Jeff McDevitt (@JeffMcDev)
In a highly anticipated Pubic League matchup, Vaux used a big run in the second half to pull away from Constitution and win 76-57 on Tuesday evening at Ben Franklin High School.
Star senior guard Rysheed Jordan had 33 points on 11-20 shooting from the field and 10-15 shooting from the free throw line, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists to lead the Vaux Cougars (5-5, 3-0 Public League) back to a .500 record. Constitution (8-4, 2-2 Public League) were led by sophomore forward Ahmad Gilbert who had 18 points and six rebounds as well as 12 apiece from sophomore point guard guard Kimar Williams and junior guard Floyd Preito.
Jordan was especially brilliant in the third quarter, where he scored 15 of his game-high 33 points. After halftime he abandoned taking jumpers from the perimeter and instead decided to put his head down and go to the basket.
“They were playing us man but they were packing it in, so my coach told me to go down on the box and create of us that. Attack with the ball and kick out to everyone else. Draw double teams,” Jordan said.
This strategy yielded him nine of his 15 free throw attempts in the 3rd quarter alone.
This contest remained close throughout with Vaux maintaining a one possession lead at half, but with the game tied at 33 midway through the third quarter, the Cougars went on a 21-8 run and never looked back. Head coach Jamie Ross’s Vaux squad turned up the heat on defense and switched from a half-court zone to a full court man-to-man press and took Constitution, a team with no seniors, out of their rhythm offensively.
“We went to a straight up man-to-man and I told them if your man gets by you or you don’t box out you’re coming to sit down so that got them motivated,” Ross said.
Constitution junior big man Raheem Liggins was in foul trouble throughout the game and couldn’t be utilized down low against a Vaux team without a dominant big man. Liggins finished with six points.
The Constitution Generals are the defeding class A state champions, but lost two Division -I players last year in Savon Goodman (UNLV) and Daiquan Walker (UCF). This years team is comprised mostly of sophomores with some juniors, and head coach Rob Moore knows that he has something special once his team matures.
“I told my guys there’s no shame in losing to a kid the caliber of Rysheed Jordan. He’s one of the two or three best players in the city,” Moore said. “It’s about getting better. I know we can play with anyone in the public league, we just have to mature a little bit.”
“I think we fed into the crowd a little bit. It was packed. It was dominantly Vaux fans and we just fell into the hype,” junior Floyd Preito said.
Preito, a six-foot-tall point guard, showed his full skill set despite the loss Tuesday evening. A soft touch on his jumper combined with sprinters speed both on defense and with the basketball in his hands in transition has some Division-I schools taking a look at Preito. He claimed interest from North Carolina State, Temple, Virginia, West Virginia, Penn State, and Quinnipiac.
Some of the intrigue to this game stemmed from a Twitter posting from Rysheed Jordan Monday afternoon which stated if Vaux won against Constitution he would announce his commitment to Temple, St. John’s or UCLA. Some members of the Temple student section, the Cherry Crusade, even came to the game to show support for the guard they so desperately want to see in Cherry and White next year. Unfortunately for fans of all three of those schools, no announcement came, as Jordan claimed to be the victim of a practical joke.
“No, somebody took my phone,” Jordan said as he smirked about the misleading Tweet. “I didn’t do that, they were just playing around. A lot of coaches were calling me asking me if I was going to commit.”
Those three fan bases will wait anxiously for Jordan to decide.
Both these teams will be back in action Thursday as Vaux will try to stay undefeated in the Public League as they take host University City, and Constitution will look to get back on track against Frankfort.