great looks for the Takeover guards and they took advantage knocking down 5 of 8 from the three-point line in the second half to extend the lead.
Takeover (23-1) suffered its only loss of the season on Thursday 71-60 to Nike Team Florida.
Dickinson said that turned out to be “one of the best things that could’ve happened to us.”
“It just taught us that we had to refocus,” Dickinson said. “It was like a wakeup call for us.”
Bacot said the team’s chemistry made all of the difference all season; makes sense for a team whose core has been playing together since the eighth grade.
“We just know everything about each other’s games and things like that give you an advantage,” Bacot said. “It was clear to see in the game. Then, of course, we’ve got great coaches and we all believed. Just watching this game coming up and now winning it is one of the best feelings in the world.”
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