Basketball tournament: Men of Mackey 85, Heartfire 79

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In a world uprooted by a pandemic, The Basketball Tournament has attempted to provide fans with a return to normal: basketball.

And what could be more fundamental for sports enthusiasts than an upheaval from behind?

The Mackey Men – originally designed to be a team of Purdue alumni returning to gold and black that have turned into a hodgepodge of former Purdue basketball players mixed with familiar Midwest players – entered Elam Ending behind Heartfire 77-71, with Heartfire only 8 victory points away, Mackey’s men forced a run of 14-2 on the final straight and will go to the winner to win all the tournaments from Dayton, Ohio.

While Purdue fans were thrilled to see old pillars like Isaac Haas and recent graduate transfers like Evan Boudreaux, former Washington University leader Justin Dentmon led the Men of Mackey late, scoring a 32-point tournament and hitting a huge couple 3 late to overcome the long-term deficit of the close match in which Mackey’s men found themselves.

It was Isaac Haas of Purdue who put the finishing touches on the victory, grabbing the missing Dentmon rider and putting him back in place to reach the magic score of 85 points.

It was a tough exit for most of the game for Mackey’s men. They had trouble shooting the ball. They had stretches where they seemed to have lost their legs, but a key defensive switch that put Isaac Haas on Isaiah Austin, the former great man of Baylor, who had cut out Mackey’s men in paint the whole game. Haas’ ability to force him out of the hoop blocked Heartfire’s attack entirely late in the game.

Jon Octeus continued his basketball world tour. His energy, his defense and his speed filled the state sheet of Mackey’s men. He struggled to score, but lost balls and knocked down large late free throws.

Jacquil Taylor, who spent his senior season at Hofstra, showed his length and athleticism early with a chase from behind the back panel block. The tall man who was a price rookie for Coach Painter but was never able to stay healthy at Purdue, closed the game and grabbed a big offensive rebound and backed up just before Haas to help put in place the victory.

At the start of the tournament, one of Men of Mackey’s greatest strengths was a list of familiar players. They thought they would leave quickly, but with Covid’s continuing difficulties, many members of the original roster had to drop out of the tournament. This led a team to rely on their coach, former Purdue Ryne Smith sniper, to establish instant chemistry.

For the first game, it barely worked.

Mackey’s Men will now fix their eyes on another team of former students: the army of Boeheim (Syracuse Alumni).

They will play Tuesday at 4 p.m. As with all basketball tournament games, the loser returns home.

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