Branson’s Link Academy Wins 38th Bass Pro Tournament of Champions

The Link Academy Lions from Branson have won the 38th Annual Bass Pro Tournament of Champions at Great Southern Bank Arena, downing Sunrise Christian Academy out of Bel Aire, Kansas 72-66.

In its second year of existence, Link Academy is now 18-0 and ranked first in the nation in some high school basketball polls.

The Lions were a runner-up in 2021-22 at the GEICO Nationals.

Link Academy trailed Sunrise Christian 11-10 after one quarter in front of a packed crowd of 9,773, but opened up a six point advantage at halftime, 31-25.

The Lions led by as many as ten points midway through the fourth quarter, but the Buffaloes wouldn’t go away, cutting the lead to four on multiple occasions in the final two and a half minutes of the game.

But Link Academy got a couple of big free throws from Cameron Carr with 11 seconds left to preserve the win.

Ja’Kobe Walter led four Lions players in double figure scoring with 17 points, and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Elliot Cadeau added 16 points, with Car and Cade Phillips each putting in 13.

Matas Buzelis scored 24 points, tops for Sunrise Christian as the Buffaloes drop to 12-4 overall.

Christ The King (Middle Village, NY) won the 3rd place trophy, downing Calvary Christian Academy out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 58-47.

The Royals held a 25-20 advantage at the half, but outscored the Eagles 21-10 in the third period to pull away.

Brandon Gardner’s 15 points led the way for Coach Joe Arbitello’s Royals, with Qingyang Pang adding 12 and Kiyan Anthony putting in ten points.

The Eagles were led by Ethan Lathan’s 15 points, with Carl Cherenfont adding 11.

Christ The King improves to 10-3 on the season, while Calvary Christian goes to 6-9.

Staley High School from North Kansas City won the Consolation trophy with a 63-48 win over St. Rita High from Chicago.

The two teams were tied 17-17 after one quarter and remained knotted at 26-26, but the Falcons started to pull away in the third period, outscoring St. Rita 18-8.

Kyan Evans had another impressive performance for Staley, scoring 19 points, with Kayden Fish adding 15 and Cameron Manyawu adding 13.

James Brown’s 18 points led the way for St. Rita.

Before the 3rd place game, the big crowd was entertained by the Great Southern Bank Slam Dunk Contest.

Christ The King’s Jaylin Lewis won in a dunk-off over Waynesville High School’s Tyrique Brooks, with Lewis garnering perfect scores from all five judges and Lewis getting perfect 10’s from all but one judge.

The final day got started with the 7th place game between Bartlett (TN) and Springfield Kickapoo.

Bartlett jumped out to a 16-6 lead after one quarter and had doubled up on the Chiefs, 26-13 at halftime.

But Mitch McHenry’s Chiefs outscored the Panthers 12-2 in the third quarter to pull within three.

Kickapoo pulled within a point, 34-33, with 1:45 left in regulation, but the Panthers hit free throws down the stretch to win it.

Christian Alston scored 13 points to lead Bartlett, with Javar Daniel adding ten.

The Chiefs were led by Brayden Shorter with 14 points

Kickapoo shot just 29% from the field (12-41), with half of those makes coming from three point range.

The Chiefs drop to 9-5 on the season with their three losses in the TOC.

Here are the scores from Saturday’s final round of the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions:

Final: 7th place game: Bartlett 41, Springfield Kickapoo 36

Final: Consolation final: Staley 63, St. Rita 48

Great Southern Bank Slam Dunk Contest Winner: Jaylin Lewis-Christ The King

Final: 3rd place game: Christ The King 58, Calvary Christian 47

Final: Link Academy (Branson) 72, Sunrise Christian Academy 66

Special Awards:

Father John Savage Award: Kayden Fish (Staley High School)

Dr. Edsel Matthews Sportsmanship Award: St. Rita High School (Coach Roshawn Russell)

All Tournament Team:

Brayden Shorter–Kickapoo High School

Javar Daniel—Bartlett High School

Nojus Indrusaitas—St. Rita High School

Kyan Evans—Staley High School

Carl Cherenfont—Calvary Christian Academy

Brandon Gardner—Christ The King

Layden Blocker—Sunrise Christian Academy

Miro Little—Sunrise Christian Academy

Elliot Cadeau—Link Academy

Cade Phillips—Link Academy

Most Valuable Player: Ja’Kobe Walter—Link Academy

A total of 22,497 fans attended the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions, making the largest attended high school basketball tournament in the nation.

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