July 8, 2017
By Morgan Wenger
During the 12-year existence of Dawg Days Basketball, the Canton Ballers have won the top prize in almost every way imaginable. That narrative gained more legs in this year's event after Angelo Edwards rescued his squad once again with a throwback performance in the deciding game 3 of the championship series. Edwards poured in 17 points in the deciding game and capped off the 30-28 win with a tip in of a Tim Vandervaart miss. The Canton Ballers foursome won the $1,200 grand prize, and Angelo Edwards won another tournament MVP award.
With some of the bigger names and more historically successful teams absent from this year's event, it seemed that the Top Dawg division was truly up for grabs. Obviously, the veteran championship squad from Canton was still going to be a formidable foe for anyone in the field, but this tournament seemed different from the beginning. Tournament newcomer OAC, in particular, looked like the team to beat early on. Led by 15 points from Jarrett Ruffin, OAC dispatched Team Square 30-23 to advance to the winner's bracket final. Logan Kimble led a balanced Team Square attack with eight points. The Canton Ballers ran past tournament newcomer Boo 30-17 to punch their ticket to the winner's bracket finals. Mario Edwards led a balanced attack with 10 points for the winners, offsetting seven points from Boo's Peyton Bennington.
This set up a winner's bracket final between OAC and Canton. The game was hotly contested from the beginning, going back and forth all the way into the stretch run. Tim Vandervaart and Jarrett Ruffin waged a formidable battle in the paint. Ruffin powered his way to 16 points in the game, while Vandervaart used his trademark footwork and finesse to lead his team with 12 points. Josh Keyes' tip in late in the game allowed OAC to pull out the 30-26 win and advance to the championship round.
Dalton Bolon led a balanced Team Square attack with nine points as they dispatched of Boo 30-21 in the loser's bracket. After their loss in the winner's bracket finals, the Canton Ballers started showing a more narrowed focus and determination. Angelo Edwards and Evan Pannell combined for 22 points in a 30-12 thrashing of Team Square. This sent Team Square stumbling to the elimination bracket, where Boo had regained their composure from their earlier meeting. Although they were led by Peyton Bennington for most of the day, Boo got a huge 14-point performance from Grant Berger to eliminate Team Square 30-23 in the elimination bracket finals. This left the young upstarts with the daunting task of beating the Canton Ballers twice to advance to the best of three championship series. The three-time defending champions were hitting their stride by this point though, and defeated Boo 30-20 behind 10 points from Mario Edwards to advance to the championship round.
As they seem to do every time they enter the championship round from the loser's bracket, the Canton Ballers got out to a big lead in game one of the championship series. The lead was too much for OAC to overcome, and Canton won the game 30-20 to gain a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 of the series took on a different vibe, as both teams converted four 3 pointers. Ruffin was the difference inside though, highlighting his team's 30-22 victory with a monster tomahawk dunk as OAC started to pull away. This led to a winner take all game 3. This game went back and forth the entire way, with every possession being a contest unto itself. Deallen Jackson made several big shots for OAC when it looked like Canton was getting ready to separate from his team, and Malik Billingsley was battling the explosive scorers from Canton on every possession. Angelo Edwards turned in another signature clutch performance to add to his gaudy tournament resume for the Canton Ballers. In the end, it was the veteran Edwards who made the most important play of the day with the game winning tip in to earn the Canton Ballers their eighth tournament title.
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