BALTIMORE — Thanks to some late heroics from Casper Ware, Team Challenge ALS outlasted Ohio State’s Scarlett and Gray, 88-83, in double overtime in the semifinals of The Basketball Tournament at Coppin State Tuesday night.
The victory leaves the group of former college stars one step away from The Tournament’s winner-take-all grand prize of $2 million. They’ll face two-time defending champion Overseas Elite here on Thursday night.
If they win, Team Challenge will donate $250,000 of their winnings to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research.
“That’s the first thing I told everybody,” said former Boston College forward Sean Marshall, who put the team together. “Anybody can play this game for an individual check. That’s not the important thing for us. We’re playing for something much bigger than ourselves. That’s the most fun thing to do in sports.”
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells that control muscle movements. There is no known cure.
Ware (28 points, six rebounds, four assists) hit a contested layup to put Team Challenge ahead for good late in double overtime. He also sank a pair of free throws with four seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.
“For people who can’t fight we’re fighting for them,” said Ware, a two-time All-American at Long Beach State who briefly played with the 76ers. “You don’t get this opportunity a lot. It’s bigger than basketball for us. It’s bigger than the money. It’s not just a tournament for us.”
The Basketball Tournament is a 64-team, single-elimination, 5-on-5 tournament, open to any basketball player over the age of 18. Many teams, such as Scarlett and Gray or Boeheim’s Army (Syracuse), are comprised of players from a single college. Team Challenge, which drew from several schools, was seeded sixth in their region before the tournament began. They were the lowest seeded team to reach the semifinals.
All members of Team Challenge wore the name “Frates” on the back of their uniforms in honor of Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player and Marshall’s college roommate. Frates was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 and helped create The Ice Bucket Challenge, the social media phenomenon, which raised $1,000,000 for ALS research in 2015.
Jared Sullinger, the former Celtics’ first rounder who last played with Toronto, led Scarlett and Gray with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
“They’ve played together for years,” said former Detroit Piston Austin Daye (Gonzaga), who had 22 points and six rebounds for Team Challenge. “We were brought together.”
Syracuse team falls to defending champs
Despite rumors that Carmelo Anthony might show up at the semifinals in his hometown, the Knicks forward did not attend.
Which is too bad. His alma mater’s team could have used him. The run ended for Syracuse’s Boeheim’s Army with an 81-77 loss to Overseas Elite.
Overseas Elite, the two-time defending champion, is made up of players who have starred in international play. They have won $3 million over the last two years and have never lost a game in The Tournament.
Errick McCollum II, brother of Portland’s C.J. McCollum, led Overseas Elite with 18 points.
Eric Devendorf led Boeheim’s Army with 24 points. Brandon Triche added 12 points and six assists.
Anthony, who was named ceremonial host before the tournament began, is expected to be at the final on Thursday.