LILBURN — Berkmar made a statement. So did two of the Patriots’ top players.
Tim Rowe and Kiair Crouch more than held their own against Morgan County’s star duo and host Berkmar claimed the championship of the Nike/BMASP Holiday Hoops Classic with a 61-53 victory Monday night.
Crouch, a senior point guard who transferred from Columbia, was named the tournament most valuable player. It was Rowe, though, who stood out the most in the title game.
The 6-foot-11 senior got the best of massive 6-foot-9 Tennessee signee C.J. Turman, finishing with 22 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
“When you’re matched up with a great player like that, you have a chance to prove something,” Rowe said. “This was a great opportunity and I wanted to make the most of it.”
Rowe did just that. So did Crouch in his showdown with Tookie Brown, one of the top junior point guards in the state.
Crouch finished with 15 points — just two less than Brown — and had five assists and five rebounds.
“This means a lot to me,” said Crouch, holding his MVP trophy. “But I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. To me, this is a team award and winning the championship feels great.”
Down by 16 points in the second quarter, Morgan County (9-4) pulled within two midway in the fourth quarter as Brown caught fire. But Berkmar (10-4) reeled off nine straight points capped by Rowe’s three-point play and secured the victory.
Rowe, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the semifinals, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to climax his star-turn performance.
“This is what he is capable of every night,” Berkmar coach Greg Phillips. “Tim has this in him. He played really well the last two games when we needed him.”
Berkmar opened the second quarter with 10 straight points — six by Rowe on a three-point play and 3-point shot — and increased a 16-10 first-quarter lead to 26-10 midway in the second. Brown scored at the buzzer, though, to get Morgan County back within 28-18 at halftime.
Then Brown, who had just four first-half points, scored nine in the third quarter to pull the Bulldogs to 39-33 and his steal and dunk made it 41-39 early in the fourth. The last time Morgan County was within two, though, was at 47-45 with 3.45 remaining on two free throws by Brown.
Jonathan Sanks, Rowe and Joseph Gordon had baskets before Rowe’s 3-point play and Berkmar led 56-45 with 1:09 remaining, clinching the victory.
Sanks, a 6-foot-4 Georgia Southern signee, finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists, while fellow senior James Sanders had seven points and three assists.
Turman had 12 points and nine rebounds, while Jailyn Ingram added 12 points and six rebounds for Morgan County.
Brown had 35 points in the semifinals against St. Francis after going for 30 earlier in the tournament. But he didn’t have a 3-pointer against Berkmar and was 3-for-7 from the foul line.
"For him, 17 points is nothing,” Phillips said. “We were able to hold him down and that was big for us.”
Stephenson, which lost to Berkmar in the semifinals, claimed third place with a 65-63 overtime victory as Vance Dixon scored from inside off a feed from Juwan Henderson with 2.4 seconds left.
Montez Sweat had 21 points and Delmont Walton 20 for Stephenson. Malik Beasley scored 29 for St. Francis, which overcame an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit before missing two free throws with 8.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
Pebblebrook claimed fifth place with a 63-60 victory over Laney of Augusta. Shiloh was scheduled to play in the sixth-place game, but the Generals withdrew claiming that they were in danger of having too many games.