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Prep Hoops: California and New York teams flex strength while Rage City originals East and West storm into semifinals after epic Day 1 of Alaska Airlines Classic

St. Joseph’s Tounde Yessoufou takes off at the Alaska Airlines Classic. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

All eyes were on five-star recruit Tounde Yessoufou and it took him all of 70 seconds to wow the crowd at West High School with the first of five dunks on his way to scoring 33 points as the Knights of Santa Maria, Calif., pulled away in the second half to beat up Bartlett 93-54 Thursday in the first round of the Alaska Airlines Classic.

Yessoufou caught an alley-oop and moments later took off from near the free-throw line in an attempt to dunk on a Bartlett defender. He didn’t execute the highlight-reel play, but the point was proven – OMG, he’s even better than advertised.

The 6-foot-5 nationally ranked junior forward who came to Alaska averaging 33 points per game drained 15-of-26 field goals, including 14-of-20 from inside the arc, virtually all of it coming at the rim. He either went over defenders or through them, bouncing off contact like a running back. Too strong, too big, too good.

Even when he didn’t cleanly catch a second alley-oop pass, he still finished the play. But don’t kid yourself, he is looking to catch a body and put a couple Golden Bears on a poster.

Julius Price poured in 26 points and joined 6-foot-9 Abdul Bare on the dunk meter which was eight for the game. St. Joseph (17-2) is ranked No. 10 in the state of California and top-40 nationally but led only 47-38 at halftime.

St. Joseph’s 6-foot-9 Abdul Bare catches a body. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

That’s because Bartlett threw everything it had at St. Joseph, playing above its head behind a no-fear attitude. The Bears embraced the moment from the jump, playing with passion and poise and holding off the avalanche for as long as they could.

But early, Bartlett stood tall behind the hustle and muscle of Marquez Nevitte and playmaking of Jai Jordan. Nevitte was active and bouncy while Jordan got hot with seven points in a short span, including a 3-pointer that pulled the Bears within 21-19.

Yessoufou and Co. kept scoring, but Bartlett kept hitting big shots to keep it close. Thalit Bayath, Nevitte and Stephen Drussell each hit 3s before Jayson Alexander’s layup and free throw to get the Bears within 34-30.

Not many teams in the country could hang with an explosive team like St. Joseph for 16 minutes, but the Bears did. The pace resembled a track meet, with St. Joseph shooting 66% and Bartlett 58%.

Bartlett’s Jai Jordan gets off a tough jumper. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

The second half was all Knights, who sliced and diced the Bears 46-16 in the second half. The Bears ran out of steam in the end, but coach Steve Drussell has his team ready to shock the world. They did, for a half.

Yessoufou scored 18 points in the second half as he surpassed the 100-point benchmark in four career Classic games. He has amassed 17 dunks during that time.

Yessoufou had already put a couple defenders on a poster and looked for more, but on one play a Bartlett defender dipped out the moment he saw Yessoufou take off. We call that a business decision, and it was the right one.

St. Joseph (CA) 21 26 25 21 – 93
Bartlett 16 22 10 6 – 54

ST. JOSEPH – Gonzales 0, J.Price 26, M.Price 6, Morinini 5, Bare 6, Lowe 6, Pham 0, Cota 5, Rigali 0, Gogo 0, Yessoufou 33, Lovera 2, Mosley 0, Eyita 2.
BARTLETT – S.Drussell 8, Nevitte 8, Phichantharath 2, Jordan 11, Delos Reyes 0, Burns 0, Alexander 3, A.Drussell 0, Bayath 11, Burrell-Carr 0, Kulang 0, Richardson 0, James 0, Press 0.

Tounde Yessoufou had five dunks Thursday. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Alaska Airlines Classic
At West High School
Thursday’s First Round

West Anchorage 58, West Valley 54 OT
St. Joseph (CA) 93, Bartlett 54
East Anchorage 69, East Hall (GA) 39
Nazareth (NY) 87, Dimond 48
Friday’s Games
CONSOLATION
3:00pm West Valley vs. East Hall (GA)
4:30pm Dimond vs. Bartlett
SEMIFINALS
6:00pm Nazareth (NY) vs. St. Joseph (CA)
7:30pm West Anchorage vs. East Anchorage
Tournament Leaders
Points

33 – Tounde Yessoufou SJ
26 – Julius Price SJ
20 – Michael George EAST
19 – Jamarcus Harrison EH
18 – Marek Hajdukovich DIM
15 – Tristan Rogers NAZ
Rebounds
9 – Jal Tharjiath EAST
8 – Leyton Nield WV
6 – Tounde Yessoufou SJ
6 – Abdul Bare SJ
6 – Jamarcus Harrison EH
Assists
6 – Julius Price SJ
3 – Stephen Drussell BAR
3 – Muhammed Sabally EAST
3 – Javonte Walls DIM

East Anchorage 69, East Hall (GA) 39

Michael George pumped in four 3-pointers on his way to scoring a game-high 20 points as the T-birds blew the doors off the East Hall Vikings of Gainesville, Ga., 69-39 to help coach Chuck Martin post his fourth career win over a Lower 48 team at the Alaska Airlines Classic.

The all-state tandem of Akeem Sulaiman and Muhammed Sabally combined for 27 points and helped defending Alaska Class 4A state champion East win the battle of the boards 29-15 and move to 8-0 on the season, advancing to the Classic semifinals for a third straight season.

Sabally set the tone early, scoring seven of his 13 points in the first quarter. He scored on two drives before taking it outside and knocking down a 3-pointer to extend East’s lead to 14-3. On the next trip down the court, Sabally fed Sulaiman for the first of his two 3s.

The T-birds crashed the glass and let it fly from downtown, draining 9-of-26 3s. Sabally found George on back-to-back 3s as the lead swelled to 35-19.

East’s Michael George glides for wo. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

In the second half, right when it looked like the visitors from Georgia might get back into the game after Jamarcus Harrison and Khalil Gross each hit 3s to pull the Vikings as close as 37-27, East proved it could take a hit – and deliver one, too.

The T-birds rattled off a 9-0 run on Sabally’s pretty spin move in the post, two jumpers by George and an offensive putback by Sulaiman. The 6-foot-4 Sulaiman can fall in love with the jumper, so when he’s hitting the boards things usually go right for East.

Everything has gone right for the T-birds since Martin took over six years ago. The team has won 89% of its games, including two Class 4A state championships and another finals appearance. Martin is winning like another former East bench boss in the legendary Chuck White.

White won 18 state titles – 14 at East, 4 at West – and is the all-time Classic wins leader with 26. Martin picked up his 10th win Thursday to move into third in tournament history, needing one more to tie Brad Lauwers with 11.

Martin also moved into second place among Alaska coaches when it comes to beating teams from the Lower 48. This was Martin’s fourth – second only to White’s 17. The first two came in the 1990s at Colony, the second two at East.

CHUCK MARTIN’S CLASSIC WINS
2024 – East Hall (GA)
2023 – Higley (AZ)
1995 – Socastee (SC)
1993 – Lexington Catholic (KY)

The T-birds carried a 37-22 lead into halftime after playing a near-perfect first half in which they had more 3s (5) than turnovers (4).

East Hall couldn’t buy a bucket early but eventually warmed up behind the 1-2 combo of Harrison and Gross, who combined for all 25 points in the first 18 minutes. Chasen Jones broke that streak with a post bucket to get the Vikings within 37-27.

George kept the hot hand in the third quarter with 10 points, including two free throws that made it 51-30. But the dagger was Laron Roberts’ running 3-pointer off glass to beat the buzzer. It was that kind of night for East.

Roberts was among the perimeter defenders that shutout East Hall sharpshooter Chris Alford, who came into the game averaging 16 per game.

Harrison, who had hit the floor hard on a drive and came out of the game, showed his grit and guts. He came back into the game and kept charging, with the sophomore signal caller finishing with 19 points.

East Hall (GA) 6 16 11 6 – 39
East Anchorage 19 18 17 15 – 69

EAST HALL – Je.Harrison 1, Smith 0, Morrow 0, Jones 5, Buffington 0, Ja.Harrison 19, Hughey 0, Alford 0, Crocker 0, Lara 0, Ausborn 0, Langston 0, Gross 12, Bryant 2.
EAST ANCHORAGE – Contreras 4, George 20, Johnson 0, Roberts 5, Delaney 0, Riek 2, Sulaiman 14, Ozuna 4, Sabally 13, Deng 0, Tharjiath 7.

East’s Austin Johnson attacks the rim. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

West 58, West Valley 54 OT

The Eagles love overtime.

With much of the same unit back from last season’s team that won three OT playoff games, West thrived again at crunch time. This time at the Classic.

Aarion Alexander hit two free throws with 17 seconds in regulation to force an extra session, where Buob Marial and Des’Laone Cook each converted 3-point baskets to help the Eagles hand West Valley its first loss of the season.

Mat Chuol and Alexander combined for the final eight points of regulation. In OT, it was the Marial and Cook show. Marial drained a corner 3 and then hit a pull up jumper while Cook hit three free throws and cashed in on a beautiful drive that ended with an and-1.

Cook’s dagger came with 34 seconds in the game and 2 seconds on the shot clock, helping West (8-1) move to 8-0 against Alaska competition. The team’s lone loss came to Ridgeline (WA).

West’s Buob Marial was one of the heroes of OT. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

This marvelous matchup featured 13 lead changes and remained a one-possession game for 19+ minutes – the entire second half and the first three minutes of OT.

West Valley’s Emmanual Bostwick was big as he scored all 12 points in the second half and OT. He scored nine straight points for his team at one stretch as the 6-foot-6 senior showcased fabulous footwork in the post.

Defensively, Bostwick grabbed four rebounds, took a charge and blocked four shots.

Sawyer Petersen led the Wolfpack (8-1) with 14 points while Leyton Nield had 12 points and eight rebounds.

West Valley 13 11 11 10 9 – 54
West Anchorage 10 17 10 8 13 – 58

WEST VALLEY – H.Nield 7, Miranda 0, Bell 2, Sims 7, L.Nield 12, Petersen 14, Bostwick 12, Endicott 0.
WEST ANCHORAGE – Mason 0, Alexander 8, Mikes 0, Cook 10, Tharjiath 4, Hardman 8, Marial 8, Chuol 11, Atonio 0, Muon 9.

West Valley’s Jamari Sims fights off contact. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Nazareth (NY) 87, Dimond 48

They say the Big Apple is ‘the City that Never Sleeps’ and apparently neither do the Nazareth Kingsmen of Brooklyn as the team looked wide awake in its 87-48 blowout victory over Dimond in a game that tipped off at 11:30 p.m. EDT.

All 13 Nazareth players reached the scoring column as the Kingsmen shot 61% and buried 9-of-18 3-pointers in addition to outrebounding the Lynx 31-18 in a delightful display of full-court hoops – NYC style.

Electric guard Tristan Rogers pumped in 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 6-foot-3 wing Achilles Desmanagles bagged 11 points, two assists, two steals. He’s also got the coolest name in the tournament.

Rogers was hard to stop, a lightning-quick playmaker who drove by defenders like they were standing still. He finished in traffic, hit 3s and beat people in transition.

Other Nazareth players to shine included Halon Rawlins, Jacob Roman and Tyler Francis. The 6-foot-6 Rawlins had nine points on four shots, including a breakaway one-handed dunk. Roman’s jumper is wet and all three perimeter shots didn’t touch the rim.

Nazareth’s Halon Rawlins works his way to the rim. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Francis got a late start offensively, but once he got cooking, he was unstoppable. He scored all eight points in the third quarter, including a couple plays at the rim. He made good on a botched alley-oop by splitting a pair of defenders for the layup and free throw.

Moments later, the 6-foot-7 Francis made a steal near midcourt and looked for an easy dunk, but Dimond defender Marek Hajdukovich tracked him down and got a hand on the ball right when Francis was in his windup, which should have knocked the ball loose, but Francis showed incredible strength and concentration by maintaining control and still throwing it down.

Being bullish is how this team rolls. No matter who is on the floor for the Kingsmen (9-4), their players go hard and they go right at opponents. Their swarming pressure defense forced turnovers and caused frustration as the easy buckets added up.

Hajdukovich led the Lynx with 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting in a gallant effort. The team’s leading scorer was chased all over the court and seldom got open looks. The 6-foot-2 junior guard netted 10 of his team’s first 13 points before he became the center of attention for the defense.

Amelio Ambrosio added nine points and Javonte Walls added six points, five rebounds and three assists for the Lynx (5-3).

Nazareth 16 24 29 18 – 87
Dimond 11 9 11 17 — 48

NAZARETH – Jennings 4, Rogers 15, T.Francis 8, Roman 7, Rawlins 9, Witter 8, Desmanagles 11, Prince 4, Moody 4, Robertson 4, Delgado 4, Alexandre 2, K.Francis 7.
DIMOND – Ambrosio 9, Taveras 0, Walls 6, Castro 7, Stovall 4, Hajdukovich 18, Wilson 0, Pederson 0, Sosa-Carpenter 0, Odia 4, Young 0.

Nazareth’s Jacob Roman with the jumper. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Additional Article Sponsors:Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO’s | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose’s Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie – Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla SlatonBarker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited |

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