This year's 2012 version of the Arizona Magic Pump N' Run-2014's has received a lot of press early on this spring, as many basketball enthusiasts in the state regard the group as the top club team in the state of Arizona. Well, the argument gained much more validity on Saturday afternoon, when the young and talented Arizona group of prospects thwarted the nation's top-rated club program and most-heavily Nike-sponsored team - the Oakland Soldiers, 72-58, in the second round of this year's 2012 Double Pump Best Buy Challenge in Carson, CA.
The Oakland Soldiers have been regarded as the nation's top club basketball program for many years now, as they have produced many pro players and high-major division-I college prospects over the past ten years, including such NBA stars as Lebron James (Miami Heat), Leon Powe (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Drew Gooden (Milwaukee Bucks), just to name a few.
This year's version of the Oakland Soldiers 16U team has been regarded by many scouting services across the country as one of the top 5 teams of it's kind in America, so when the Arizona Magic Pump N' Run-2014 team met up with them in the second round of this years Double Pump Event, the intensity of the game and the anticipation by the fans in attendance was at a heightened level - especially since many players, coaches and fans in attendance had thought the Soldiers were the best team in this year's event after their dominant Friday night performance.
The Soldiers would jump out to a quick 13-point lead in the game, as they would knock down numerous three-pointers early. But Horizon High School's 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Tate De Laveaga would keep the Arizona group in the game early with 8 of his team's first 10 points. De Laveaga would knock down a three-pointer and also convert two consecutive drives to the basket - one of them a three-point play.
Desert Vista HS 6-foot-8 sophomore post Connor MacDougall would make his presence felt early as well, as the rapidly-developing young post would convert a power, one-handed dunk on the break and two more strong dunks in traffic over defenders - giving his team the lift they needed emotionally to make a run.
With Mountain Pointe's 6-foot-3 sophomore guard/forward Jalen Brown missing this weekend's tournament due to a previous football commitment, the Magic relied heavily on Gilbert Christian's 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Roberto Reyes to provide the toughness the team would lack against the Soldiers. Reyes would fight hard inside for his team, rebounding with vigor and giving his team numerous second-chance opportunities in the first half. A Reyes' three-pointer from the wing would keep the game close.
Late in the first half, with the Magic down by 8 points just before halftime, Corona Del Sol's 6-foot-2 star sophomore point guard Casey Benson would grow up right before our eyes - taking the game into the hands and flat-out taking over his team's destiny in the match-up. Three-consecutive three-pointers by Benson just before the half would give the Magic a 34-33 halftime lead over the Soldiers. With Benson clapping his hands feverishly and urging his team to pick up their play, the Soldiers would hang their heads as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Benson's onslaught would be all the Magic would need to get them going, as they would come out in the second half fired up and ready to blow things wide open.
In the second half, the Soldiers would call off their fullcourt press, as the heady guard combination of Benson, De Laveaga and Perry High School's 5-foot-10 sophomore guard Jordan Howard would prove too much for the Soldier's pressing attack.
Then, Gilbert Christian HS 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Sam Jones and South Mountain HS 6-foot-7 forward Zylan Cheatum would have their coming-out-party in the game - growing up right before our eyes. Jones would convert three-consecutive three-pointers from the wing with a defender draped all over him and Cheatum would finish dunks and inside baskets over the outstretched hands of Soldier post players to give the Magic a comfortable 14-point lead late in the game.
The Magic would then cruise to a big, 72-58 second round victory over the Soldiers - one of the biggest wins in Arizona club history.
"This feels better than winning a state championship right now," said Tate de Laveaga after his team's big win.
The Magic would later win another game by 40+ points on Saturday evening, and will now play in Sunday's semi-finals of the tournament at 11AM.
This team looks to be clicking early-on in the club season, as they have already defeated many top 17U teams this club season, and look to now be the favorite to win this year's 16U tournament crown at the Double Pump Best Buy Challenge.