On Tuesday, Phenom Hoops traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina for an exciting inner-conference matchup between Grimsley and Northwest Guilford. This contest carried considerable weight, seeing as the victor would ultimately secure the top spot in the Metro 4A Conference. Northwest Guilford has remained among Greensboro's best teams behind their undeniable talent and quality coaching staff. Since their loss to Smith in the Haeco Invitational, Northwest Guilford has rolled through the opposition. On the other hand, Grimsley entered this contest still working out the kinks and suffered their previous three losses by a combined margin of just four points (including a two-point loss to Northwest at Haeco). This contest had all the makings of another down-to-the-wire finish.'
There was no shortage of excitement or anticipation in the building, as a distinct buzz seemed to flood through prior to the opening tip. The action quickly picked up and both teams were off to the races. Christian Hampton suffered a minor injury during the first period and sat until the second half, whereas Grimsley's core of Ahmil Flowers and Travis Shaw were sidelined with foul trouble. They were tied after the first quarter but Grimsley ultimately entered halftime with a 28-27 lead. Things got particularly interesting after the break. It remained neck-and-neck but the officiating began to have clear implications for both squads. Fortunately for fairness, it was pretty bad both ways. Although Northwest was already slightly in control prior to various technical fouls being distributed, it certainly prevented Grimsley from making a late surge in the final minutes. The difference in free-throw shooting (Northwest: 27/35; Grimsley: 14/27) was a major x-factor. What was a six-point affair with two minutes remaining ended up resulting in a 66-52 victory for Northwest.
6'1 '20 Christian Hampton
Despite suffering the aforementioned minor injury, Hampton went on to have another dominant showing. He's an exceptional leader that plays with a unique ruggedness and toughness on both ends of the floor. Hampton is an absolute headhunter that is always lurking in the shadows for alley-oop opportunities, regardless of defensive pressure. He has no fear of anyone and it's obvious in his two-way approach. Hampton is so smart and instinctual, especially on defense, where he's proven to be among the best at making opponents uncomfortable and forcing turnovers. He broke down opponents with ease, attacked the basket with resiliency, and either finished or got fouled on a vast majority of his shot attempts. Although his three-point consistency has skyrocketed over the last year or two, there was really no need for Hampton to attempt anything outside of the paint in this showing. He's a clever passer and incredible two-way rebounder that consistently plays much bigger than his size would imply. Whichever program gets Hampton will be getting a leader, winner, and two-way star. Final stats: 27 points (17-20 FT), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
6'9 '20 Dean Reiber
The Rutgers signee continues to be problematic for all types of opponents, given his terrific blend of size, skill, and athleticism. Those attributes have always been his foundation but have only gotten better over time. Reiber operates very well out of the post, where he displays great IQ, vision, footwork, and quality touch with either hand. He has the ability to step out and reliably knock down jumpers from midrange or beyond the arc but also attacks closeouts quite well for a big man. Reiber has great rim-protection instincts, runs the floor extremely well, and finishes with consistency around the basket. He seems to keep getting better and better. Final stats: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
6'0 '22 Connor Ballou
Although not typically labeled as one of their 'stars,' Ballou has an extremely useful role for this Northwest squad. He's the youngest of the nightly contributors and makes his impact with elite perimeter shooting ability. Ballou spots-up, runs off screens, and can knock down jumpers off the bounce with effectiveness. He's a relatively low-maintenance player that doesn't force the action or even need the ball to make his presence felt. Additionally, Ballou is a quality defender that makes the extra pass whenever possible. Final stats: 10 points (3 three-pointers) and 1 rebound.
Other noteworthy performers:
6'3 '20 Robbie Boulton- 4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal
6'3 '20 Brandon Thomas- 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals
6'5 '20 Ahmil Flowers
The HPU signee did everything possible to keep his squad afloat throughout this contest, even when it felt like nothing was falling their way. He and Shaw were forced to deal with extra defensive pressure for most of the game, seeing double-teams basically whenever he penetrated to the basket. Flowers was still able to impact the game, show versatility, and operate as a quality leader but struggled to find a consistent groove due to foul trouble. That being said, he still showcased plenty of tools and appeal to get HPU basketball excited for his arrival. Final stats: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.
6'3 '20 Daniel Cooper
While Shaw and Flowers usually receive a lion's share of the attention, Cooper has easily emerged as one of the most valuable pieces on this roster. He has a high motor and consistently plays harder than everyone on the court, which allows him to naturally affect the action. Cooper is a workhorse and tremendous two-way rebounder, given his sheer activity level and ability to position himself for success. He has a clear nose for the ball and simply knows how to secure extra opportunities. Cooper is the first guy on the floor for loose ball and shows a willingness to do anything to give his team an edge. Final stats: 6 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Other noteworthy performers:
6'5 '22 Travis Shaw- 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
6'0 '22 Tyler Albright- 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals
6'1 '22 Jayden Watlington- 5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal
6'0 '20 Ronan Martinek-Jenne- 13 points, 1 rebound