In a game that was a back and forth battle, with both teams putting their talents on display and giving the crowd something to talk about on Saturday morning, MeanStreets pulled out a hard-fought battle over the Soldiers led by newcomer Darius Bazley.
Early on, things started in favor of MeanStreets, as they controlled the tempo and took advantage of a slow start by the Soldiers’ Taeshon Cherry. Cherry forced a lot of shots early on instead of letting his game come to him, and MeanStreets capitalized off of the extra opportunities these missed shots created.
MeanStreets also capitalized on the addition of ESPN Top 50 recruit Bazley. The point forward immediately put everyone on notice and made them flip through their pamphlets in a frenzy announcing his presence early on. With his size and offensive versatility, Bazley is a huge difference maker on the circuit, and he showed why in the first half. He had 13 points in the half, and scored from everywhere on the floor. Teammate Damezi Anderson Jr. also had a solid and assertive first half with 9 points.
MeanStreets got the shots they wanted without forcing them, while Soldiers struggled to start. The Soldiers played sloppy at first, but they slowly turned the tide and began making a significant run of their own to climb back into the game. After his rough start, Cherry began converting field goals and ended the half with 15 points in the scoring column. Teammates Amadou Sow and James Akinjo also lended a helping hand and had 8 and 7 points, respectively, in the half. When it was all said and done the Soldiers led by 4 at the break in what was a quick and surprising turnaround.
As the second half began, the Cali boys continued to assert themselves, scoring a quick couple buckets to begin the second half, and control the tempo. They would stay ahead of MeanStreets for a good portion of the half, until MeanStreets copied the Soldiers' first half swing. They slowly crept back into it, and before you knew it they regained the lead and control the final minutes of the game.
With 4 minutes left, the game was be tied. Bazley then broke the tie after a slick in-and-out move to shift his defender and finish a smooth reverse layup while using the rim as protection from his trailing defender. Soon after Tim Finke and company would help Bazley put the finishing touches on the game.
In the end it was a thriller from start to finish, which featured top notch talent going head to head. It was a game you had to witness to truly appreciate, as both sides really showed toughness and skill. Bazley finished with a game high 27 points (and 14 boards), pouring in another 14 in the second half to help his team overcome the Soldiers in his 2017 EYBL debut. His teammates Anderson Jr. and Finke finished with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
For the Soldiers, Cherry finished the game with 19 points (and 16 boards), but only scored four points in the second half as the Oakland Soldiers went cold as a unit and scored only 20 points total. Big man Amadou Sow really put his stamp on this game and played tough down low finishing with 16 points.