Our Saturday started off in Raleigh as we took in some NCISAA 4A girls action as Rabun Gap travelled to North Raleigh Christian Academy, the defending 4A girls state champs. 

North Raleigh Christian is led by Top 25 5-Star, 6’3” sophomore Imani Lester, and gracious did Lester put on a show. She was effective from all levels, and her father/coach Avie Lester was able to put her into all the situations and sets to be successful. 

Lester is a skilled big, standing 6’3” she was the tallest player on the floor, however she was also the primary initiator as well. Where Lester (the coach) did a great job was varying up the floor spots and levels for where Imani initiated. Some plays she would bring the ball up the floor, and run the high pick and roll. Some plays she would set up at the high post, and have cutters run off her. Some plays she would act as the screener, and dive to the rim off the roll. Any which way, Rabun Gap had a tough time stopping her. 

When Lester was not bringing the ball up the floor, it was sophomore Elisa Harris who was getting into the teeth of the defense. Harris is a natural leader, who is not afraid to defend in the open floor and is able to touch the paint on most possessions. She also showed range, out the to 3 line. Harris is just coming back from a bum ankle, but her toughness and grit shined though, this is the type of point guard you want running your team. 

The main benefactor in this one, from Imani Lester’s excellent court vision was senior Christa Dutton, who knocked down 5 3s on her way to 19 points. She did a great job locating herself in Lester’s viewing spots on the floor, for easy kick outs and ball reversals. Dutton showcased confidence and a quick release, always ready to let it fly off the catch. 

The depth of NRCA was an absolute factor here as well, 6’1” senior Levossie Taylor took a load of the work on the defensive end as she was switching from the point of attack to the post throughout the game. This team is good, and had a clear talent edge over Rabun Gap in this quarter finals game. 

In looking at Rabun Gap, they had a nice senior guard duo in 5’7” Aileen Marquez and 5’5” Derin Akdeniz. Both players were very fast and very confident with their shots. Marquez was more a true point guard, as she showcased a tight, breakdown type of handle with all the step-back, side-step, euro moves, there were multiple times where she brought the hoop heads in the stands to their feet with some of her stuff off the bounce. Akdeniz is jet fast guard, who plays aggressively getting downhill. She also showed the ability to shoot the ball. 

At the end of the day, the depth and size of North Raleigh Christian was too much from start to finish. 

Imani Lester finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks for the game. NRCA will look to play on Friday, February 21 against #1 ranked Greensboro Day School at 3PM

Our second game of the day we went down to Fayetteville for the NCISAA boys 1A Quarterfinal matchup between Trinity Christian and Grace Christian (out of Sanford). 

Trinity Christian has held the #1 ranking in Phenom Hoop’s overall NCISAA ranking for the majority of 2020. They are deep with guard play, shooting, athleticism, length, size and overall talent. What is most impressive about this team, is their ability to buy in with everyone on the floor caring more about winning than individual stats. This team has full scholarship seniors coming off the bench behind sophomores. Everyone is ready when their number is called, it is quite a thing of beauty what Head Coach Heath Vandevender has created with this team. 

This team went for 99 points in this win, with all 10 players scoring, six of which scored between 8 and 19 points.. Mind you, this show Trinity put on was a state playoff quarterfinals game. The show was led by 6’2” sophomore Jamori McDougald who put on a passing clinic in this one. His onslaught of no looks, his ability to create passing angles and dribble his teammates open was on full display. McDougald knocked down shots, touched the paint at will, defended the point of attack and overall played a winning brand of basketball, a style we have become accustomed to him playing over the year. 

The leading scorer for Trinity was 6’5” sophomore Freddie Dilione, who finished with 19 points. Dilione is a premier shot maker whose recruitment is starting to take shape at a Power 5 level. He knocked down 3s, he attacked the basket and he finished with skill, athleticism and touch. Dilione finished the game with 19 points, look for a big summer and then the possibility of him to take his place as one of the most potent scorers in North Carolina next season. 

6’8” junior Rob Wright and 5’10” senior Marcus Boykin also showed off full scholarship talent. Wright was forced to play big minutes tonight as Trinity Christian Starting big Todd Burt was out with an ankle injury. Wright answered the call, as he finished with touch and footwork on the low block. He had a powerful drop step dunk, along with finishes over both shoulders with his back to the basket. Boykin is an incredible exciting lead guard, who has the strength, athleticism and ball skills to get to all his spots on the floor. With his sister playing at Duke and is brother graduating as a 1,500 point scorer at Barton College, Boykin’s recruitment is perplexing. D2s should be beating down his doors and D1s should be looking. He’s a fully qualified, full scholarship guard, plain and simple. 

The story of the game, in this one, for Grace was 6’3” senior Jonah Murr who went for a game high 35 points. He shot the ball, and scored the ball at every level. Murr showcased 

Trinity Christian will play again in the NCISAA 1A State Final 4 on Friday against Northwood Temple (for the 3rd time this season), at 5:30 PM

For the final game of the eventing we traveled over to Freedom Christian as Harrells Christian came into town to play their 3rd round matchup. Full disclosure, this game ended up running clock and Freedom was able to empty their bench 1 minute into the second half. Freedom had all 17 players on their roster enter the game while 10 of them ended up scoring points. 

The Freedom team is deep, they have great size and they have legitimate next level talent. While this game was not close, there were definitely some take aways to gleen from this matchup. 

Take Away 1 – Jayden Doyle is exactly what we thought he was. He is ranked within the top 10 players in his sophomore class. Each time out he continues to show his full skill set, with his positional size, explosion and ability to create and finish. Doyle got to the rim at will here, and he knocked down his only 3-point attempt and his only 2 dribble pull up attempt. Doyle finished the game with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in less than a half of play. 

Take Away 2 – Aymeric Toussaint is right on the verge of becoming a big time college player. He may still be a year away, but the things he does naturally, you cannot teach. Defensively he is able to move his feet laterally, and block shots vertically. Offensively, he runs the floor better than any big in this region, switching ends with speed, fluidity and great hands. As he shores up his jump shot, some mid-post footwork and continues to get stronger watch out as he could burst onto the scene in a “where did he come from” fashion. 

Take Away 3 – Freedom Christian has a depth of scholarship seniors on its roster, Let’s begin with their starting backcourt of 5’11” Manny Alverado and 6’3” Bosko Mihailovic. Alverado is the consummate leader, his ability to get to his spots off the bounce, knock down shots at each level and take care of possessions wins ball games. He’s a vocal leader as well. Bosko is a big bodied Serbian guard, who can really pass the ball and really shoot the ball. He is able to, comfortably, play both on and off the ball as well. 

Other seniors on this roster schools with full scholarships should be looking at are 6’10” Milos Filopovic, 6’7” Fuat Forisoglu and 6’10” David Dosenovic. 

Freedom Christian will move on to the quarterfinals of the NCISAA 2A State Playoffs on Tuesday against Westminster Catawba, at home.