Creighton Blue Jays win 2018 Cayman Islands Classic

Creighton Blue Jays defeated Clemson Tigers 87-82 Wednesday night, 22 November, to win the Cayman Islands Classic, a basketball tournament featuring eight collegiate teams from the United States.

The Blue Jays improved to 5-1 on the season with the win over the 16th ranked Tigers at John Gray High School Gymnasium in George Town. Sophomore guard Ty-Shon Alexander poured in a career-high 36 points on 9 of 16 shooting, 7-12 from beyond the arc to give an energetic cheering section, who travelled from Nebraska, reason to get on their feet.

The previously unbeaten Tigers, who made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last season, are now also 5-1 on the season. Marcquise Reed has a team high 27 points.

Sophomore guard Ty-Shon Alexander had a career night.

Creighton, which plays in the Big East, led from the early going and led by as many as 11 points but their Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) opponents battled back to within five during the final minute. The Jays held on for the win to take home the hardware.

Coach Greg McDermott said in a post-game interview that the team was able to pick up some momentum on its trip to the Cayman Islands, especially on the offensive end, having scored more than 90 points in each of their first two games of the tournament.

“We didn’t really have our mojo offensively in our first three games at home. We weren’t able to really establish our pace and it took us to go 1,700 miles to a different country to get doing what we needed to do,” McDermott said.

The Creighton bench could hardly contain its excitement down the stretch.

Clemson got past Georgia Bulldogs 64-49 in the first semi-final a day earlier, while Creighton beat Georgia State Panthers 93-68.

Other teams who competed were: Akron, Boisie State, Illinois State, and St Bonaventure.

The tournament, which is in its second year, was introduced as a sports tourism product for the Cayman Islands, attracting thousands of fans to join their teams in the Caribbean for Thanksgiving Week – a time when several similar tournaments are held.

The teams in the finals had tremendous support, with the larger contingents of travelling fans packing the bleachers.

Governor Martyn Roper (centre) and Sports Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, next to him in white, sat courtside.

“I’m extremely pleased. The tournament is growing and the teams that we have are better than the teams that we had a year ago. We’re growing from strength-to-strength,” said Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro, the president of CayMax Sports, the company organising the tournament.

O’Garro said they expect to attract some top schools for the 2019 edition. The University of Cincinnati won the inaugural edition in 2017.

Creighton’s Davion Mintz is challenged by Clemson’s Aamir Simms.

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