With TBT four-peat, Overseas Elite further cements legacy

 

By: KJ Edelman | @kyle_edelman


Overseas Elite completed the four-peat on Friday night

Four-peat.

Dynasties are a commonality around sports, but rarely do you hear of a team winning four straight championships.

The Bill Russell-led Celtics in the 1960s. Seven straight national titles from UCLA’s college basketball team. And on Friday, Overseas Elite added its name to the list.

With a 70-58 victory against Eberlein Drive, Overseas Elite clinched its fourth straight TBT championship.

It’s hard to ignore that Overseas Elite is undefeated in single-elimination games since its debut to TBT in 2015. With a win against Eberlein Drive, Overseas Elite moved its record to 25-0 all-time. For some returning members like Errick McCollum, their dominance came as no surprise.

“You always believe in yourself,” McCollum said, “but we’ve always been considered the favorite, so we expected to be here, and win.”

Per usual, Overseas Elite was tested from the beginning. Only up two, 52-50, with one quarter left to play, Eberlein Drive elected to slow the ball down to start the fourth quarter. But, that didn’t bode well with Overseas Elite.

A Kyle Fogg three made it a five point game. On the ensuing Eberlein Drive inbound, McCollum stole the ball and layed the ball up to make it 57-50. McCollum slammed the ball onto the court with excitement. Eberlein Drive’s Donald Sloan pushed McCollum in frustration as he jogged up the court.

Overseas Elite rode the momentum into the Elam Ending with a couple scores from Fogg and DJ Kennedy. And, with nobody in the key, Justin Burrell sealed the game on a free throw to clinch the game.

To four-peat, the key is a model of consistency, head coach Marc Hughes said. To most of the players on the team, winning comes from bringing back the “core” of the squad every go-around. That core, led by McCollum and Kennedy, also includes a collection of returning role players like Johndre Jefferson and Todd O’Brien who continue to play every year.

“We’ve been doing it together for so long,” Jefferson said. “You can’t just build chemistry overnight. This team is literally four years in the making.”

But unlike years past, Overseas Elite has made some changes to combat the natural progressions of opposing gameplans in the tournament. Hughes took over the reign at head coach while they added a couple of new players like Jeremy Pargo.

With the additions, though, McCollum emphasized that the team’s moves were purely strategic. He points towards some of the new players as an extension to Overseas Elite’s system, rather than just adding talent.

Most of the first-year players were chosen because “they would be easy to integrate,” McCollum said. So, when Eberlein Drive looked to bolster its roster with NBA-level talent before the Super 16, Overseas Elite stayed pat with its original roster. Because, of course, they’re the defending champions, Jefferson said.

But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for a team with a target on its name this year. Particularly, against Louisiana United in the round of 16, Overseas Elite began to unravel as the game neared the Elam Ending. Despite being up 80-71 seconds before the clock stopped, Overseas Elite began to give up buckets without retaliation. At first, it looked like Louisiana United’s comeback effort would fall short like every other competitor until they matched Overseas Elite at 86 a-piece.

With the next score ensuring a spot to a second matchup in Atlanta, a win for Overseas Elite looked infeasible after a steal off Pargo led to a deep outlet pass. But, a reach in foul was called on Louisiana United. Eventually, Pargo won the game on his first foul shot to sneak by for a one-point victory.

“No lie, there was a lot of mental lapses in that game,” Jefferson said, “But I felt like we had to correct those fast because we were playing two days later. And we did.”

With smooth victories against Ram Nation in Atlanta and the Golden Eagles in Baltimore, some may have wondered how Overseas Elite could recover from a almost disastrous game against Louisiana United that almost cost them a chance at two million dollars. But, players won’t be giving out their secrets to success anytime soon.

“If we give up the formula then they’re going to take it away from us,” Jefferson said, “and we’re not ready for that.”

Riding an 18 point lead going into the Elam Ending, Overseas Elite cruised to a fourth straight title game on a post fadeaway from Kennedy.

24 hours removed from its victory against the Golden Eagles, Overseas Elite was in a familiar position: the heavy favorite to win a championship. And, they proved it.

With two chances to clinch the final point, Burrell stepped to the foul line with complete isolation. He felt nervous, but stuck to his routine. Before he let off the final shot, he said to himself, “My daughter has to eat.”

“It was so difficult to not be in the moment,” Burrell said, “It was so overwhelming, yet exciting. Thankfully, it only took one shot for us to do it.”

With the win, Overseas Elite adds its name to historical company. And, it’s legacy will transcend past the basketball world, McCollum said.

“People won’t give us the respect that’s deserved,” McCollum said. “It’s something that historic, and won’t be repeated again.”


 

 

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