The Augusta/Carolina Hoopsters were a team to be taken seriously on Thursday in the sixth annual Nike Peach Jam.
Led by Brandon Wallace's 16 points, the Hoopsters downed California's Sports Express 71-62 in the morning session.
Sports Express was down by as many as 15 points in the first half but cut the lead to five with 1:43 left to play.
The 6-foot-8 Wallace closed the door when he picked off a half-court pass and drove for a thunderous two-handed dunk.
Richmond Academy's Darin Shine collected a steal on the next play and missed the layup, but Wallace was there for his second dunk in less than 10 seconds to push the lead back to nine.
Shine finished with 13 points and led all teams in the morning session with seven assists. Richland Northeast's Chad McKenzie and Swainsboro's Rocky Trice each chipped in with 12.
"I was real proud of them," Hoopsters coach Zach Norris said. "We forced them to press us and we did a good job of beating the pressure."
The Hoopsters got off to a quick 6-0 lead over the Illinois Warriors in the evening game, but suffered a 65-54 defeat and heads into today action with a 1-1 record.
STARS OFF QUICK: The Georgia Stars lost the best player in the nation this year, but that didn't stop them from getting off to an impressive start.
Last year's roster featured Kwame Brown, the high-flying, 6-foot-11 center from Brunswick who became the first high school player ever chosen No. 1 in the NBA Draft when the Washington Wizards selected him.
The Stars won both games Thursday, beating Howard Pulley (Minn.) 44-41 behind Quentin Moses' 17 points, and topping the D.C. Blue Devils 73-63.
"Last year we had probably too much talent to keep everyone happy," Stars coach Norman Parker said. "This year's team has heart, chemistry, character and determination. We play all 13 players, while most teams only go about eight or nine deep. All those things that build a good team, we have."
Parker said he hopes Brown will make a smooth transition to the NBA. Parker attended the draft with Brown and is confident Brown made the right decision to bypass a chance to play for Billy Donovan at Florida.
"I first spotted Kwame as a freshman, and I noticed that very few guys have the skills he has at that height," Parker said. "I told him, 'You've got a chance to make history.' He just said 'Well, I didn't think of it that way,' " and that was when he made his decision. He will be a great NBA player. He's got a lot to learn, but he'll be learning from Michael Jordan."
TODAY'S TOP MATCHUPS: In today's morning session, Athletes First and Team Texas will meet in Pool A.
Team Texas is 2-0 and has two of the tournament's better guards in Bracey Wright and Bryan Hopkins. Athletes First boasts one of the better guards in DeAngelo Alexander and power forward Shelden Williams.
The evening session ends with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors and the Illinois Warriors, two of last summer's top teams, facing off.
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