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TBT: Team Utah and Utah Stallions fall short in upset bids; Sedrick Barefield shines for L.A. Cheaters; Team Fredette pulls off thrilling comeback

WEST VALLEY CITY — For much of Thursday afternoon’s first-round matchup between Team Utah and Eberlein Drive in the ESPN-sponsored TBT (The Basketball Tournament), you’d have been hard-pressed to know which team was the higher seed and a tournament favorite.

The foes were neck and neck for much of the contest — held in the Maverik Center — which was described by both teams as anything but an easy game.

“We showed them we weren’t going to back down,” Team Utah’s Dakarai Tucker said. “If you ask them, that wasn’t an easy game.”

“You have to respect them,” Eberlein Drive’s Jerome Randle added. “They came out and showed they are a true team and true pros.”

When either side did manage some separation, though, it was almost always Team Utah.

With their ranks filled by former Utes like Tucker, Shaun Green and Tim Drisdom, not to mention former Utah Jazz point guard Ronnie Price, Team Utah held leads of as many as nine and 10 points at different stages in the game.

When the game clock was turned off with four minutes remaining — initiating the Elam Ending — it was Team Utah in the lead, too, 73-69.

It was all for naught, however, as No. 1-seeded Eberlein Drive rallied past upstart and No. 8-seeded Team Utah and walked away with an 83-80 first-round victory.

Donald Sloan led Eberlein Drive with 20 points, while Randle added 18 and hit the game-winner — a 3-pointer.

Green and Tucker, meanwhile, paced Team Utah with 21 points apiece, while Terrance Drisdom added 16 and 10 rebounds.

Afterward, the victors were effusive in their praise of Team Utah, and more than a little appreciative of the challenge given them.

“We needed that,” said Sloan, who spent time with the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers during a five-year stint in the NBA.

“Just because they were an eighth seed, doesn’t mean they aren’t good. For the newer guys that joined us this year, this game showed them this (tournament) isn’t going to be a cakewalk.”

“Hats off to them, that was a helluva team and they fought hard,” Randle added.

Team Utah had multiple opportunities to come away with the upset.

The hometown team was within a made 3-pointer of reaching the game-winning total of 81 points in multiple possessions, but couldn’t come away with a made field goal.

“We went away from what was working for us and just tried to finish the game off,” Green said. “It is no one’s fault, we all had opportunities and I would go to war with these guys against anyone, but we went away from what made us competitive the entire game. We tried to hit an exclamation point instead of playing good team basketball.”

The same held true for Eberlein Drive, however, after they knotted the game at 80 points apiece.

That is until Randle, who Team Utah went out of their way to defend, knocked down the game winner.

“We tried to get the ball out of Randle’s hand,” said Green, “but obviously it didn’t work because he hit the game winner. He’s talented.”

“I was going to shoot it anyway,” Randle said. “I work hard to make shots like that and I knew at some point it was going to fall. We needed to win. That was it and we pulled it out.”

In other TBT action, the Utah Stallions, a squad made up largely of Utah State alums, came up short in their own upset bid, in a 72-66 loss to No. 2-seeded Team Challenge ALS.

Former Aggie Spencer Butterfield paced the No. 7-seeded Stallions with 25 points, helping the local team build a lead as large as 20 points early on, before Team Challenge ALS — TBT runners-up two seasons ago — rallied for the victory.

Utah alum Sedrick Barefield, meanwhile, who most recently played for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA’s summer league, helped lead the L.A. Cheaters to an 87-85 victory over Sons of Westwood in early tournament action. Barefield, who was a last-second addition to the L.A. Cheaters roster, finished with a team-high 19 points and seven assists.

The final game of the night pitted No. 3-seeded Team Fredette against No. 6-seeded CitiTeam Blazers.

Team Fredette trailed by 20 points in the first half, but rallied in the second to defeat CitiTeam Blazers 99-96.

It was a complete team effort by the victors, who were paced by Rob Gray (Houston), who finished with a game-high 31 points, as well as a pair of with 20 point performances by Jordan Crawford (Bowling Green) and Jeff Ledbetter (Idaho).

Crawford hit the game-winner, to send Team Fredette into the second round, where they will face off against Team Challenge ALS.

Tyler Haws — BYU’s all-time leader scorer and a somewhat late addition to the Team Fredette roster — played sparingly, with zero shot attempts and zero points scored.