Elijah Stewart slammed home a put-back dunk to end the game.
The former Trojan’s two points secured an 87-85 victory over the UCLA alumni basketball team and reignited the crosstown rivalry for former Bruin guards Jordan Adams and Malcolm Lee.
“We came up a bucket short, and losing on a game-winning dunk to (Stewart) is a hard pill to swallow for (Adams) and I because that means a Trojan gets to win,” Lee said.
The Sons of Westwood – made up mainly of UCLA alumni – and the L.A. Cheaters – representing former USC players – faced off in the first round of the The Basketball Tournament on Thursday.
The UCLA alumni team entered the game with only six available players, three of whom were Bruins. Adams led the team with 37 points.
The Cheaters – normally a Drew League team – led the Sons of Westwood 78-74 at the beginning of the Elam Ending. With the target score set at 86, the Cheaters extended their lead to seven points before an 11-4 run – capped by a 3-pointer from Lee – tied the score at 85.
“(The Elam Ending) really tests your ability to close out games by hitting shots,” Lee said. “You can’t rely on the clock – you have to get buckets.
Several players were initially listed on the Sons of Westwood’s roster before the start of the tournament but were unable to travel to Salt Lake City for the first round. Those missing included former Bruin and Sons of Westwood coach Ryan “Moose” Bailey, as well as other UCLA alumni such as Isaac Hamilton, Larry Drew II, Travis Wear and David Wear, along with Temple graduate Shizz Alston.
With only four players remaining, the Sons of Westwood added former Temple center Ernest Aflakpui and former UNLV forward Matt Shaw.
Lee, who played for UCLA from 2008 to 2011, said it was hard to build a cohesive team with the roster constantly in flux.
“Besides me and (Adams), there weren’t really any guys that had done this before,” Lee said. “So even with the changes, we just kept trying to get a feel for it.”
Both returning Bruin alumni Adams and Lee played all 36 minutes of the game and accounted for 57 of the team’s 85 points.
Like the unavailable Drew II and Wear brothers, both Adams and Lee possessed NBA-level experience before competing in the tournament. Lee has participated in countless competitions through his time in the NCAA, overseas and the NBA, but said TBT is one of the best summer tournaments high-level basketball players can find.
“Outside of the (NBA) Summer League, this is the most competitive practice and games that guys can find,” Lee said. “Before everyone started dropping out, we had a bunch of really good (former) UCLA players. I was looking forward to playing with some of my old teammates.”
In the greater Salt Lake Regional, none of the seven games were decided by more than six points, including six one-possession games.
The No. 1 seed Eberlein Drive advanced to the TBT quarterfinals in Chicago this week after edging out No. 2 seed Challenge ALS 68-67 via a game-winning layup by forward Taylor Braun.