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Soldiers put on a show against Superstars

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday August 01, 2001

The Oakland Soldiers needed a wakeup call. Leon Powe gave it to them. 

Two thunderous dunks by the Oakland Tech star helped Slam ‘n Jam’s premiere team shake off some rust, and the Soldiers cruised to an 85-57 win over the Houston Superstars on the second day of the Slam ‘n Jam Elite 8x2 Tournament on Tuesday. The Soldiers put on a show for the crowd against an overmatched opponent, and must be considered the heavy favorites to win the tournament championship today. 

The Soldiers came out very slowly against the Superstars, and trailed 8-4 with seven minutes gone. The game, played at RSF Fieldhouse, was very slow, with 13 fouls called at that point. But Powe used his muscle inside to tie the score at 8-8, and teammate LeBron James hit a nice fadeaway jumper to give the Soldiers the lead. 

But Powe’s team was still playing as if they were half asleep, and it took a highlight-reel play from their opponents to get them fired up. When diminutive Houston point guard Eddie Rowe threw an alley-oop pass on a fastbreak to teammate Justin Carter for a spectacular dunk, the crowd cheered the Texas team for finally injecting some life into the game. Carter followed with an emphatic blocked shot on James, throwing the highly-touted guard’s shot into the stands, and the momentum seemed to be going with the visitors. 

But the hosts finally got in gear soon after. John Sharper stole a pass and led Powe with a pass for a huge breakaway jam, then Powe put Carter in his place by throwing down another dunk, this one right in Carter’s face. The crowd exploded in response, and Powe urged the fans to get even louder. With chants of “Soldiers! Soldiers!” echoing in the gym, John Tofi scored five points in the last 30 seconds of the half to give the Slam ‘n Jam team a 34-23 halftime lead. 

“We expect to make plays like that all the time. Anything less is unacceptable,” Powe said after the game. “These games are just fun.” 

The second half was all Soldiers, as Marquis Kately led off with two dunks, the second a 360-degree two-hander that brought the house down. With James, Kately and Powe running the floor like racecars, they got the place rocking with bunches of alley-oops, dunks and spectacular drives. James, who is considered the best prep player in the nation, started taking it easy, opting for layups instead of dunks.  

“I just want to go out and play my game,” said James, who is playing with the Soldiers for the first time this summer. “But when a lot of people come out to watch you and your team play, you gotta give them some kind of show.” 

The Soldiers took turns tossing up long 3-pointers and running isolation plays, but turned it back up for the last two minutes. A Tofi steal turned into a James tomahawk, Powe got off another huge dunk, then followed with a crossover drive that missed but was slammed home by James. The game ended on an alley-oop pass from halfcourt by DeShawn Freeman to Kately, and the Soldiers were clearly enjoying themselves to the last. 

“It was just showtime out there,” Freeman said. “It’s basically like practice, and I like practicing my lobs.” 

The Soldiers will have to get more serious today, as they face West Coast Stars, who beat the Bay Area Ballers 70-46 on Tuesday, in a semi-final game. If they win that game, they will likely play the Michigan Hurricanes in the final. The Hurricanes are expected to beat EBO in the other semi, and the Soldiers are looking forward to facing a team that is comparable in talent to themselves. 

“We want Michigan bad,” Soldiers coach Mark Olivier said. 

Both semi-final matchups will take place at the RSF Fieldhouse at 3:30 p.m., with the championship set for 6:30.