Tigers Finish Second in 64th Annual Sleepy Thompson Basketball Tournament

Benjamin J Veshi

After three great days of competition up in Alexandria, VA, the Hargrave Tigers earned the runner-up trophy in the 64th Annual Sleepy Thompson Basketball Tournament.

Thursday December 5th

Hargrave 61
Maret School 54

Coming into the event, Hargrave was 3-0 on the season and faced a big test in the opening round of the tournament, matching up with Maret School (Washington, DC). Although it was Maret’s season opener, they were well prepared for the Tigers, as both teams struggled to get anything going in the first couple minutes of action. However, Hargrave’s frenetic defensive pace, which ultimately forced 22 turnovers over the course of the game, led to the Tigers’ first basket and they would hold on to that lead until the final buzzer. 

After leading by 7 at halftime, the Tigers came out of the locker room on fire as a pair of Mazae Blake ’20 three pointers pushed the Hargrave lead to 16 points, forcing Maret to call a timeout. Late in the game, after Maret clawed back from an 18 point second half deficit, the Tigers turned to IJ Ezuma ’21 and their trio of guards (Nathan Kania ’20, Reggie Walton, Jr. ’20, and Blake) to seal the victory. Ezuma went on his own 6-0 run that was emphatically capped off when Ezuma rose up and finished off a perfect alley oop pass from Ethan Gadson ’20, providing enough momentum for the Tigers to secure the 61-54 victory.

Notable Performances Included:
IJ Ezuma ’21–19 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks
Mazae Blake ’20–16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals
Nathan Kania ’20–9 points, 3 assists
Reggie Walton, Jr. ’20–8 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 deflections
Ethan Gadson ’20–7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals

Friday December 6th

Hargrave 65
The Carmel School 49

As talked about in the tournament preview, in the second day of action the Tigers were destined to match up with an opponent they faced last year. Fortunately for Hargrave, it came on the heels of an opening round victory as they squared up with The Carmel School in the Semifinals. The Tigers came out in the first quarter on fire, as they nailed six three pointers in the first half, ultimately shooting Carmel out of their 2-3 zone. Despite Hargrave’s hot shooting, the Tigers went cold late in the first quarter. Nick Hammock ’22 provided a huge lift off the bench, as he poured in seven first half points when Hargrave needed them most. However, The Tigers were clinging to a seven point lead at halftime, 30-23.

After a few minutes of action in the third quarter, the Tigers started to increase their lead behind the stellar play of Mazae Blake ’20, IJ Ezuma ’21, and Nathan Kania ’20. Hargrave increased their lead from seven to eleven points heading into the final quarter, where an initial flurry pushed their lead to as many as 18 points for the second straight game. Ezuma and Blake were instrumental down the stretch as they were able to stop any chance of a late Carmel run. For the second time in as many nights, Ethan Gadson ’20 and Ezuma connected on a beautiful alley oop play, bringing the crowd to their feet as the Tigers earned the 65-49 victory to advance to Saturday’s Championship game.

Notable Performances Included:
Mazae Blake ’20–21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
IJ Ezuma ’21–17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks
Nathan Kania ’20–10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Nick Hammock ’22–7 points, 1 assist, 1 steal

Saturday December 7th

St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School 78
Hargrave 49

It’s never easy to play three games in three days while maintaining a high level of play, however, the Tigers gave the host school, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School (SSSAS) their best shot, despite being shorthanded all weekend. The atmosphere was absolutely electric for a high school basketball game and SSSAS fed off that energy, jumping out to a 6-0 lead, which was the first time the Tigers had trailed in any game this season. A pair of Nathan Kania ’20 jumpers, including a deep three pointer, helped Hargrave weather the storm, as they finished the first quarter on a 13-2 run, leading 13-8 after one period of play. 

After that initial run, the Tigers went ice cold from the floor and SSSAS took full advantage of it, winning the second period 23-5 and took a 31-18 lead into the locker room for halftime. Despite continuous foul trouble and poor shooting, Hargrave held their ground for most of the second half but could not do enough to break through the SSSAS defense. Mazae Blake ’20 (Germantown, MD) and Ethan Gadson ’20 (Washington, DC) poured in double figures for the Tigers in the final game of their homecoming but it just wasn’t enough as the plucky underdog Hargrave ran out of steam in the fourth quarter, ultimately falling 78-49, earning the runner-up trophy in the 64th Annual Sleepy Thompson Basketball Tournament.

Notable Performances Included:
Mazae Blake ’20–16 points, 4 rebounds
Ethan Gadson ’20–12 points, 4 rebounds
Nathan Kania ’20–9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals
IJ Ezuma ’21–7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks