Apparently, any basketball game with any Syracuse connection has to be tense, regardless of the time of year or who is playing in orange. Keifer Sykes erased any doubt and a one-point deficit by connecting on a deep right wing three for a 69-67 victory over Team 23 to give Boeheim’s Army their first trophy after seven years of The Basketball Tournament play. The trey capped his 11-point fourth quarter and gave Sykes 14 of the Army’s last 22 points.
The Army took a 61-60 edge into the Elam Ending and pushed their lead to four twice, first on three Sykes foul shots, then again on a D.J. Kennedy putback at 66-62. Within one possession, though, they gave up the next five points to fall behind, 67-66.
Chris McCullough had a potential game-winning three go halfway down and pop out. Boeheim’s Army got a stop. Tyrese Rice hoisted a three that was blocked. The Army got another stop with Eric Devendorf snaring a loose ball rebound.
Then Sykes caught his defender looking away for a second and took off for a couple dribbles before pulling up for a 27-footer that banged through the rim, giving Boeheim’s Army the title and a million dollar prize.
Sykes’ game-winner capped a big night, as he poured in a game-high 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including hitting 3-of-6 from deep. Kennedy also reached double figures, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds. McCullough ended with nine points and a game-high nine rebounds while Rice struggled through an off night shooting to chip in eight points.
Eric Griffin led the way for Team 23, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven boards. Eric Washington backed him with ten points and Dakarai Tucker added nine.
Team 23 strung together an 8-2 run to take a 10-6 lead midway through the opening quarter. They were able to hold off Boeheim’s Army for most of the quarter, but a late three by Tyrese Rice and a driving lay-up by Keifer Sykes nosed the Army in front after one, 18-17.
Tyler Lydon opened the second by hammering home a dunk off a Rice set-up to stretch the lead to three, then Sykes made a long three shortly after to push it to 23-19. Boeheim’s Army would stretch the lead out to five at 30-25 on a D.J. Kennedy lay-up with a little over five minutes left in the first half.
McCullough would finish a strong three-point play with a dunk, but those would be the only Army points the rest of the half and they held a 33-32 lead at intermission. Team 23 continued having the better of things, extending their run to 14-5 in total to grab a 40-35 lead a couple minutes after the break.
Boeheim’s Army hung close, twice tying the game before Team 23 took a 54-50 edge at the end of three, then tacked on the first basket of the fourth for a six-point lead.
As the Elam Ending neared, the Army offense kicked into gear, running off a 9-2 run to take the lead. McCullough started things with two from the stripe, then Sykes followed a Team 23 basket by banking in a floater while fouled and finished the three-point play. Sykes them added a 17-footer from the left wing and assisted on a McCullough finger roll that gave Boeheim’s Army a 59-58 lead.
Team 23 hopped back in front with a basket, then Kennedy scored on a putback for a 61-60 Army lead, setting up the Elam Ending and eventually, Sykes championship-clincher.