SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Makai Ashton-Langford had been here before.
A year ago in the Super 64 in Las Vegas, he and Mass Rivals (Mass.) led Team Loaded (Va.) by double digits at the half only for them to come back in the second half and hand Mass Rivals a humbling defeat. Ashton-Langford went down with a concussion during he last five minutes of that loss.
Now here they were in the same scenario in the adidas Finale title game Saturday at the Upward Star Center.
“It wasn’t gonna be the same outcome,” Ashton-Langford said. “Not this time.”
To ensure that, Ashton-Langford scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out three assists to lead Mass Rivals past Team Loaded 57-48.
Azar Swain led Mass Rivals in scoring with 17 points. Rasir Bolton led Team Loaded with 13 points.
It was the closest game Mass Rivals played at the adidas Finale; coming into the championship game they were steamrolling opponents by an average of 26 points per game.
“We owed them one for sure,” Mass Rivals coach Vincent Pastore said. “We’re even now. I’m definitely proud of how our guys played. They really responded and executed all week.”
Mass Rivals used stifling defensive pressure to force seven first half turnovers and turn that into 12 fastbreak points to secure a 34-17 halftime lead.
Team Loaded went on an 8-0 run midway through the second half and cut the lead to eight on an emphatic put-back dunk from Antwan Walker.
But Ashton-Langford scored six clutch points in the final minutes to secure the win.
“I wasn’t able to have the ball in my hands the last time they came back and beat us,” he said. “This time I wanted the ball every time. There was no way I was gonna let us lose.”