Saturday Round-up and Bracket Play at the 2022 U.S. Open Basketball Championships
An action-packed Saturday at the 2022 U.S. Open Basketball Championships produced semifinal bids across the competition as teams fought to keep championship hopes in sight.
Following four days of competition in Westfield, Indiana, today proved the most intense. With the competition concluding Sunday and champions crowned across their respective divisions, the stakes haven’t been higher for the several teams competing in USA Basketball’s premier youth tournament.
MAD Performance Takes Strides Forward
MAD Performance (MI) didn’t know what to expect when arriving at the U.S. Open Basketball Championships.
It was the team's first year playing together at the competition, and it had a few players playing up a grade or even two. Still, despite being the ‘new team on the block,’ from the coach down, everyone embraced the challenge.
“My team is very young, but they are passionate,” Chinaka Njoku, the head coach of MAD Performance, said. “They are going to seventh grade next fall, but because we had a few players who are 14 years old we had to stay in the eighth grade division so the whole team can play.”
In every game Njoku had his team fighting. His team presented no worry regarding the score of the game, and his players never stopped giving their best effort in every second on the court.
To Njoku and his new MAD basketball program, the U.S. Open Basketball Championships were a learning experience and an opportunity to grow both as a team and as individuals.
“This is a new program,” he said. “We are using USA Basketball’s curriculum to teach basketball and seek skill development. We’ve been working on it, and I am happy that they got to experience this tournament. They have never been in this kind of environment before, and they are extremely excited about it.”
It wasn’t merely the games that drew MAD to the Westfield, it was the skill development opportunities as well.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth amongst them,” Njoku said. “My team appreciates all the skill development and the programing that USA Basketball has. The kids are really growing as basketball players and the players’ parents are loving it. It is really a good program for them.”
On a personal level, the event left a lasting impression on MAD by way of Don Showalter, a 10-time USA Basketball gold medalist coach and the director of coach development under USA Basketball’s Youth & Sport Development division. Showalter took time to speak with the parents of the players on the team. To Njoku, that personal touch is enough to keep his program coming back for more.
“Coach Don Showalter was very gracious to address my players’ parents because it was their first time coming here,” he said. “For that, it is a really good program, and the kids are already saying they are coming back.”
Njoku, a coach that sought a USA Basketball coaching license because he felt kids weren’t getting enough developmental training in the city league he coached in, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I am happy they got to experience this,” he said. “I really, really, appreciate it.”
Seven is the Luckiest Number
Cincinnati Royals 2024 (OH) and Grand Park Premier – 2024 Black (IN) met in a first-round matchup that was decided in the final possession.
With two seconds left on the game clock and Cincinnati down by two (62-60), Donte Ferrell, Cincinnati’s lead guard, just inside half court, shot a turn-around 3-pointer that needed a miracle and a little bit of luck to go in.
He had both.
As the buzzer sounded, the shot banked off the glass and into the basket, clinching Cincinnati’s one-point win, 63-62, and a spot in the quarterfinals.
“I knew it was going in,” Ferrell said. “I hit six (3s) the whole game – seven is my lucky number.”
Cincinnati battled relentlessly throughout its matchup with Grand Park. Though, at times the game felt nearly out of reach, Cincinnati's head coach Tim Zeinner, implored his team to stay active and undeterred in the face of opposition.
His pleads worked.
“I told them to have faith in each other,” Zeinner said. “These kids are fighters, they play hard, and they never give up. With three minutes left, I told them, ‘Let’s go to a press and let’s see what we can do with it. Let’s do what we do, let’s take care of the ball and let’s finish.’ That’s what they did.”
As for the game-winning shot, Zeinner had no doubts.
“The shot, we called it,” Zeinner said. “I told them it was going down.
Tournament Updates, News and Notes
The bracket portion of the 2022 U.S. Open Basketball Championships got underway Saturday and with four days of competition now in the book, only a handful of teams remain in the hunt for one of the eight division championships.
The 2022 U.S. Open Basketball Championships, which features boys and girls teams from 24 states and Canada, conclude Sunday in Westfield, Indiana, with boys and girls 10th grade, boys 9th grade, girls 9th grade, boys 8th grade, boys 13U, girls 13U/12U and boys 12U champions crowned.
In the 12U Boys Division, Austin Select (TX) remained perfect (5-0) and earned the No. 1 seed for Sunday’s Stars Division medal round semifinals with a hard-fought 95-89 overtime victory against Mooresville Runnin' Rebels Elite (NC). Austin advanced into Sunday’s semis where it will meet Motor City Chargers (MI) (11:40 a.m. EDT) after Motor City downed All Eletes (CA) 78-57. Mooresville Runnin' Rebels will face Progeny (IN) (11:40 a.m. EDT) in the other semis. Progeny advanced after recording a strong victory against Blazers (MT).
After cruising to wins in their respective semifinal games, the 3-1 Austin Select (TX) and 4-0 Illinois Flight (IL) will meet Sunday (10:20 a.m. EDT) for the Boys 13U U.S. Open Basketball Championship. Austin advanced to the gold medal contest following a 79-69 win over previously unbeaten The Family 2027 (MI). Illinois Flight kept its record perfect and advanced to the title game after recording a convincing 84-50 win versus Nova 94 (VA).
In Sunday’s 13U Boys Stripes championship game (9:00 a.m. EDT), Grindhouse Hoops Red (MD) will face Primetime Performance (WV).
The AL Southern Starz 2028 (AL) stayed perfect (4-0) after downing the Ohio Hoopsters (OH) 64-22 in one of Saturday’s 12U/13U semifinals contest. The Starz opponent in the 12U/13U Stars Division title game on Sunday (1:00 p.m. EDT) will be Cal Storm Team Taurasi (CA) who defeated the Newport Rockets (CA) 68-54.
“This team, we haven’t been together the whole season. We are honestly just a bunch of little country girls that have come up here and have meshed so unbelievably well together, said AL Southern Starz head coach Mamie Hill. “We responded really well after we squeaked by the [Newport] Rockets yesterday, so I feel really good about tomorrow – I do. When you have a bunch of teenage girls that are the best on their team, and they are out here with the same goal, we’ll be fine. It’s not about them [individually], we’ve really tried to stress that. It’s about our team, our organization and it's about learning to be something that is bigger than themselves. Winning this championship along the way would be the icing on the cake.”
In Sunday’s 12U/13U Girls Stripes championship game (11:40 a.m. EDT), Lady Gym Rats - Hreno (IN) will play Team Sims (MA) for the trophy.
8th Grade Boys
The title for the 8th Grade Boys Stars Division is down to four teams. Martin Bros Basketball (IA) kept its championship hopes alive with an 81-54 win against The Basketball Bureau (CO). Grand Park Premier - 2026 Red (IN) slipped past Kentucky Hoop Dreams (KY) 61-59 to earn a shot at Martin Bros in one semifinal on Sunday (10:20 a.m. EST). All Ohio Northwest (OH) eliminated KC Run GMC (MO) 70-56 and Tim Thomas Playaz Elite (NJ) held off Indy Hoops Academy (IN) 67-57to set the field in the other 8th Grade Bous semifinal (10:20 a.m. EST).
Sunday’s 8th Grade Boys Stripes championship game (1:00 p.m. EDT) is set and Bakerhoops AllStars (PA), which won a pair of games Saturday to advance, and Mississippi Celtics Elite (MS), who also won both of its games Saturday, will meet for a shot at the Stripe title. In Saturday’s Consolation bracket, California DRIP (CA) defeated MAD Performance (MI) 80-20 to wrap up its competition with a win.
9th Grade Girls
The battle for gold in the 8th/9thGrade Girls Stars Division will come down to a pair of undefeated teams. Cal Storm Team Taurasi 9th (CA) easily disposed of Cal Storm Team Taurasi 8th (CA) 72-52 to earn a spot in Sunday’s championship game (10:20 a.m. EDT), while TTG Free Agents (VA) upended Lady Gym Rats - Goss (IN) 75-45 to earn the other finals berth.
“We just put these kids together for this weekend, so it’s been a growing process the entire time. They’ve gotten better every game.” Erin Thorn, Cal Storm Team Taurasi 9th-grade girls head coach said. “We are just here to get better and have fun. At the end of the day, win or lose, if we get better – at this age – that is what it's about. We are preparing these kids for bigger and better things. We are trying to make it fun, make every team a team win, and if we do that, win, lose or draw, we are winners.”
Sunday’s 9th Grade Girls Stripes championship game (1:00 p.m. EDT) will feature Team Sims (MA) going against Lady Gym Rats - Garrett (IN). Teams Sims defeated Proday Lady Lightning (OH) 77-30 and Lady Gym Rats downed PAC Flight North 2026 (IN) 56-44 in the Stripes Division semifinals.
9th Grade Boys
Four teams remain alive for the 9th Grade Boys Division title and semifinals action will take place on Sunday (9:00 a.m. EST). Martin Brothers Basketball (IA) improved to 6-0 after outscoring Indiana Rise 75-61 and beating Future Stars (CO) 86-30 on Saturdy. CAAT Wildcaats 2025 (GA) earned a date in the semis against Martin Brothers after splitting its two games on Saturday, defeating Future Stars 54-44 and then coming up short versus Indiana Rise 65-55. In Sunday’s other 8th Grade Boys semifinal, 4-2 Indiana Rise will face 4-2 Sandhills Machine Select 2025 (NC). Sandhills Machine persevered to claim a 91-78 win against We Got Next (NY) in its lone game Saturday.
In Sunday’s 9th Grade Boys Stripes championship game (1:00 p.m. EDT), We Got Next (NY) will face the winner of the South Florida Elite (FL) – Future Stars (CO) that is being held Sunday (10:20 a.m. EDT).
10th Grade Girls
Lady Team Teague (IN) with its 5-0 record and Cal Storm Team Taurasi (CA) owning a 4-1 mark, earned byes and advanced to Sunday’s 10th Grade Girls Stars Division semifinals after claiming wins in their only games Saturday. Lady Team Teague easily defeated Lady Gym Rats - Banks (IN) 84-51, and Cal Storm Team Taurasi upended Lady Gym Rats - Carothers (IN) 76-47. Phills Lady Ballers (IL) defeated Central Kentucky Storm (KY) 56-40 and will meet Lady Team Teague in one of Sunday’s Stripes Division semifinals (9:00 a.m. EDT), while Lady Gym Rats - Carothers (IN) advanced to earn a shot at Cal Storm Team Taurasi in Sunday’s other 10th Grade Stars semifinal.
“We just always practice and preach one stop and one shot,” said Christopher Phills, head coach of the Phills Ballers 10th grade girls team. “There was a time when we were down, but we went back to that mantra: one stop, one shot, and keep your head in the game. We are going to enjoy this moment right here, but tomorrow, we will be back dialed in and ready to go.”
10th Grade Boys
Four teams remain in the hunt for the 10th Grade Boys Stars Division crown. Grand Park Premier - 2024 Red (IN) improved to 5-0 after holding off South Florida Elite (FL) 86-75 in Saturday’s quarterfinal clash. Martin Bros Basketball (IA) likewise kept its title hopes alive after finishing strong to earn a 69-64 victory over Primetime Performance (WV). BABC (MA) upped its mark to 5-0 after defeating the Cincinnati Royals 2024 (OH) 86-60 and 4-1 Kentucky Hoop Dreams (KY) claimed the final semifinals berth after surprising previously undefeated Progeny 2024 Blue (IN) in a 64-60 thriller. Grand Park Premier - 2024 Red will face Martin Bros Basketball in one semifinal Sunday (11:40 a.m. EDT) and BABC will take on Kentucky Hoop Dreams in the other semifinal (Sunday (11:40 a.m. EDT).
“They (Primetime Performance) made shots and our intensity wasn’t as good defensively,” said Aaron Thomas, head coach of the Martin Brothers Basketball 10th grade boys squad. “We made just enough plays at the end to hang on. It’ll get tough in the semis here, so we are going to have to be a lot better tomorrow. We just have to execute and defend a little bit better. No one misses shots on purpose, so hopefully, the ball drops tomorrow.”
Pick Enroll (MA) battled through the consolation bracket to advance into Sunday’s Stripes Division championship game and will face Indy Hoops Academy (IN).