By: Steven Pham
Video and photos by: Shane Zisk
Springfield, MO. - After day one of the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions, #5 Sunrise Christian Academy moved to 11-3 on the year with a 68-35 victory over Kickapoo. Sunrise will go against Calvary Christian in the semifinals and #7 Link Academy will take on Christ the King.
Sunrise had a splash party in the first quarter and could not miss from three. They had 6 threes in the first that accounted for 18 of their 22 points. Scotty Middleton had 3 threes for 9 points and Matas Buzelis had 2 threes with 8 points to give Sunrise a 22-7 lead after the first.
Sunrise played tremendous defense in the first half and stayed connected to Kickapoo’s shooters. They forced Kickapoo into turnovers and tough shots and blew this game open. Sunrise had full control of the game and went into halftime up 38-13.
Kickapoo started to knock down their shots and cut the lead to 16 in the third. Miro Little hit 4 threes in the quarter and Layden Blocker took over and extended the lead to 27. It was a well-balanced attack for Sunrise and they cruised to a 33-point victory on day one.
Sunrise shot 23-46 (50%) from the field, 13-24 (54%), and went 9-15 (60%) from the FT line. They had 29 total rebounds, 8 offensive and 21 defensive. Sunrise had 17 assists on 23 made shots, 5 blocks, and 6 steals.
Buzelis had 13 points on 5-9 (55%) shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Miro Little had 12 points on 4-7 (57%) shooting, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Layden Blocker had 11 points on 2-6 (33%) shooting, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals.
Day Two (semi-finals)
On day two of the tournament, Sunrise moved to 12-3 on the season with a 52-41 win over Calvary. Sunrise will play Link Academy in the championship game.
Bol and Blocker led the way in the first quarter for Sunrise with their relentless effort inside the paint. They combined for 11 of Sunrise’s 13 first-quarter points. Sunrise controlled the first quarter but was only up 13-10 after the first.
Bol dominated the paint with 7 points and 5 rebounds in the first half. Blocker had a team-high 8 points in the half. Calvary did a good job of holding Buzelis and Little to zero points in the first half.
Jaylen Curry got his game going early in the first half. He had 10 points in the first half and got to his spots comfortably. His running mate Carl Cherenfant played well on both ends of the court and hit timely shots for Calvary. He had 7 in the first half and helped his team take a 24-22 lead into halftime.
Buzelis got involved in the third quarter and attacked the rim to get to the free-throw line. He had 6 points in the quarter and helped Sunrise take a 35-34 lead into the fourth. Sunrise did a tremendous job shutting down Curry in the second half and holding him to only two points.
Sunrise finished the game strong defensively and hit huge shots down the stretch. Sunrise went on a 17-7 run to end the game and was led by Little’s 9 points in the quarter. Sunrise won 52-41 and moved on to the championship game.
Sunrise shot 17-38 (44%), 4-15 (26%) from three, and went 14-20 (70%) from the FT line. They had 8 assists on 17 made FGs. They had 26 total rebounds, 7 offensive and 19 defensive. They had 3 blocks and 4 steals.
Blocker had 12 points on 5-11 (45%) shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Little had 12 points on 3-5 (60%) shooting, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist. Bol had a double-double with 11 points on 4-7 (57%), 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Day Three (finals)
On the final day of the tournament, Sunrise fell short of the championship 66-72 against Link Academy. They are now 12-4 on the season.
The biggest difference in this game was the offensive rebounding and points-off turnovers. Link’s biggest strength is utilizing a press and capitalizing off turnovers. They do a great job of crashing the glass as well.
Link scored 24 points off 19 turnovers compared to Sunrise’s 9 points off 15 turnovers. Sunrise allowed Link to play to their strengths and feast off turnovers.
Ja’Kobe Walter led the way for Link with 17 points and was all over the court. Elliot Cadeau was the x-factor with 16 points and 8 assists. He controlled the game with his pace, got to the rim with ease, and helped set up his teammates.
Sunrise won the rebounding battle at the end but it felt like Link dominated the glass for the majority of the game. Link won a majority of the loose balls and pressured the glass every possession.
That extra effort was a huge difference down the stretch. Every time Sunrise crawled back into the game, there would be a turnover or offensive rebound from Link that would kill Sunrise’s momentum.
Sunrise finished second place at the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions. Blocker and Little made the All-Tournament team for Sunrise.
Sunrise shot 25-48 (52%), 8-18 (44%), and went 8-12 (66%) from the FT line. They had 26 total rebounds, 9 offensive and 17 defensive. They had 11 assists on 25 made FGs. They also had 3 blocks and 9 steals.
Buzelis had 24 points on 9-16 (56%) shooting and 3-5 (60%) from three. He had 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. Blocker had 16 points on 6-11 (54%), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals.