NORTH AUGUSTA --- All Ohio Red coach Quentin Rogers gnawed his way through a box of the surgery candy Mike and Ike during Wednesday night's Nike Peach Jam final.
He said it was a good-luck routine. Also on his side was Jared Sullinger, who was worth a lot more than any charm or ritual.
Sullinger, an Ohio State recruit considered by some recruiting analysts the best post player in the country, dominated the second half of his team's 62-53 comeback win over Philadelphia's Team Final. It was the second Peach Jam title for All Ohio (2002), which trailed by seven at halftime.
Sullinger scored all but four of his team-high 19 points in the second half, including six in a row during a key sequence midway through the second half. He finished with 21 rebounds, 14 more than anyone else who stepped on the court in a game with at least a dozen future Division-I players.
"This is the one we wanted; this is the best tournament in the country," said Rogers, who estimated his team improved to 188-8 over the past three seasons. "You have about 20 future pros banging around out here. ... This is by far the toughest tournament of the year."
Sullinger barely touched the ball in the first half, when his team seemed content to test Team Final's zone defense from the perimeter. Instead of getting frustrated, Sullinger tweaked his strategy.
"You have to score other ways besides getting the ball in the post; you have to move without he ball, you got to get it off the rebounds. So that's what I was doing," said Sullinger, who is 6-foot-9, 262 pounds.
With their big man working inside, All Ohio drilled consecutive 3-pointers to go ahead for good with 4:20 remaining. Point guard Aaron Craft, another Ohio State recruit, added 15 points in a lineup so athletic and powerful Michigan football recruit Courtney Avery didn't get in the game until the final moments.
Team Final, which captured the 16-and-under championship a year ago, fielded a lineup dominated by juniors, none better than Michael Gilchrist. The 6-7 wing concluded a tournament that did nothing to harm his reputation as the nation's top Class of 2011 player. He had 19 points and seven rebounds and seemed to play the entire game above the rim.
"I don't care about (solidifying his status as the top junior in the country); I just wanted to get the W," he said.
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.
AT A GLANCE
At Riverview Park Activities Center, North Augusta
WEDNESDAY: The four-day event concluded with All Ohio Red winning the championship, 62-53, over Philadelphia's Team Final.
STAR OF THE DAY: Jared Sullinger concluded a stellar four-day showing with 19 points and 21 rebounds. He scored three consecutive powerful buckets midway through the second half during one key stretch.
RESULT OF THE DAY: Detroit's Team Family won the 16 and under division over All Ohio Red.
NEXT: The girls will take over the spotlight at Riverview on July 28-31 when the facility plays host to the Nike AAU nationals.