Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)
Team Final finished.
The elite Philadelphia-based AAU program capped a two-year redemptive quest by capturing the prestigious Peach Jam Sunday.
Jalen Duren (above, in May) had a double-double in Team Final's Peach Jam championship win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Behind a double-double by Jalen Duren, Team Final outlasted Brad Beal Elite of St. Louis 64-61 to win the 17U coveted crown in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) at Riverview Park Activities Center in North Augusta, South Carolina.
“They always talked about next year, next year, but obviously last year …,” Team Final director Rob Brown said while driving home. “When we lost (the 15U championship in 2019), Jalen came to me and said, “Rob, I guarantee you are winning one before I'm done.’
“The guys really wanted it. It was kind of like a redemption for a lot of those guys, so it was good.”
In the title game for the summer’s biggest tournament prize – as during the entire two-week tourney — the 6-foot-10 Duren (Montverde Academy, Fla.) was joined by 7-footer Dereck Lively II (Westtown School, Pa.. and the dynamic backcourt of 6-4 Corey Floyd (Roselle Catholic, N.J.) and 6-4 Otega Oweh (Blair Academy, N.J.) to power Team Final, which finished 35-3 over this spring/summer circuit.
“They really focused on it,” Team Final assistant director Aaron Burt said about the two-year journey to the title in their last game for Team Final. “I really felt that loss, when you lose in the championship, that really sticks with you.
“I think they really focused and used it as positive energy and stuck to their goal.”
Duren, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2022 class, collected 17 points and 10 rebounds. The former Roman Catholic star helped Montverde win the GEICO High School National Championship this winter. He’s deciding between going pro or playing a year in college.
Lively, who has numerous college offers, added 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Brad Beal Elite, which had the ball and a chance to tie the game in the last 10 seconds, but Team Final didn’t allow them to take a shot.
Otega Oweh (above, earlier this month) had a terrific two weeks in North Augusta. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Oweh, who has continually improved over the summer, has netted 17 offers, including 2021 offers from Penn State and Virginia Tech. The muscular Floyd (a UConn commit) continued to shine in South Carolina.
“Corey Floyd had a terrific tournament,” Burt said. “I think he was our most consistent shooter from the perimeter for the whole event.
“But it was just an overall team effort.”
Two years ago, six players on Team Final’s 17U squad played on the 15U team as rising sophomores that lost to Nightrydas Elite (Fl.) in the Peach Jam championship game.
Due to the COVID pandemic last year, there wasn’t a 16U circuit for Team Final to stake redemption. This year’s group was considered the No. 1 team in grassroots basketball heading into the offseason, and lived up to its potential.
Joining Floyd, Lively and Oweh as the half dozen players who played on the Team Final 15U team were rising seniors Jameel Brown (Westtown School, Pa.) — who re-opened his recruitment from Purdue after Micah Shrewsberry took the Nittany Lions job — Jaheim Bethea (Math, Civics & Sciences, Pa.) and Jaden Arline (Paul VI, N.J.).
Duren and former Roman Catholic teammate Justice Williams (a 6-5 shooting guard and LSU commit with his high school to be determined) were both on the Team Final 16U team two years ago.
“A lot of these guys even started with us back in seventh grade, so to watch their evolution and watch them kind of grow in the program has been cool,” Rob Brown said.
Team Final 17U coach James Johns (front, kneeling) and his staff helped Final to a 35-3 record this summer, including the championship at the Southern Jam Fest back in May, before winning Peach Jam. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Team Final won the Peach Jam, which has been the EYBL’s circuit championship since 2010, for the first time in program history. They knocked on the door before, losing in the title game in 2009 with Dion Waiters and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and losing in the 2014 semifinals with Mikal Bridges and Ja’Quan Newton
When asked what Team Final, which operates out of the Grail Sports Complex in Wilmington, (Del), does for an encore next year, Rob Brown said, “I think this was the encore, this was the curtain call.”
No, that doesn’t mean it’s the end for Team Final. Just that the bar for the program’s future teams has been set that much higher.