COLUMBUS, Ohio -- West came away with a 53-52 win on the road at Independence tonight, getting revenge after the 76ers beat them by two points on their home floor in the beginning of January.
The entire first half favored Independence, who came out in a 2-3 zone that was the perfect defensive strategy against the Cowboys, who struggle to shoot the ball from the outside and create their own shots in the halfcourt. Poor positioning within their zone offense resulted in a very clustered middle and Independence capitalized on a plethora of turnovers from the West backourt.
Only scoring 15 points in the first half, West appeared to be in trouble trailing by 10 going into halftime.
The third quarter belonged to the Cowboys, as they came out extremely aggressive by running a 1-2-2 full court trap and trying to disrupt the opposing teams ball handlers.
When Independence was able to get the ball across half court they did generate some open shots on the perimeter, but struggled to convert on elementary looks. This allowed West to start the quarter out on a 13-3 run as they found themselves tied halfway through the third.
Senior guard Keonn Goodgame began to attack the rim aggressively in transition and in the half court out of the Independence zone where he picked up six points and excelled in attacking with the dribble, using a good first step and phenomenal leaping explosion.
West also straightened out their zone offense issues for a little, long enough for senior wing Chris Veney to flourish in the middle, coming away with six points in the quarter as well. Both seniors third quarter performances were huge momentum shifters as West cut their deficit to one point, trailing 36-35.
The fourth quarter was easily the highest scoring between both teams combined.
Independence senior Ben James did everything he could on both ends to try and will his team to a win, tallying eight of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
Unfortunately, his best efforts were not enough as Goodgame poured in 13 points for his squad. These were mostly off turnovers as West continued to run their full court trap that they had success with all second half.
West moves to 5-14 on the year after picking up their second City League South victory on the season. They will look to keep their momentum rolling tomorrow at Marion Franklin and try to dig themselves out of their division cellar with only three more games left in the regular season.
Independence falls to 6-14 on the season and will take on Briggs at home tomorrow night, a game that could also have implications in the bottom of the City League South.
Sekou Magia (6’7 C / West / 2019): Magia was far from the most productive player on the court today, finishing the game with just four points. However, he may be the best long term prospect on the floor. You cannot stress the word raw enough when talking about the Cowboys big man, but his length and movement ability is simply something that cannot be taught. At 6-foot-7, he has an outstanding standing reach and wingspan that should be hovering close to four more added inches. When you combine that with his fluid moving, you get the makings of a intriguing rim protecting prospect. Magia has been capable of large block games in the past, and while that was not the case tonight with Independence rarely going inside, he consistently showcased his ability to make strong side rim rotations. This translated into a block, forced turnovers, and wildly difficult looks at the rim for his opponents.
Offensively, Magia rebounded the ball well on the offensive glass courtesy of Independence struggling to box out in their zone. He has decent leaping explosion for his size, but the overall height he gets on his jumps is more impressive. The seniors movement skills were also on display running the floor in transition where he flashed a willingness to run even though his guards never saw him. He has good north-south speed for a big and that should translate well to rolling to the rim off ball screens.
Magia’s length brings a large amount of defensive equity with the length to effectively defend and block shots on his standing reach alone. If developed properly, the senior could become one of the better rim protectors in JUCO. He desperately needs to work on his frame, rotating from the weak side defensively, and consistently keeping his motor up. If he improves his motor and frame while still keeping his same movement speed and fluidity, he could develop into a solid rim runner. He should be able to gain some more explosiveness when continuing to add muscle on as well. With only a Hocking College offer to show for, Magia is the type of high risk prospect JUCO’s can take on with nothing to lose.
Ben James (6’5 WF / Independence / 2019): While Magia may have the highest upside, Ben James was without a doubt the best collegiate prospect in this game. At 6-foot-5, the senior wing is an absolute tank with a build similar to a top flight defensive end prospect. He enjoyed working out of isolations today and knocked down a few one dribble pull ups just inside the three point line. While he was very decisive on those scoring moves, that should not be how he is utilized on the collegiate level. His size and speed combination is without a doubt his most marketable offensive tool. While his handle does need tightened, he does have enough coordination to attack off the dribble. Ideally you would want him involved in actions where you can take advantage of how well he finishes off forward momentum, such as back screens, DHO’s, baseline cross screens, and maybe utilizing him as a rim runner in certain situations. James also offers value as a transition handler, where he is a fantastic defensive rebounder thanks to his leaping explosion and lightning quick second jump. He could be trusted as a grab and go handler where he can take advantage of a spaced out floor and make simple passing reads or continue to build up steam for a better chance of finishing at or above the rim.
On the defensive end, it was difficult to evaluate James as much as I would have liked. This was mostly because of a zone for a majority of the game and a half court zone trap at the end. He does have very quick feet that should translate into above average lateral quickness. This should offer him some defensive versatility as a potential 3-4 position defender at the collegiate level. The senior also has active hands that allow him to create turnovers on the ball.
James has already made his rounds with local JUCO’s. I’d like to see him to continue to refine his handle, improve as a shooter, and become more aware of the weak side of the floor. If utilized correctly, James could have a very impressive JUCO career.