The Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) has been in existence for three years, and the Oakland Soldiers have been one of the best performers on an annual basis.
But despite the many talented players who have gone through the program (even before the EYBL years) one thing was missing: a Peach Jam title.
Thanks to two Jabari Bird free throws after being fouled on a three-point shot with 1.9 seconds remaining, the Soldiers beat CIA Bounce 51-50 to claim the 17U title in North Augusta, South Carolina.
Aaron Gordon, one of the top players in the 2013 class, finished with 16 points and ten rebounds while 2014 shooting guard Stanley Johnson added 15 points.
2014 prospect Andrew Wiggins, widely considered to be the top player regardless of class, led the Toronto-based team with 23 points and nine rebounds.
But with no other player in double figures, CIA Bounce fell short against the Soldiers after fighting back from a sluggish first half in which they trailed by nine and scored just 18 points.
Both of the Soldiers’ games on Sunday were capped by fouls committed on three-point shots.
In their 55-53 semifinal victory over CP3 All-Stars (NC), Theo Pinson made just one of three free throws as the Soldiers were able to hold on.
The run through the Peach Jam caps a summer in which the Soldiers had to navigate multiple injuries, with Gordon’s broken toe being the most notable.
The Texas Titans won the 16U Peach Jam title with a 66-65 double overtime victory over Southern Stampede (GA) earlier in the afternoon.
2015 guard King McClure led the way for the Titans with 26 points off the bench, while 2014 guard Ahmed Hill paced four Stampede players in double figures with 18.
Photo credit: Chris Williams/Icon SMI