Before there was Kris Jenkins, Scottie Reynolds was the one who hit “the shot.” His last-second heroics in 2009 propelled ‘Nova to its first Final Four since winning it all in 1985. He was the beloved Villanova Wildcat and still is the second-leading scorer in program history. So it makes sense a Supernova team with Reynolds and four other guys from that Final Four squad would be the second seed in The Basketball Tournament's Northeast region, who went on to beat 15-seeded South Jamaica Kings, 97-72.
But seedings didn't scare the Kings one bit Saturday during the TBT first round at Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Center.
“Shock the world,” guard Cameron Tyler said on the bench during a timeout.
For most of the first half, it looked like the shock was possible. The game was tied at 24 with four minutes left in the first of two 18-minute halves. The offense was not there for SuperNova. Some early threes fell, but 40 points at the break didn’t equate to the well-oiled machine a Jay Wright-run offense usually shows.
Reggie Redding, a starting guard on that 2009 Final Four team who played last season in Munich, knew what the problem was. And it’s just what you’d guess.
“Man, how many years?” he said. “How many years since we've played together? Guys not in the best shape, you know.”
Redding said that some of the team practiced in Villanova’s practice facility against current players Thursday. Clearly, they needed a bit more time to get back to their old ways.
But once the rust came off, it was Villanova basketball at its finest. South Jamaica Kings actually took the lead with just under four minutes left in the first half, 26-24. Then Supernova turned the corner. Reynolds knocked in a three. Then he did it again two possessions later. And in the final minute, he really looked like the guy who owned the Main Line a few years ago.
After a timeout, Reynolds got a dish while going full speed from the wing. But when he reached the basket, he tossed to the corner for an open three. It fell for the last basket of the half, executed to perfection just like that layup to beat Pitt and send the ‘Cats to Detroit. The mood had shifted.
“We gotta adjust, they going corners now,” one King said on his way off the court at the start of halftime.
And in the second half, the story went from close call to not at all. Up 15 early, Reynolds again beat his man and went to the rim. Again he dished, this time to Redding in the corner. He didn’t convert, but Mo Sutton sure did. Sutton grabbed the ball above the rim and emphatically slammed it down in one motion. There was plenty of time left on the clock, but everyone in the gym knew it was probably over.
It was. Supernova continued to make it ugly. Everyone on the team scored. Reynolds had 15, Corey Fisher contributed 16, and Malcolm Grant, who played his freshman season at Villanova in 2007-2008 before transferring to Miami (Florida), led the way with 21 of the bench. Down the stretch, the interior passing between Jayvaughn Pinkston, Isaiah Armwood and Sutton looked like keep-away against a frustrated Kings bunch. In the game’s waning minutes, the effort was gone. Supernova was just looking to get to 100. The Kings were just looking to leave.
By the time the lead was comfortable, any stress of an early-round exit — which Villanova basketball is all too familiar with — had turned to joy.
“When we get back together, it's like we never left each other,” Redding said. “Everybody don't keep in contact that much, but … It was fun, man, it's like we were back in the locker room.”
There were seven other games northeast region games Saturday, with plenty of Philly ties in a handful of the matchups. Here’s a brief recap of the rest of the action:
No. 8 Talladega Knights vs. No. 9 Paul Champions
The contrast of Paul Champions is something else. Earl Boykins, one of the NBA’s shortest players ever at 5-foot-5, took command in a 78-74 win with 25 points and five assists. But then Paul Champions comes at you with a 7-foot-6 tower in Mamadou Ndiaye and fan favorite Chukwudiebere Maduabum, who’s 6-foot-10. They’ll be fun to watch moving forward.
No. 1 FCM Untouchables vs. No. 16 OPI
The Untouchables are the No. 1 seed because of results like this one. OPI was down just six at half, but was held to just 39 percent from the field after the break. Coached by Kevin Durant’s brother Tony, the Untouchables are pretty much loaded with former NBA guys and European league studs. They won, 92-77.
No. 4 Team FOE vs. No. 13 DC On Point
The Philly connection runs deep on Team FOE. The Morris twins coach. Markus Kennedy, who played one season at Villanova before transferring to Southern Methodist, started down low, and Scott Rodgers of Drexel played up top. But if you needed any more notice that the squad was somewhat local, the crowd made that clear. In an 80-75 win that was really close down the stretch after a Team FOE comeback in the second half, the FOE fans went wild.
No. 5 Zoo Crew (Pittsburgh Alumni) vs. No. 12 Sideline Cancer
Often as it goes during March Madness, that 5-12 matchup wasn’t a breeze for the higher seed. Led by Levance Fields, the Zoo Crew kept it close against Sideline Cancer for all 36 minutes, but in the end, even Fields’ 35 points weren’t enough. Zoo Crew lacked the defense needed to advance. Five of Sideline Cancer’s seven players scored in double figures, and both Duane (not The Rock) Johnson and former St. Joseph’s guard Aaron Brown notched 25 points in a 100-87 win.
No. 6 City of Gods vs. No. 11 GaelNation
The two teams matched bucket for bucket for all 36 minutes. City of Gods, with Drexel’s Phil Goss and Temple’s David Hawkins, looked to be distancing themselves late until Javier Carter of GaelNation threw down maybe the meanest dunk of the day to that point. The Gaels tied it up a possession later, only to foul while in the bonus at the other end. But once City of Gods missed both with 8.7 seconds left, Steven Burtt got the rock and sprinted for a layup at the other end. He drained it and City of God’s advanced to the front court with a timeout. They missed and that was it. GaelNation won, 88-86.
No. 3 Boeheim's Army (Syracuse Alumni) vs. No. 14 DuBois Dream
Boeheim’s Army was the only team to begin its blowout from the get-go. They shot 41 percent from deep in the first half and jumped out to a 14-0 lead. The gap was 20 at the half. In the second half, they changed gears and ran the break. DuBois Dream was small, with their tallest man at 6-foot-8, and that showed. Rick Jackson and DaShonte Riley had their way inside and it ended as a lopsided finish, 99-66.
No. 7 Team Fancy vs. No. 10 Rebel Riders (Rider Alumni)
The gym was rather hollow compared to earlier in the day, but the intensity wasn’t cut out. Things got chippy by the game's end, with the Rebel Riders losing, 77-70. However, two local guys put up notable efforts. Temple’s Ramone Moore posted 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting. And Jason Thompson, a 6-foot-11 Medford, New Jersey, native and Rider alum who spent eight seasons in the NBA, totaled 12 points and 16 boards. You might remember Thompson from a certain trade involving the Sixers a few years back (think: pick swap). He most recently played professionally in China.