On Tuesday, Phenom Hoops traveled out to R.J. Reynolds in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as the Demons prepared to host Myers Park in some first-round playoff action. Although this exact matchup occurred two seasons ago, both rosters are now completely different. Myers Park has transitioned away from guys Drake Maye, Xavier McKelvy, and Terrence Johnson to their notable sophomore in Elijah Strong. Meanwhile, guys like Caden Davis and Tyreik Leach have emerged as obvious leaders for Reynolds since the departure of Mysta Goodloe. That being said, the stage was set for an exciting battle and neither team disappointed…
Things kicked off with Reynolds taking complete control of the lead, simply dominating behind the aforementioned two-headed monster of Davis and Leach. The Demons held a 14-9 lead after the first quarter, and only seemed to get better as the second period began. They kept their foot on the gas and established a double-digit advantage by entering halftime with a 29-19 lead. Although they displayed weakness in the first half, Myers Park was too talented to repeat their struggles and began mounting a comeback. Between defensive pressure and offensive greatness from Strong, they outscored Reynolds 21-13 in the third quarter—trimming the lead down to 42-40 entering the final period of play. The next eight minutes turned this contest into an absolute bloodbath, as both squads were scoring at a nonstop rate and neither team was willing to relinquish control of the lead. However, Reynolds narrowly escaped the Mustangs down the stretch—securing a 69-61 victory over Myers Park.
6’4 ’21 Caden Davis
It was genuinely difficult to differentiate who was better between Davis and Leach, as both guys were truly spectacular from start to finish. Both guys have transformed their bodies into football shape, but still maintain plenty of basketball ability. That being said, Davis’ value came in a variety of different facets. Offensively, he worked the middle and applied nonstop pressure from inside the arc. Davis absorbed contact and finished (or got fouled) on basically every attempt within five feet. He also knocked down multiple jumpers and made a major rebounding impact on both ends of the floor. Davis’ combination of IQ, strength, and mobility made him a matchup issue throughout this contest. Additionally, his first-half defense against the best opposing player was a major difference-maker. Final stats: 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 block.
6’1 ’21 Tyreik Leach
The other part of their two-headed monster, Leach was equally as impressive throughout the course of this contest. He’s a tough, heady downhill guard with quickness, craftiness, and the ability to generate (and convert) clean looks from all over the floor. Leach regularly took his assignment off the dribble, where he was able to access his lethal midrange pull-up or touch the paint and finish or kick-out to open teammates. He’s a gamer and quality two-way guard with a nice motor and competitive streak. Final stats: 24 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block.
6’0 ’21 Ahmon Lumpkins
While the previous duo combining for 48 points was somewhat expected, Lumpkins’ emergence as the Demons’ third fiddle was arguably the main x-factor and primary difference between winning and losing. His game might not be flashy, but it’s certainly effective. Lumpkins is a tough, high-motor guard with the willingness and understanding of making his presence felt within the flow of the action. He maximized his touches, made numerous defensive plays, and was simply reliable on both ends of the floor. Final stats: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal.
6’7 ’23 Elijah Strong
It would be extremely difficult to argue against Strong as the top prospect on either team from this contest. The big, skilled forward prospect has drastically developed over the last calendar year and already stands out as one of the premier prospects in North Carolina’s Class of 2023. Not only does Strong already possess the size and imposing interior presence, but his IQ and overall understanding of the game is what separates him from other similar players. Due to his soft hands and physical frame, he has no issue establishing himself as a major interior force from the block. However, Strong has added polish and noticeable versatility along the perimeter. He’s more than capable of initiating the offense, dictating the action, and asserting himself as an efficient scorer from all three levels. Strong shoots the ball at a promising clip, going 4-for-5 from distance prior to his final two attempts, and displayed impressive passing instincts when attacking. It should go without saying, but he’s a prospect worth the attention of Division I coaches. Final stats: 22 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals.
6’2 ’23 Dallas Gardner
Though still young, it’s easy to see why Gardner has become a popular name within the Charlotte area. He’s a wiry, tough, competitive guard prospect with a chip on his shoulder. Gardner is a scrappy defender with great positioning and anticipation, which allows him to force turnovers and push transition play with relative ease. Gardner is arguably at his best in the open floor, but still finds penetration opportunities within the half-court. He will certainly be one to keep an eye on going forward. Final stats: 15 points, 1 block, and 4 steals.