Whitney Young’s Peak hurdles near 7-footers to win dunk contest

ablondin@thesunnews.comDecember 30, 2012 

— L.J. Peak had one thought of caution before attempting a stunt that would lead to his victory in the dunk contest of the 32nd Beach Ball Classic on Sunday night at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

It amounted to: Alert the paramedics.

The 6-foot-4 junior from Whitney Young (Ill.) had his two biggest teammates – 6-11 Jahlil Okafor and 6-9 Paul White – line up single-file in front of the basket and he jumped over them to slam the ball one-handed.

Peak, who transferred from Gaffney High this year, said he hadn’t attempted jumping over either player previously. “That was my first time trying it,” Peak said. “Two 7-footers, that’s a lot to jump over.

“I told them before, ‘If we ever try it, we’d better be ready to go to the hospital because I might fall on you.’ ”

Peak understandably skimmed the heads of his teammates and fell to the floor after completing the dunk. If it had been more of a failure? “To the hospital we go,” Peak said.

That wasn’t necessary, and Peak instead claimed the title in the entertaining contest, which along with the 3-point shooting contest was held on what had become an off day for the tournament over the past decade because some states don’t allow teams to play on Sunday. The contests have traditionally been held following the championship game.

Franklin (Ohio) senior guard Travis Lakins won the 3-point contest by hitting 11 of 15 treys in the final round of three rounds.

Peak defeated 6-3 junior Jamall Gregory of Bishop O’Connell (Va.) in the two-man final round in a battle of players who will be competing for the Beach Ball Classic title with their teams Monday night.

Gregory jumped over five Bishop O’Connell teammates in single-file who are shorter than 6 feet to reach the final round, and that jump forced Peak’s hand.

“I had to because that was a pretty good move,” Peak said. “I just thought that Jahlil and Paul are two big stars so I knew the crowd would like it.”

Their dunks over teammates resulted in a 30-second dunk-off. In the dunk-off, Gregory missed a pair of attempts before he bounced the ball off the backboard and threw down a two-hander, and Peak won with a creative slam in which all of his teammates lined up around the hoop and simultaneously fell to the ground as he dunked.

The other two finalists in the earlier 3-point contest were Orem (Utah) junior Dalton Nixon and St. Rita of Cascia (Ill.) senior Scott Kingsley.

Lakins went last in the final round, and neither of his competitors drained more than nine shots. Lakins hit his 10th trey with one ball remaining to clinch the title, but made the final ball from the left corner for good measure before being chased down the court by his Franklin teammates.

“Before I started the championship round they said, ‘If you win it, we’re rushing you,’ ” said Lakins, who will pitch for the Ohio State baseball team next year. “We always do that in practice when somebody hits a big free throw or shot, so I was prepared for it.”

Lakins hit 11 of 15 shots in each of the first two rounds, as well. “I just went out there and shot like I know how to,” Lakins said. “It just came normal to me.”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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