All of four games into his sophomore season, Pines Charter 6-3 star guard Prince Ali gave Class 4A No. 4 Cardinal Gibbons a taste of New York City basketball.
Five electrifying dunks and a career-high 27 points later, the Bronx-born high-wire act, who averaged eight points in a supporting role for Miami Booker T. Washington as a freshman, served notice he would be the breakout star this season.
“I’m a New York guard,” Ali said after the Gibbons game. “So I come out on the court with a New York mentality. I can score the ball and play defense. I never back down to anybody. It’s very important I make my name. I feel like people are sleeping on me.”
Ali’s hard-nosed style of play, honed on New York City playgrounds, has created an integral dynamic to surging Pines Charter (16-2, Source Hoops No. 6 in Class 6A), which faces St. Thomas Aquinas in the BCAA Big 8 boys’ basketball quarterfinals at Fort Lauderdale High School at 6:30 Wednesday.
Cypress Bay (10-4) follows against Class 8A No. 2 Deerfield Beach (21-3) at 8. The Thursday quarterfinals feature Dillard against Cardinal Gibbons (17-2) at 6:30 and Western facing reigning Class 7A state champion Blanche Ely (17-1, MaxPreps No. 16) at 8 p.m.
If the tournament plays out as most expect, Ely, a heavy favorite that is led by Dallas Cameron and Khalil Thomas, would meet archrival Deerfield Beach before a standing-room-only crowd for the Big 8 title on Saturday night.
Few players in the tournament will bring a bigger buzz than Ali, who has boosted his recruitment by averaging a career-high 17 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Along with 6-5 Hannif Cheatham, another transfer, and 6-7 holdover Justin Satchell, Ali’s arrival has given Jaguars coach Dave Roca arguably the most diverse and talented trio of wing players in the state.
As if opponents already didn’t have their hands full with Satchell (17 ppg, eight rpg) and Cheatham (14 ppg, eight rpg, seven apg), they now do with Ali’s straight line drives to the basket, which have led to highlight reel tomahawk dunks that have swung momentum in an instant.
“Prince complements Hannif and Justin’s game so well,” Roca said. “Prince is always coming right at you. He plays north and south. He’s coming right down the middle. Not many opposing players are willing to take the contact. Prince gives us a kind of toughness that will be key, especially in such a tough 6A region.”
• Boyd Anderson 76, Stranahan 33 – BA: Eubanks 10, Wilson 25, I. Pierre 12, Joseph 2, Harris, Jr. 5, Romaine 6, Thompson 11, Borgella 2, Pierre-Louis 2, P. Pierre 1. STR: Keel 2, Molina 2, Goodman 4, Awosegun 10, Dooling 7, Skinner 2, Spain-Malbry 2, Richard 2, Montgomery 2. Halftime: BA 44-22. Three-pointers: Wilson, Harris, Jr., Awosegun 2. Rebounds: Romain 8. Assists: Thompson 5. Blocks: Romain 5.
• Edison 78, Miami Christian 69 – ED (14-5): Dervil 25, King 20, Thelon 15, Grimes 10, Oristil 3, Cooper 2. MC: Ramirez 3, Campos 6, Shamyr Borgelin 25, Shamarly Borgelin 15, Penate 6, Rosario 8, Beckelheimer 6. Halftime: MC: 38-30. Three-pointers: King 4, Dervil, Ramirez, Shamyr Borgelin, Penate 2, Beckelheimer 2. Rebounds: Grimes 14. Assists: Dervil 8. Steals: Labady 5. Blocks: Grimes 3.